Rotorua (NZ)

Steam and sulphur fumes rising from hot springs at Whakarewarewa

The smell gets to you after a while.

Not only is it an assault on the nostrils but, if you’re trying to recover from a cold (like we were), it leaves you wheezy and congested. Rotorua reeks of hydrogen sulfide spewed out by the area’s mud pools and hot springs. The city literally sits on a massive caldera and is ever venting steam, looking like pockets of billowing white smoke all around. Rotorua is also home to the Maori Te Arawa iwi, fully one-third of the population. The hot springs make it possible for them to practice a special kind of hangi cooking using steam, guaranteeing that food will gently cook in its own juices and never dry out.

When we first arrived in the area, we didn’t notice the odor. Our accommodation was on Lake Rotorua (Marama Resort, WorldMark) some 18km from the town center. It wasn’t until we approached the city the next day that the sulphur smell became quite obvious.

Lake Rotorua is the by-product of a collapsed magma chamber. The resulting caldera filled with water, making it the second largest lake on the North Island. Only Lake Taupo to the southwest is bigger. The most popular recreational sport is trout fishing where the fish can often reach impressive sizes, some of the largest in the world, where ten percent of the catch routinely exceed 10 lbs. On the walls of the resort cafe, a fishing club has mounted their most impressive specimens. The size and quality of the trout is characteristic of all the lakes in this part of NZ.

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