The first settlers to come to Rotorua are said to have tied themselves to trees as they ate lunch down by the many geothermic lakes in the area so they didn’t fall in and drown when the copious amounts of hydrogen sulphide in the air sent them to sleep! The air all around Rotorua still stinks of rotten eggs, winning the city the nickname of ‘Sulphur City’, but at least you get a good night’s sleep.
The whole of New Zealand owes its existence and continued shaping to its position at the southwestern edge of the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ where the Pacific Plate is (generally) being subducted beneath the Indo-Australian Plate resulting in extensive volcanic activity, earthquakes, eruptions, tsunamis and geothermal pockets. The Taupo Volcanic Zone near to Rotorua is one of the most active volcanic areas on the planet, allowing visitors to see a range of volcanic phenomenon such as geysers, colourful geothermal lakes and boiling mud pools in one place.
One of the best places to see these is the Wai-O-Tapu Scenic Reserve, part of the Maroa Caldera formed approx 160,000 yrs ago when the volcano collapsed after emptying its magma chamber.
Close to Lake Taupo I stopped by Huka Falls, where The Waikato River, normally up to 100m wide, flows through a hard volcanic ledge just 15m wide – pretty cool!
I was riding to Napier and the Hawkes Bay coast, New Zealand’s answer to Napa Valley, to see how they compared. Most of Napier was flattened by an earthquake in 1931 killing 256 people, and 4000 hectares of today’s Napier previously underwater were raised above sea level. The city was rebuilt in Art Deco style and today is a very nice coastal town with lots of opportunity to sample the local produce, which I did.