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I was lucky to get to Rotorua at all, as the road to there, via Taupo, had been closed for the previous 3 days, with bad snow! The people in Napier said it was the first time in 25 years, that the road has been closed for so long.On the way there, on the bus to Taupo, there must have been about 6 inches of snow on the ground on either side of the road and people had even built snowmen! So I got there anyway and stayed in the Kiwi Paka backpackers. There was a really nice, helpful woman there called Bev, who was working there the last time too. She called us by the names of “Jane without an e and Martin with an a” (for Jan and Martina). I booked a lot of tours through her this time. She was extremely helpful and very friendly.

So I went to the Mitai Hangi performance. There are 3 different Hangi performances in Rotorua but this one is definitely the best. We did this the last time we were here too but I really wanted to do it again. It was great but was a little bit different this time. They brought us into the forest before we had the Hangi meal and there were 5 Maori warriors on this war canoe, coming down the river. Then we were brought outside to see how they warm the stones under which they cook the Hangi.

The Hangi is a mixture of meats: chicken, beef and lamb and vegetables like kumara (sweet potato), normal potatoes etc. Then they put sackcloths on top, which have been soaked in water and they put soil on top of these, to keep in the steam and basically cook it like this for 3 hours. We were then brought to see the performance. Here they told us about their customs, tattoos, how they use their weapons, musical instruments, their games and best of all, the Haka. I love watching the Haka. It’s sounds so powerful and primal. God, I’m telling you, the Chief is a fine looking man, with a great (tattooed) butt! He explains very clearly about the history of the tattoos that the Maoris wear and I found that very interesting.

By this stage, we were pretty hungry and the food was spread out before us like a feast. It was absolutely delicious! There was beef, chicken, lamb, kumara, roast potatoes, scalloped potatoes, salad and rice. For desert, we had a choice of trifle, fruit salad and chocolate log. It was all heavenly. The main guy who was fronting the whole show was very good. There were people represented from 20 countries there and he was able to greet everybody in their own language, all apart from Lebanese.We then went on a bushwalk in the forest, to see the glowworms and their sacred spring. After all of this, we were delivered back to our accommodation. I was very impressed by the whole show.

I also went to the Waitomo Caves.I had wanted to do these the last time I was here too but didn’t get around to it. And it was a good day to do it, as it poured rain all day! A good day to be underground. The caves in Postojna, Slovenia were better, I thought but they didn’t have the glowworms, as they did here. The glowworms are the lava stage of a two winged insect and the bottom third part glows bluey/green in the dark. They drop down silvery threads, which can only be seen with a torch.They took us to a part in Ruakuri cave, where you can see these silvery threads hanging down. It was amazing. The glowworms attract their prey with their bioluminescent light and the prey is then caught in the fine threads.

Some of the areas in this cave were lovely, with white, wafer thin – like stalactites. I did the combination tour of Aranui and Ruakuri caves and paid extra to do the Waitomo Caves, but it was well worth it. There is a part of the tour in the Waitomo Caves where they take you to a certain spot and when you look up at the ceiling, there are millions of glowworms. They looked for all the world like bluey/green fairy lights. It was breathtaking.

I also went to Hobbiton, from Lord of the Rings. It really does look like The Shire. It was such a beautiful day, it was perfect. You should have seen the green hillocks, rolling over miles and miles of land. 1,200 acres of land actually. The place is a sheep farm, owned by the Alexander family and it was springtime, so there were loads of sheep, with little lambs running about the place. It was gorgeous. The hobbit holes are all natural, it’s unbelievable! The LOTR left the white coverings on the hobbit holes, so it really feels like you’re in the Shire. The Party tree is there too, where Bilbo had his eleventy first birthday party. You should see this tree. It’s humungous! And I got a photo taken at Bag End, like in the film and I don’t even touch the roof of the hobbit hole! I really would make a good hobbit!

Rotorua is built in the crater of an old volcano and the lake which borders it, has a part which is called Sulphur Lake, because of the hydrogen sulphide which it contains. Therefore, the place stinks like rotten eggs. Really, it’s true. All over town, there are hot pools and bubbling mud pools. It’s so cool. I like it here. I did a cultural eco tour too and that was very interesting. The company that gives these tours are called Elite Adventures.

They have an excellent half day or full day tours, which take you to places like the Champagne Pool, the Lady Knox Geyser, Waimagu Volcanic Valley. It’s just amazing to see these bubbling hot pools and rivers with a temperature of 75 degrees Celcius, where the ground nearby is the colour of charcoal in places and you can boil an egg on the ground! Trent is an excellent guide and I would seriously recommend the full day tour, which I did the last time I was here.

I did use the spa facilities in Rotorua too. I went to the Q.E. Spa. It was probably going to be my only chance to get a dip in a hot pool. I had a Pyretic Bath, the name Pyretic deriving from the Greek word “fever”. So, it’s good for arthritis and for the skin and for a number of other ailments. I wanted to have a massage but I had a cold, so they said the masseur couldn’t massage me because the cold would go all over my body and I didn’t want that. So they recommended I take the Pyretic Bath. It was supposed to steam the cold out of my body. I had a quick dip in the hot pool too. It was great and so relaxing. I really enjoyed it.