The way to my heart – markets and one that involves delicious food well those are the best! Rotorura had me on arrival. It was the eve of their night market. I was starving and had just spent the last eight hours on a bus. I wanted something delicious without spending a lot. Base Hostel, where I was staying had a $5 Mac and cheese and drink deal going but then the guy at reception told me about the night market. Describing it as inexpensive, loads of choice and delicious. Sold! Was there really any other option? I headed off to the market in search of all those things.
Mouth watering aromas swirled around me, swing music filled the air and the street was buzzing with people moving from stand to stand, waiting in queues and stuffing their faces. My stomach instantly growled letting me know I was going to have to be efficient with my decision making. Dumplings, pork sticky buns, honey BBQ pork kebabs were on
my hit list but there was also Japanese pancakes which looked amazing, Thai curry, Phad Thai, crepes, baguettes, a fruit and veg stall and of course dessert options. If only ones stomach was endless. I began with a sticky bun which was as good as any I had had in Asia. The only problem was that I devoured it too quickly as I had been starving. Then I moved onto the BBQ pork. The stall also did beef and lamb and was obviously a local favourite as the queue wrapped around the tent. After tasting them it was clear why. I plonked myself on a seat, enjoyed the live band and sussed out the dessert options. Unsurprisingly, I went for a brownie. The cake lady was set up next to Binarybird Handmade Crafts in the middle of the market if you find yourself there. Bryony Griffiths the creator of Binarybird also has some great pieces. I personally loved her little key chains and she was Canadian. Back at the cake stand I decided on the traditional brownie. Taking my prize, I quickly headed back to the hostel so I could make a warming cup of tea and test it out. One bite and I was in brownie bliss – rich, dark, and slightly gooey in the middle with a crispy top and side. My type of brownie. Perfect with a cuppa.
I spent three packed days in Rotorua visiting thermal parks, thermal baths, redwood forests, Hobbiton and hitting up the local markets. The first one being the night market and the second their weekly Saturday morning farmers market in Kuirau park. If I had had a kitchen or lived in Rotorua I would happily get all my fruit and vegetables there. Kiwi and I, a fellow foodie who was staying at Base, decided on crepes for breakfast from a cute little truck run by a Toulouse expat who had visited New Zealand and never left. My choice was her feta, tomato and basil pesto. It was jammed with flavours and easily the best crepe I had eaten since leaving Europe.
The one thing you notice when you enter Rotorua is the smell of sulphur that randomly finds its way to your nose. Rotorua is situated on the edge of one of the four calderas within the Taupo Volcanic Zone. The zone itself is widely recognised as one of the most volcanic areas in the world. This results in you finding yourself on a very thin earths crust as Rotorua is a geothermal area. Therefore, you are surrounded by geysers, smoking sulphur pools of pumpkin orange, vivid blues and greens, mud pools that bubble away like a witches caldron and of course that wonderful eggy smell. There is a great little walk which goes through Kuirau park, the only geothermal public park in New Zealand, and then around to Lake Rotorua where you go past some of the geothermal pools in the city and you get a nice view from the hill. I must admit though it is a bit startling when you are walking down the road beside a sewer and steam and hissing is coming up through the vent. The lake is beautiful and well worth a walk around. If you visit the adult pools at the Polynesian Spa the hottest pool is a whopping 41 degrees and it looks over the lake! With steam coming off in swirls over the lake, the heat of the water around you, I found myself quoting Dorothy, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore Toto”. It all felt very other worldly. We tried the hottest pool first after the reflexology walk because of the view, which in hind sight might not have been the right order of things. My skin tingled and almost felt like I had walked into a bath of soda water. The pools are definitely worth it even if you feel and smell a bit like a boiled egg afterwards. My skin felt refreshed and polished. Also supposedly if you suffer from rheumatism or arthritis the mineral enriched water will help.
I of course followed the tourist trail and visited the Geothermal wonderland – Wai-O-Tapu. Complete with a Gyser that they induce at 10:15 everyday using a soap like powder. The men who discovered it had been washing their clothing in the naturally hot spring and when they added in their detergent it broke the surface tension and the geyser erupted shooting their clothing into the air. Today the park has built a sitting area around the geyser where we all sit as the local expert tells the story and explains how it works. Listening to him talk and waiting for it to erupt I was suddenly back in Mr Turners junior high science class making homemade volcanos. Despite the theatrical air I was kind of excited. I had only ever seen a geyser in pictures or television before. Naturally the geyser would go off everyday but they would never be able to predict when it was going to do so. So for the sake of us grade school scientists they induce it and it was pretty impressive when it went off. After that we headed to the larger area of the park where you get to loop around geothermal pools, the champagne lake being the most eye catching and some very large caverns where the earth has given away and the earths rumble can be heard from below. If geothermal parks aren’t your thing though, don’t despair there is a plethora of activities to do in Rotorua. White water rafting with a 7ft waterfall and mountain biking are the big ones. My track record for biking in a city isn’t great so I figured mountain trails weren’t the best option, but the trails did looked amazing! I passed by one while I was walking through the Redwoods Whakarewarewa Forest. It is just on the outskirts of town and easy to get to by public bus. So if you don’t want to rent a bike there are some great trails. I did the two hour Pohaturoa Loop and felt like I had the forest to myself! it was so quiet it seemed as if the giant redwoods had blocked out the sound of the outside world.
Then there was Hobbiton which deserves an entry to itself and lastly, the restaurants. There is a whole street dedicated to eating in the town aptly named Eat Street. A pedestrian street filled with restaurant options with a glass covering in case it starts to rain or is super chilly. After a good loop of all the restaurants we decided on the not so healthy option and went to the Brew House. Kiwi got a delicious beer selection of their locally brewed beers and we both tried their Brew Dog. A hot dog or sausage of epic proportions topped with pulled pork, crackling, cheese sauce, American style mustard and guacamole. Not to mention it is served with coleslaw and home chips on the side. For a lover of hot dogs and pulled pork it was worth every bite of saturated fat. Not to mention I don’t remember the last time I had pork crackling!
It was three days of food, activities and getting to experience a geologically very cool part of the world. As with most places I visited in New Zealand, the time zoomed by and I left feeling like I had seen so much and nothing at all