Sunshine and sulfur – that is how Rotorua welcomed us. Due to volcanic activity in Rotorua you can find steaming hot springs, mud pools, even geysers and sulfurous gas that gives the city it’s eggy smell. We spent the night on a free campsite opposite of the Polynesian Spa which uses the hot sulphuric springs for their baths. What guests of the Spa love is what we hated after a night of smelling bad eggs and we left for a campground outside the city where no sulfurous springs were.

Despite the disgusting smell Rotorua was quiet interesting. There’s lots you can do. But as it is the most volcanic area of New Zealand and about 35% of the population are Maori we decided to visit Te Puia. This is a thermal reserve which combines volcanic action with Maori Culture. We walked from mud pools to impressive geysers and acid lakes. We learned that the Maori used to bath their wounds in these lakes to help the healing process and that they used boiling water pools for cooking and still do (in Whakarewarewa Village, which is nearby but we didn’t visit). We saw a Maori Cultural Show, with a traditional greeting, dances, singing and fighting techniques, which impressed me deeply. At last we visited the National Carving School to see traditional wood carvings in progress. A day we won’t forget – also because they had a Kiwi bird house at Te Puia where they changed night and day so we were able to see one of these night active birds.

The next day we visited the Redwoods Forest (with a small detour to the Blue Lake). Initially started as a research project in the 19 century to figure out which trees could be grown in New Zealand for timber, it is now a reserve with lots of hikes and astonishing landscape and flora. The park derived it’s name from the first kind of tree you see on entering the forest: Californian Redwood Trees. Several ten meters high with thick, red bark the trees are indeed an astonishing view. We walked one of the many tracks through the forest which rewarded us with a great view over the forest and a lot of differents kinds of plants and trees.

We rounded our day up with a short kayak tour on a small stream on which we met a nice couple from Japan. They were rightaway likable and the four of us had a very pleasant evening of talking, laughing and drinking wine and beer.

A visit in the Rotorua region isn’t complete without a visit to Hobbiton, the recreated set of the Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit movie. Friends of us recommended and we agree: It is a great experience (if you’ve watched the movies). Seeing the Hobbit holes (and also the different sizes of them, small ones for shots with Gandalf, big ones for shots with only hobbits). It’s a guided tour with plenty of photo opportunities. Unfortunately the set is really busy with all the tourists (two to three thousand visitors per day), so it’s almost impossible to make a photo without another tourist. A nice finish of the tour was the Green Dragon Inn, where a free drink was served in a proper stoneware mug.