Rotorua is Freakin’ Awesome!

Despite the forecast swearing that there was an 80% chance of rain, we would not be denied! Sid and I had the same day off, something that is becoming more and more of a rarity, so it was time to get out of Auckland and explore. Rotorua was in our cross-hairs.

 

What is a Rotorua Anyways?

Volcanic Lake along the  Rainbow Mountain Hike
Volcanic Lake along the Rainbow Mountain Hike

Rotorua is one of the most popular stops for visitors in the North Island of New Zealand and I must say, the reputation is very much deserved. This town sits on volcanic land and with that come geysers, mud pools, natural springs, tons of spas and of course, a bunch of volcanic lakes! Our only regret was not having enough time to explore more of it, but if there is one travel advice I have taken to heart, it’s “some travel is better than no travel and waiting for the ‘right time.'”

 

Off We Go

Rotorua Mud Flats

We left Auckland at the crack of dawn and after a few pit stops, arrived well before noon. Unfortunately, we found out that the main geyser shoots off at exactly 10:15 AM every day, so we missed it. Instead, we decided to check out the mudflats and went for a hike up Rainbow Mountain.

 

Where is the Rainbow?

Rainbow Mountain Hike

Upon deciding on this hike, I decided to look it up on my phone and see a couple of pictures. My mind was blown away when I saw this! I was in such a rush that I didn’t even notice that I was looking at pictures of Rainbow Mountain in China, not New Zealand! The view from the top was nice, but it is the blue crater lake a third of the way up that made the hike worthwhile.

Atop Rainbow Mountain

Dinner and a Walk

NZ $10 Note

We had some Tunisian food and couldn’t help but notice how everything in town was just lovely. The locals were friendly, the food was great (and not as expensive as in Auckland), and the whole ambiance was just perfect. After dinner, we went for a walk around Rotorua Lake where we spotted tons of New Zealand diving ducks. You might have seen this bird before on the back of the $10 NZ note.

 

Hamurana Springs

Spring in Rotorua

The sun was setting in two hours so we decided to kill some time on the north side of the lake and check out the Hamurana Springs. Who would have thought that this short hike would have been the highlight. Pukekos greeted us near the parking lot, and by now, you must be aware of how much I like this cute blue bird. The entire trail is less than an hour long in theory, but I dare you to do the whole thing without stopping multiple times and just standing in awe. There are wonderful pools, redwoods (yeah, the California variety), and some cool native birds just flying around. I managed to get a picture of a ‘tui,’ but also spotted parrots and fantails that were just too fast for my camera.

Hamurana Springs

 

As for that Sunset

Rotorua Sunset?

It never came! It got very cloudy and what would have otherwise been a spectacular sunset was a long streak of red in the distance. Everything else was great though, so we didn’t really mind. We packed up for the long drive back to Auckland where the empty roads reminded us that besides the city up north, this really is the edge of the world.

It really looks that good.
It really looks that good.
A Hike In The Hunua Ranges

Another wonderful Tuesday came by a few weeks ago (which is currently, my only day off), and it was not going to be wasted. We had a choice of either going hiking or taking a long trip to check out Hobbitton, but after reading that it is $75 for a 90 minute guided tour, we opted to hike.

Hunua Ranges

The Hunua Ranges is a huge park in the greater Auckland area about an hour south east of the city center. Since we were pretty impressed by Piha, we decided to give it a try! The first thing to know is that it is massive, with quite a few entry points and hiking trails. Since Sid and I are both grossly out of shape not at the zenith of our form, we went with the easy one to a 23 meter waterfall.

Hunua Waterfall

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UNESCO Monday #4: Jeju Island’s Volcano
Jeju Island - Hallasan
Although it looks like a pond, it is actually quite large.

Officially: Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes

Taken: July, 2011

Place: Jeju Island, South Korea

“Yeah yeah yeah, just take us here,” we continued to tell the cab driver, pointing at a wrinkled map (yeah, we still used physical maps). My friend and I felt a little impatient as we knew we had to start this hike early in the morning to get to the top. The volcano that sits in the middle of Jeju Island, Mt. Halla (or “Hallasan”), stands at 1950 meters. It is no behemoth, but nothing to scoff at. The cab driver continued in his vain attempt to dissuade us from taking our chosen trail, but we thought he just wanted to drop us off farther to charge more.

We began our climb at around 9 am and continued for about 4 hours. The trails were awfully empty for such a popular mountain in Korea. Something seemed off. As we edged towards the top, we realized why. This trail Read more