Fri March 6/Sat March 7, In and around the town of Rotorua

Rotorua is considered the “gateway” to the Bay of Plenty area on the east coast of the North Island.  It’s pretty built-up with lots of shopping and hotels, but for a couple of nights it makes a nice change to the relative isolation we had at Discovery Lodge in Tongariro National Park.  There’s even a Starbucks just down the road from the hotel!

I wanted to drive over to the Pacific Ocean for the afternoon but the weather was cloudy and drizzly so we spent the morning wandering around town then headed out to visit the Redwoods Forest and the Buried Village in the afternoon.

The Redwoods Forest is an amazing place.  Mid-18th century, they planted 150 species of trees to see which ones would survive in this climate.  Almost half died, but the redwoods sure survived and have grown up large and tall.  Most spectacular though are the enormous ferns (the size of trees) that grow alongside them, some as high as 30 meters.  Peter was absorbed by the photographic opportunities and I did a wonderful hike through the forests – marital bliss, each of us in our own worlds!

My photo really doesn’t capture the magnificence of the forests so hopefully Peter is going to post some of his pics on facebook!

The Buried Village is also not far from here.  Quite a tourist trap but I convinced Peter to go in because it captures the impact of a huge volcanic eruption in 1866.  Given that we’re spending so much time in active volcano territory, it was very interesting to see what happens when there’s a spectacular eruption that actually buried a whole thriving village that was a prime tourist destination in the 1800s.  The tourists at that time came to see remarkable “White and Pink Terraces” which were large hills with sides of layered white and pink stone.  Very pretty to look at and filled with hot sulpher spring pools for bathing, all of which attracted tourists from around the world apparently.  The 1866 eruption completely buried the whole area so they are no more.

The Village “tour” included a waterfall where Peter agreed (reluctantly) to pose.

All in all, the vegetation and scenery is so far more reminiscent of Hawaii than anywhere else, although even Hawaii’s ferns are nothing like what we see here!

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