From the capital city of Wellington, we head off on a 6 hour drive to Rotorua, the place where sulfur is in the air. It actually smells of rotting eggs and you will get use to it after an hour. On our road trip, we passed Mount Doom, another LOTR icon where the ring is to be destroyed. It is also called Mount Ngauruhoe.
We stayed in a sweet lady’s, Judy, an Airbnb home. She had a big map in the living room that indicated where her guests are from. There were a lot of guests and we know why. Every morning, she let us enjoy her homemade bread, spreads, fruits, cereal and tea. They were delicious! Her place is also nice: spacious, soft and warm. Her toilet is separated from the bathroom, which is good, in case someone else wants to use either one. I would want to come back here. In case you are interested, here is her Airbnb posting. It was 157 SGD for 2 nights.
First stop is Hobbiton, which is actually not in Rotorua but in Matamata, an hour drive. The entrance was 57 NZD, although prices fluctuate based on the season. They only allow limited number of people inside Hobbiton, and even then, it was still packed. We could only stay in one area for a few minutes before we move to the next set. It is hard to find an empty scene for a wide-angle shot. Still, we were excited to see the preservation of the houses and it felt like we were in the movie. Be wary on Chinese tourist though, they like to hog the picturesque area for photo-op. I saw one lady take a picture of the toilet seat…because it went with the theme, ignoring the line of ladies waiting to use it. We went to take a sip of complimentary cider and beer inside the Green Dragon Pub. The drinks are specifically made for this place. It was a cool experience.
Next one on the list is Hell’s Gate. It is thermal reserve where you get to see different scathing temperatures pools of water. I think the max temperature was 144 Celsius. The water bubbles, steams and gives out a sulfur smell since they are under sulfuric rocks. Apparently, this sulfur mud and hot water is good for the skin and circulation, some pools were even used to cook eggs back in the days. I managed to convince Francis to go with me and he said it was not bad while we smothered smelly mud on our faces and bodies 😀 The water was hot but relaxing. The eyes sometimes sting though. There is only a common open air changing room and shower area. The smell will stick with your skin and clothes for a few days, so make sure to separate your sulfur clothes and swimwear in another bag to avoid spreading the smell to your other clothes. Wash them separately as well and, if you can, pre-soak them with baking soda. It is supposed to help with the smell. It was 85.50 NZD for the geothermal walk and the sulfur spa package. There are parks around Rotorua to get a free mud spa, but we were not sure on the location, hence we decided to go for the attraction.
We also stopped by Rotorua Museum. It was a famous bathhouse for people to be cured by the sulfur. It was not bad, but I would have skipped it if possible. It was 18.50 NZD entrance fee.
After this, next stop is Waitomo for the glowworm caves 😀