Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Rotorua, Land of Thermal Hotspots

Huka Falls is the "most visited" scenic area in New Zealand because it's right off the main road. And it's an easy walk. It was still magnificent, with loud, rushing water and beautiful turquoise water. There were tons of tourists there snapping selfies.

We cheaped out in Rotorua (it's super touristy and everything's expensive) and checked out the free Kuirau Park which had lots of bubbling pools and steam vents. It was my first time in a thermal area and the sulphuric smell was interesting. I got some great shots of the pukeko bird -- there were lots of them rummaging around for food. They have such pretty purple coats and that bright orange beak.

The Rotorua Museum was an iconic building, formerly the bath house that drew tourists to the area to receive all kinds of "medical" treatments, like being given electric shocks while soaking in the baths, or being spun around in a machine to relieve you of constipation. I wonder if people will look back on our time and consider our modern medicine to be so crazy.

There was a surprisingly cool corrugated art exhibit by Jeff Thomson. I enjoyed the animals and the submarine thing. Although we ran out of time to see a lot of the museum, there was a substantial Maori section which I'd like to return to see. The North Island does have a noticeably larger Maori presence which is nice to know exists since Christchurch doesn't emphasize their culture much.

The museum had a fun 20-minute movie with shaking seats and reenactment of the 1886 eruption of the nearby volcano, Mount Tarawera. It really made me think how dumb humans are when it comes to Nature. Despite past disasters, we recklessly rebuild in dangerous areas and even build huge tourist centers to encourage more people to come. We went on a guided tour of the museum with an older lady originally from Scandinavia, and she kept commenting on how the whole city and surrounding area is in a caldera from a volcano and could erupt again without warning. All of the hot springs and steam vents are an indication that things are still bubbling (literally) on and below the earth. And yet 50,000+ people live there now, and tourists have been coming for over a hundred years.

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