Two weekends ago I traveled to Rotorua with three other students. Rotorua is technically on a volcanic plateau and has one of the world's most lively fields of geothermal activity. Once I arrived in Rotorua, that fact became quite obvious after smelling the awful rotten egg smell from the sulfur all throughout the city. However, once I somehow got used to the smell I also quickly realized how amazing Rotorua really is! Our first night was spent at the Polynesian Spa where we soaked in natural hot pools and mineral pools for at least a few hours. It was so relaxing and definitely necessary after spending the day traveling! We spent our first full day in Rotorua at Wai-O-Tapu thermal wonderland which has some of the largest mud and hot pools in the world, along with the famous lady knox geyser! Walking through the park was so fun and by far the complete opposite type of scenery compared to Minnesota! Later in the afternoon we went luging down the mountain at sky line. Joelle and I became so obsessed with luging and had so much fun, I don't think I stopped laughing for two hours straight! If anyone ever goes to Rotorua, that an activity I would highly suggest.
Even though those first two days in Rotorua were wonderful, Sunday ended up turning into one of the best day, especially because it was so unexpected! At the beginning of the day I was slightly bummed because I had planned on going sky diving (which I still have yet to do) but it was raining so that obviously did not happen. Instead, the four of us went out for breakfast and by the time we were done eating the weather had cleared up enough for us to walk around. We ended up walking in a big loop around the city, first walking to a public park where there were steaming mud pools directly next to play grounds! Probably not the safest thing but it was pretty cool. Next we walked down to Lake Rotorua, which is absolutely beautiful! While walking we discovered a marae and Maori church that was built over one hundred years ago! We walked around that area for quite a while and then after aimlessly roaming around some more we discovered a small market going on! After looking at the different items the vendors were selling, I stumbled upon a table with beautifully carved wooden bowls and plates. As i stood there trying to decide which bowl to buy and becoming more and more fascinated by them, the old man selling them began to start a conversation with me. His name is Robert Collins and we ended up talking for almost an hour! He told me all about his life and how he goes into the bush himself to get the wood and hard carves each and every bowl using a specific technique. I am no expert in wood or carving but these bowls and plates are incredible! He uses all native wood from New Zealand like rimu, which is generally hundreds of years old! I ended up buying 4 items from him, which will mostly be gifts for family members but I have decided I must keep one.
I now realize after this trip in New Zealand that it is the moments like meeting Robert Collins that are the most memorable. I have learned the most about New Zealand and what it all has to offer from meeting locals like him and find myself talking to them for hours on end.
As we finished the day roaming around by the lake, I realized that if it had not been for the bad weather in the morning and the change in plans, I never would have discovered the wonderful, hidden aspects of Rotorua and meet locals like Robert Collins.
Although it may not seem like a great day for some, it was by far one of my favorite days here in New Zealand.