We decided to walk into town this morning over going to another attraction like Te Puia or Waimangu Volcanic Valley. There were a lot of gray clouds, but we had purchased waterproof coats in Auckland, so we thought we could weather the storm.
About two blocks away from the great hotel we chose to stay at (Alpin Motel and Conference Center) is a rose garden. We stopped there first to look at the roses. The clouds got darker; the wind picked up. We decided to continue on anyway.
About two more blocks and the drizzle started, then the rain came. We huddled under a tree to wait it out. Ten minutes later, we were on our way again. We played this game of hide from the rain on and off throughout the day.
The smell of sulfur became stronger as we got closer to the city. I was told that people get used to it, but I just couldn’t. Maybe because it seemed that the sulfur smell fluctuated. Sometimes, it was overpowering; other times, it was non-existent.
While we looked at some souvenir stores and stopped at the Hobbiton shop, our first real stop was the iSite center, which is the place where intercity buses stop and tourists can find out information about the local area. We looked at brochures, but nothing caught our eye, so we decided to go to the city museum. (Many of the museums in New Zealand are free and of high quality.)
We walked over to the Prince’s Gate and into the garden toward the beautiful building at the end of it. Some men were playing a version of Bocce or lawn bowling. Geothermal pools floated steam into the air on our right. The museum was surrounded by a chain link fence. It was closed. (We would find out later that it had been closed for the last three years after an earthquake assessment determined it to be unsafe for the public.)
We walked around the gardens and decided we were hungry. We thought we would head to Eat Streat for lunch but didn’t want to miss the lake. We walked to the lakeside and saw several different kinds of birds, including Black Swans and their chicks. There was also a cool art installation that sat on the lake. You had to put your ear to a piece of wood to hear the prayers of children. I’m not sure how it was done, but it was interesting.
We continued along the lakeshore and I noticed a sternwheeler. The Lakeland Queen hosts a lunch cruise on the lake for an hour. We basically ate the entire hour without really noticing how the cruise passed. The weather did cause the cruise to change its scheduled path, so we missed the white waters of Sulphur Bay. When the captain announced we were coming into the dock, Jenya had finished her last bite of dessert, and I had finished my last gulp of coffee. It was good timing.
The rain trapped us under a couple of different trees, but we were able to get to Eat Streat. However, since we had experienced “eat boat,” we forewent getting any food items and continued to Atlantis, a secondhand bookstore. We bought books at insanely inexpensive prices and went to another bookstore. Unfortunately, 4pm is Sunday’s magic closing time for retail in Rotorua. They closed while we were still in the shop, and we had to make our way home.
We thought we could get a cab at the iSite, but none were available. The bus service had stopped running, so we were faced with the decision to wait for a cab to randomly show up or start walking back to the hotel hoping the rain wouldn’t catch us. Fortunately, a third option presented itself, and we were able to hop a ride with a hotel van that was in the area of our hotel. That was great for us. He even dropped us off at our hotel!
Of course, the day finished out with a nice thunderstorm. Where did I read that New Zealand didn’t get a lot of thunderstorms, and why did I decide to tell my wife about it?