Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rotorua: Sulfur Bubbles + Polynesian Spa

The best thing about this family group of 16 is that its individuals are naturally good travelers, able and willing to set off on an adventure with a small group or a larger one, everyone apparently finding something fun to do. Tuesday was largely a free day (happily after yesterday's long bus trip with exciting stops). At each of our hotels, breakfast is included, a lovely start to the day. Here at the Regent of Rotorua, an older hotel that's been buffed into a boutique hotel, that nice white table seats exactly 16.

What we do have today is a voucher for 16 people to go to the Polynesian Spa. But would we all go at the same time? Definitely not--it's a free day and nobody wants to be herded all the time. So a few of us walked over to the spa mid-morning to leave the voucher and a list of 16 names.

Austi got boysenberry ice cream from the spa cafe

And Brooke cafe au lait
(the Kapiti company makes great cheese too)

The same group decided to stretch it out a bit on a walk around Lake Rotorua, which is mildly stinky.
Rotorua has the nickname Sulphur City, because of the hydrogen sulphide emissions, which gives Rotorua a “rotten eggs” smell...It is known for its geothermal activity, and features geysers – notably the Pohutu Geyser at Whakarewarewa – and hot mud pools. This thermal activity is sourced to the Rotorua caldera, on which the town lies...37.5% of the population are Maori, compared to 14.9% in New Zealand as a whole.
See the bubbling there on the water? It's everywhere, steam randomly coming out of various places in town.

The water at this end of the lake has a milky grey color.

Rotorua’s geothermal field contains numerous features including geysers, hot springs, mud pools, fumaroles, silica terraces and flats. The geothermal field and its associated surface features are national and international taonga (treasures). Rotorua’s sulphur-tinged air, steaming footpaths, mud pools and boiling springs form a unique environmen that attracts visitors from around the world. The most iconic feature is Pohutu geyser flat, which ranks alongside the geysers of Yellowstone National Park as one of the last remaining active geyser fields in the world.

It's a bright clear day, chilly but nice in the sun. We walk the boardwalk on the lake's edge.

Who's this? Two of our gang have rented a little paddle boat and we run into them on our walk.

Cody and Trev: fine day for a cruise

Carly, Austi, and I walked down toward a hut featuring the sign "Mana Ball/Walking On Water," and they were instantly ready to go. The friendly Maori woman in charge grabbed a big bunch of plastic and we followed her down to the dock.

Take off shoes, socks, and coats, she told the girls. You get in, then I blow it up.  (This is going to be fun to watch.)

But before she could blow up Carly's mana ball the boys returned in their paddle boat, which turned out to be under the same woman's purview. "Remember, you have to back it in," she told them. They did a nifty job of it.

Back to inflating Carly's bubble

And off she goes, rolling right off the edge of the dock.

Luckily, because it's a windy day, the woman keeps the ball tethered. I'm laughing nonstop as Carly tries to get a grip on things in there.

She hits her stride

Austi's turn. 

Well all right!

Fun and funnier.

You pay your fee and you get five minutes in the mana ball, which seemed a little skimpy to us. When the woman said she was going to pull in Carly I said: can't she have a few more minutes? "She needs oxygen," the woman responded. What? And sure enough, when the girls got out, they were utterly bushed, both from the frantic physicality of trying to stay upright, but also, I guess, because they were running out of breathable air. Good times!

The boys from the boat. 

Holly, Brooke, and I walked to a quilting shop in town (Holly's a master quilter).
 Happy family.

Maori craftspeople working pounamu

After a snack at the hotel, we packed up our suits and headed to the spa:
Enjoy tranquil bathing and lake views in four shallow alkaline rock pools, each with different temperatures (36˚C to 42˚C) and a newly built acidic pool so guests are able to enjoy the benefits of the two types of hot mineral water offered at Polynesian Spa. Here you are surrounded by revitalizing native New Zealand flora, natural rocks, the sound of two waterfalls and a grotto. The pools are filled with soothing alkaline mineral water leaving your skin soft and supple...Relax in the outdoor relaxation area overlooking the four hot mineral pools and Lake Rotorua. Guests can further unwind on the five geothermally heated recliners with a stunning backdrop of New Zealand's lush and natural greenery.
I can guarantee you Holly and Rich were relaxed

Dreamy hot outdoor pools. We started in the least hot and progressed.

Chris and Lisa look pretty relaxed too. 

Brooke in the mineral-rich pool, her favorite. I loved this one too. We spent 2+ hours there.

So what did everyone else do? We're not exactly sure, but we all crossed paths throughout the day, catching snippets of Pete and Paula's walk to the shops, and Marc and Leah waved to Art and me as we were eating sushi, they having returned from an all-day trek in the redwoods. The second wave of spa-goers was heading out too. Downloading pictures in the lobby over an evening cocktail, Holly, Rich, and Brooke returned from their Maori dinner and cultural immersion.

Tomorrow we fly to Queenstown via Christchurch. Maybe I can get some more details then.

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