Sunday, November 29, 2009

NZ - Rotorua

My first goal for the day was to get down to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.  Nothing cries “touristy” quite like a name like that.  Specifically, this place has a geyser that goes off whenever soap is added to the mix (some crazy chemical shindigs going on to cause that to occur), hence the show goes on right at 10:15 am everyday – and sure enough I just had to be there for that.

With its detonation, much of the crowd immediately dispersed – not even sticking around to appreciate its beauty.  I stuck around to at least capture its beauty in many many virtually identical photographs such that I could upload it to the beauty-savoring ether of the internet.

The “thermal wonderland” itself actually was quite interesting – a series of walks around a geologic area with plenty of sulfur springs.  It smelled fantastic.  …Especially the “Champagne Pool” – a massive lake of hot watery glory.  It’s worth a visit, even if you’ll be cringing at the aromas quite frequently.

On my way back I stopped by the base of Rainbow Mountain and began hiking the track up to the top.  The hardest part of the hike was when I passed a sign about 15 minutes in which showed a map of the area, including a road along the other side of the mountain going right to the top.  Motivation took a bit of a hit there.  I always try to espouse that you have to earn your summits: you can’t just drive to the top; but when there’s an easy way so handy, it really is tough to stay motivated to stay with the harder route.

I nonetheless kept on tramping, even after rethinking things at one point & going about 10 meters back downhill, only to turn around and keep going up.  It actually wasn’t a difficult hike, unless it’s finally gotten to the point that my legs have acclimated to this newfangled “exercise”.  There was only about 10-15 minutes of steep tramping near the top, but overall really not bad at all.  The views were great: I could espy a snow-covered peak to the south – my first view of such a mountaintop since Switzerland in 2007.

My return to the hostel finds a note on my bed: Gitti was at her first day of work as a waitress at a local bar.  With that, I headed out to explore some of the parks in town – one to the east and one to the west, both of which provided colorful sulfuric odors to cleanse one’s senses.  I’d already experienced this earlier in the day, however, and wasn’t too enthused about experiencing it even more.

So I made my way east toward the museum in the eastern park: a huge & neat-looking former bathhouse.  En route I stopped by the bar & chatted with Gitti and a customer before excusing myself out of there – no need to hold the customer from his meal, or busy Gitti on her first day of work.

My goal at the museum was to photograph the sunset.  I got there with the sun still about an hour or so away from color-inducing angles, so I had a look about the museum.  I really wasn’t expecting much, but in actuality I was quite impressed with what it had on display.  Fascinated, even.  I watched a movie about the eruption of a volcano in the not-terribly-distant past… its production values may not have been top-notch, but it was actually quite entertaining.

I was so enthralled that I almost didn’t realize it was nearly the 8pm closing time & nearing sunset time – I rushed to the tower to get some photos, ultimately heading out a couple minutes past 8 and with the sun still up aways.  I wanted to squeeze out every minute I could, but the two teens manning the museum’s desk were quite pleasant to chat with earlier that I didn’t want to hold them up.

My next step was to seek out more ice cream, since the stuff I had the previous night was downright tasty.  They were closed.  OK so I just need some chow… something to tide me over for the night… also closed.  The whole town seemed to have shut down.  Ahh, Sunday nights.  I came upon a takeaway right on the corner by my hostel and got an American Hotdog… exotic, yes.

I return to find Gitti already back from work: the bar joining the myriad of other businesses which had closed early.  Being a bit worn out from my Rainbow Mountain tramping, I invited Gitti to the hostel’s hottub – which was stocked with a couple toy boats floating about.  From the other German roommate’s descriptions, apparently this spa used to be a rather cheap wooden bit; but now it was a pretty nice looking fixture building into the room it was housed in.  It was a great temperature, and I’m not sure I’d ever seen my fingers get so wrinkled.

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