Kuirau Geothermal Park
The city of Rotorua, and it’s surrounding areas, in New Zealand, are home to a highly active geothermal zone. It was there that we enjoyed a rare phenomena – geysers, hot springs, incredible pools and other features. They scatter a wide array of colors that emerge from the core of the Earth. We arrived here after a few days soaking up the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula. A slow, four hour drive, got us into the heart of Rotorua. We still, however, had a few hours to kill before we could check into our Air Bnb.
At the northern end of Rotorua, we found a public park that was full of open wonders to be explored. Walking tracks lead to numerous areas of vigorous geothermal activity. Provided that you stay on the cool side of the safety fences, visitors are generally quite safe in parks like this. Apparently new eruptions do happen. The last major one was about ten years ago, so it is highly advised to stay on the marked trails. We picked up a bag of lunch foods – buns, salami, cheese, chips and drinks – and sat down at one of the park’s picnic tables to eat. If you know anything about geothermal parks, then you may know that they come with a particular smell.
“Nick-named The Sulphur City, Rotorua does have a rather unique pungent aroma. It has been described as smelling distinctly like rotten eggs, and truth be told, it is indeed an odoriferous city. The smell however grows on you, and not in an uncomfortable fungal way! Rather, the smell is a reminder of the geothermal activity of this beautiful region. The intense presence of beneficial minerals and the readily available natural remedies that Mother Nature offers freely in Rotorua. Instead of the smell becoming unbearable the longer you stay, the aroma fades, and once a traveller has moved on from Rotorua, it may even be missed.”
The sulphur-smell really didn’t bother us at all, and we were happy to eat our lunch right there, amongst the steaming geysers and pools thats surrounded us. After lunch (which was hurried along by some pesky bees) we took a walk to discover the steaming, hissing and bubbling geothermal activity in this informal public park located right next to Rotorua’s city centre.
Lunchtime family giggles
If I haven’t mentioned it already, we loved the convenience of traveling in an English-speaking country. And although New Zealand wasn’t the land of many options, it had everything that we could have hoped for. We often bought roasted chickens, salads, hummus, buns, wraps, and fresh ingredients. When it comes to grocery-store shopping, it doesn’t take much to impress those who have lived in Asia for almost a decade!
A Rather Chilly Stop
Our time in Rotorua was rather chilly. We needed sweaters, and even scarves, while we were there. Of course, we didn’t bring much of these clothes on this summer trip – so we were grateful for the few items that we did have. There weren’t too many clothing stores along the way, and we didn’t spend much time in the bigger cities, looking for department stores. Nevertheless, we managed to enjoy ourselves despite the nippy weather.
The Green Corridor
With our energy restored, and ready to check out some geothermal activity, we took a walk through the park. Eli wasn’t on his best behavior – he kept running off and not looking back. If we were in a safer, or more familiar, environment, we might not have cared so much. However there were signs everywhere warning visitors to stay “on track”.
Local Historical Story
In early Maori times the small lake in the park was much cooler and was known as Taokahu. Legend says that a beautiful young woman named Kuiarau was bathing in the waters when a taniwha (legendary creature) dragged her to his lair below the lake. The gods above were angered and made the lake boil so the Taniwha would be destroyed forever. From that time on, the bubbling lake and the steaming land around it have been known by the name of the lost woman, although the spelling has changed a little.
That Crinkled Nose
Eli was definitely noticing the sulfur smell that floated around the park, and was especially strong next to each bubbling pool. Look at that crinkled nose! haha. He didn’t know how to express the fact that he could smell it, but he kept squishing his nose us, and making a sniffing sound.
Kuirau Park Foot Pools
In the center of the Kuirau Park are some footbaths which are heated from the geothermal activity that exists beneath the ground. These pools are great for soaking your feet in, but definitely not for bathing in. This spot is lovely, especially on a very cold grey day, when the steam swirls around you. Although the weather in Rotorua seemed a little dull when we arrived, it was perfect when we got to these pools. There are two covered foot pools and one uncovered one too.
Not a bad find for an afternoon where we might have ended up killing a few hours in a McDonalds! Well, Eli probably would have liked that! This free public area gives a nice introduction to Rotorua and the geothermal activity in this region.