Howdy gang! I hope everyone had a brilliant New Year’s Eve and New Years Day celebrations. As you would have read in my last post, today, it was back on the road for cyclin’ Steve. My destination for the night was Rotorua, which is one of the major tourist destinations in New Zealand. Basically, in the South Island, it’s Queenstown, in the North Island, it’s Rotorua. As such, I have pre-booked 3 nights in the “In the Zone” backpackers hostel here. I’m in a 4-bed room, with 2 other guys, one of whom is here only to bike. So, what’s so good about Rotorua? Well, heaps I guess. The whole region is basically a hotbed of Geothermal activity. You can’t walk far without tripping over hot springs and the like. Also, it is a mountain biking mecca, having hosted the world mountain biking championships this year. And lastly, this is the prime area for Maori culture. So, as you might guess, I’m wondering if I need a third full day here as well. Read on for more about my ride into town, and first evening here. Check out the map too.
Even though I stayed up pretty late last night working on blog entries and map uploading, I still had to get up early this morning in Tauranga. Since my host family was heading off to China, I had to be up early enough to throw the sheets into the wash, and get myself all sorted out. Also, I hoped to hit a bike shop on my way out of town which opened at 9. I had no troubles getting up and ready, so I was at the bike shop just before 9. Unfortunately, they weren’t ready to let me in. In fact, the owner didn’t show up even by quarter after, so I left. I tried to find another shop, but they were also closed. Oh well, time to hit the road. By 9:20 I hit the road in earnest.
I had been pretty apprehensive about this ride, as it was going over 500m in elevation, which could mean some pretty big hills. However, as it turned out, the elevation gains were over very long distances, not short ones as usual, so getting up there wasn’t too bad. Sure, the average speed was suffering, but at least I wasn’t suffering along with it. There was only one tricky bit in the ride, which was a gorge. Basically, huge elevation loss, followed by a huge elevation gain. Yup, lots of hard pedalling to get there, but with the slightly overcast skies, things were definitely not that terrible. Overall, the ride in to Rotorua was pretty nice, and I enjoyed myself, knowing that I would once again have a couple days of lighter biking ahead of me. Well, that is unless I do some heavy mountain biking while here.
I arrived in Rotorua and my hostel just before 2pm, which was very good timing. That included stopping for a bite to eat and taking on rest stop to eat some food after the long climb. The problem with that was that there was no one at the hostel to let me in. I rang the bell over and over, and no one came to answer. So, I ended up just chaining my bike to a post, and heaving my gear over a fence into the hostel courtyard, and left on foot to do a little recon. I went to the town tourist center, and loaded up on brochures. At 3, I headed back, and was let in. Grabbed a shower, and took a walking tour of the city.
This place is very neat, and unlike any other place I’ve been to in the world I’d say. I walked to the governement gardens, then along the shores of Lake Rotorua, to a Maori village, which was nice and quiet since it was the end of the day. It was pretty neat, from there, I headed over to a town park, which is crammed with hot springs and all kinds of bubbling muds. Craziness. I tried taking some shots of the bubbling waters, but who knows if they’ll turn out. Some of the bubbling mud was very mesmerizing, but I did eventually break free and walk back to town. From there, I found the Pig and the Whistle, a semi-famous pub in Rotorua which is in an old police station. Sadly, apparently Jan.2nd is a public holiday, so everything had a 10% surcharge as a result. It made for a pricey meal and beer, but after saving a few pennies in the last couple days, I decided to spring for it anyway, and enjoyed it.
After reviewing all the pamphlets and talking to the woman running the hostel, I’ve decided to do some self-guided local touring rather than forking out big bucks for a bus tour. That way, I’ll have more money for my night entertainment, which tomorrow will consist of a traditional Maori Hangi, as well as ceremonies and stories about the culture at a village not far from here. I’ll be witness and probably take part in a Hakka, and other traditional things. I’m quite looking forward to that. It’s not super-cheap, but totally worth it I hope. Anyway, I’m probably going to turn in early this evening in order to be at the tourist info place to book my Maori experience at 8am, before heading to some cool geysers and geothermal places. I’ll fill you in on all that tomorrow after I’ve done it!