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Adventures in Flying by the Seat of my Pants Conquering Aotearoa One Day at a Time

Leaving Roto Vegas

NEW ZEALAND | Wednesday, 23 March 2011 | Views [259]

Okeh, so yesterday I was really frustrated; I felt like I was visiting a place that was so geared towards nothing but tourism, is aptly compared to Las Vegas and there isn't much opportunity to do anything authentic without driving miles and miles outside of the city. Rotorua isn't bright, loud or particularly glitzy in the way Las Vegas is, but it is littered with gift shops - not just on every corner, but sometimes three or four to a block - it takes ages to walk anywhere outside of the immediate downtown area and along those roads, the scenery changes from gift shops to motels and hotels. Walking down the main street to try and see the Whaka felt just like wandering around Vegas only instead of it being hot and gross out and in search of vegan donuts, it was rain and gross and I was in search of a cultural experience that had long since been stripped of it's authenticity. I turned around, walked the 2kms back to my hostel in wet shoes to sulk. I ended up talking to another guest who told me that when they went to the Whaka, they felt like it was nothing more than a performance for tourists. While this reassured me that I had missed out in a rare peek into real Maori culture, there was still the question of what could I do with the rest of my time. I didn't think sitting around the hostel all day sounded very appealing or well spent, so after the rain cleared up my plan was to find something interesting and possibly free. I wandered over to the west side of town, past the lake (which is much more appealing when it isn't about to rain) and over to a geothermal park. The mud pools had been diluted because of the rain, but they were still churning and bubbling like culdrons and the steam coming off the was pretty intense; I think all of my photos look like I was in the middle of clouds or visiting the surface of another planet. But th best thing, the absolutely best thing after all the tremendously awesome steamy, bubbly pools was the jungle gym on the playground. I don't normally travel places in order to visit playgrounds or wax poetically about their features, but this was truely amazing and auhenically Kiwi. It was a simple structure of two tall poles and a series of crisscrossing cables secured to the ground forming the shape of a large tent, but with a climbable interior. I really, really wanted to spend all day climbing it, but as I was not in the company of a child, I thought some of the children's parents might be weirded out by some strange adult hanging around their kids. I hung out in a small corner of it for a little while, as far away from he kids as I thought would make me look less like a weirdo, but eventually I decided to move on, leaving most of the gym unclimbed. If I ever pass through here again, I'm going to make to the top of the tallest pole on that jungle gym!

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