The town, Rotorua has the same name as the lake. It is 85 km northeast of Taupo and there is also geothermal activity in this area. The region is also home to 17 lakes. It is the volcanic heart of the North Island. The landscape was sculptured over millions of years by water and geothermic activities. The area is sensational.
We arrived in the evening and had dinner in the Pig & Whistle Pub
The food was good, the choice of beers was excellent. The service is uncomplicated. You go to the bar, place your order, and immediately pay. You are given an object with a number, and then the server brings you your food to the table. When you leave, you can put a small gratuity on the table.
The next day we explored the redwood forest. You can walk along many paths which take you past giant trees. There are also fern trees (which are part of the emblem of New Zealand on the flag, and the shirts of the All-Blacks rugby team). Entering the forest was an astonishing experience. When I compared the ferns in France with giant versions in New Zealand, my jaw dropped. Walking along the path and turning the corner, we were confronted by huge trees. The first time, I had only seen this in parks, but a complete forest like this was extraordinary. We spent the whole afternoon here.
In the evening, we went on a treetop walk. We walked in complete darkness except for lights, attached to the handrails, to guide us along the path. They did not distract. There was just enough light to see the treetops and read the small info boards. The effects and the atmosphere were special because sometimes different lights were used at different places. They also gave a different view of the trees. There were tiny green lights which reproduced the New Zealand glow worms. (To see the real thing, go to Waitomo Caves on the road to Hamilton, are worth a detour).
But I want to share other information about the region, which, unfortunately, we had to miss.
If you have more time, then explore the surrounding area. The cultural forces in the area are also strong with plenty of opportunities to learn more about Māori culture. You can also visit a Māori village and see a live KAPA HAKA Performance.
The Haka. It is a sung dance, (it is a dance in which the warriors sing). It is a ritual practised by the Māori at conflicts, manifestations and protestations.
Haka means “doing” and it includes crude words, insults that are addressed to the enemy or opponent, now usually in sport.
The facial expression is ferocious and can be interpreted as a form of provocation. Now, the intention is more ritual and pays homage to the Māori culture. www.history-nz.org
Rotorua is also close to Mount Tarawera.
Hobbitton is MataMata (between Rotorua and Hamilton). This is the village of the Hobbits from the movie The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. All the movies were made only in New Zealand and the village was especially constructed for the movie. It fell into disrepair after the crews had left and then it was rebuilt and repaired as a tourist attraction. There are around 30 locations in New Zealand which were used to film the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.
But it was time to continue our journey, and we drove on to Tauranga.