Wednesday, 23 March 2016

New Zealand – Agrodome & Te Puia, Rotorua

Beautiful sights during the Agrodome farm tour
After leaving Hobbiton, we headed off to Rotorua.  As soon as we arrived in Rotorua, the smell of rotten eggs hit us.  Yes, the smell of sulfur permeates most of Rotorua.  There is a lot of geothermal activity in the area (geysers, thermal mud pools etc.).  In fact, on our drive to Rotorua, our driver pointed out small hills along the roads which were caused by past geothermal activity.  We had some time before dinner, which was a Maori Hangi concert and feast, so we headed off to do some shopping and to visit the Rotorua night market.  I enjoyed both the shopping and the night market but not so much the Maori Hangi concert and feast.  I thought that the Hangi feast would be cooked in the ground but no, we got a hotel buffet version that didn’t even taste good. 

Geyser at Te Puia
A heads up for tourists like me: Pak’nSave supermarket has a free public phone from which you can call for a taxi.  Taxi rates are quite expensive – I think we paid around NZD 18 to get back to our hotel which, according to Google maps, is only 2km away.  There is also a bus you can take but the bus services seem to end early in Rotorua.  Anyway, I don’t regret it because we hardly had any time to go to the supermarkets and our tour guide was quite mean about arranging for us to do any shopping at all.

The next morning, we visited the Agrodome to see a farm show and go on a farm tour.  Basically, it was all about sheep.  The farm show was entertaining and there were headsets for visitors who did not understand English.  I was actually hoping to see dogs herding the sheep, in particular, border collie.  I was totally excited to see a huge border collie statue at the entrance of the Agrodome and a bunch of cute stuffed border collie toys at the gift shop.  Unfortunately, we didn’t’ see any border collies.  After the farm show, there was a live dog trial outside on the grass.  There was also a small baby animal enclosure at the back of the farm show venue.  They were very cute, but the smell was awful. 

An alpaca juxtaposed against a pair of discarded deer antlers
Next, we went on a farm tour.  The Agrodrome is a working farm so there were lots of animals and plants to look at.  We stopped several times to get a closer look and feed the animals.  There were alpacas, goats, ducks, cows, the ever-present sheep and deer.  Obviously, it was dirty and smelly.

They reminded me of Rudolph
Manuka plant
We also stopped to look at some manuka, feijoa and kiwi trees and to taste some kiwi wine and honey. 
Geyser from a distance at Te Puia
After leaving the Agrodome, we had a terrible lunch at a Chinese restaurant and headed to Te Puia.  Te Puia has a Maori arts and craft institute, some geysers, a live kiwi enclosure, among others.  The place is well-kept.  I was less interested in the Maori culture and arts but found the geothermal valley fascinating.  From a distance, we could see the geyser spouting steam.  Amazing!

Up close, we could see yellow sulfur deposits here and there.  There were also hot springs and mud pools.  You could see the mud slowly bubbling.  Unsurprisingly, it was very hot in Te Puia.  You will definitely need to bring a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and an umbrella. 

Bubbling mud
We also visited the live kiwi enclosure but I didn’t manage to see any kiwis.  It seemed so hard to get a glimpse of them!  The most I had seen of a kiwi during the whole tour of New Zealand was a kiwi’s butt while it was running to hide. 

We had another forgettable dinner in Rotorua before leaving the next morning for Auckland.  Of all the places in New Zealand, Rotorua turned out to be the most disappointing food-wise.  

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