Has anyone else ever tried going to pee in the early hours of the morning with 30 haphazardly placed mattresses between you and freedom? Without tripping over anyone? Or waking everyone by silent-screaming "Ow!" at every other step because your leg is now a black and blue mess?

My morning was fine thanks, how was yours?

Luckily for me, most people were awake for our early departure from the Marae, meaning we arrived in Rotorua at a great time (aka before lunchtime), giving us the majority of the day to both settle and explore. Bags quickly thrown into our rooms at Hot Rocks - the Base Backpackers in Rotorua, down Arawa Street - the majority of us quickly hopped on a mini bus to Tikitere... otherwise known as the Hells Gate Geothermal Park and Mud Bath Spa, the most active geothermal park in the city, about 20 minutes drive from the centre. 

Now for anyone unfamiliar with the smell of sulphur (especially sulphur that originates from a hot, underground source), it basically smells like rotten eggs - think those stink bombs kids would throw in the corridors at school, but much stronger and it never goes away. I do not envy anyone who wakes up with a hangover in Rotorua - one sniff and "Hello toilet bowl!"

It's a pretty unusual (but awesome) sight to see random parts of a city cornered off because natural gas has forced its way up through the ground. But Hells Gate, to quote Marjorie from Little Britain, is "summin' else" - prehistoric with a dash of Dante's Inferno thrown in for good measure. It is truly spectacular, and unlike anything else I've seen before; from the ominously bubbling pools of the Inferno, to the literally Steaming Cliffs. There's even a Mud Volcano, the only one situated in a thermal park in New Zealand, which has grown to 1.8 metres and makes this creepily loud gurgling sound. 

Apparently every couple of weeks it even erupts, spraying the mud up to 5 metres away! Now that I would pay good money to see up close (though not too up close, of course).
But do you know what the best/craziest thing about this place is? Between the heat coming out of natural vents in the ground, the spraying mud that can either heal you or kill you, and the water that either can cook your dinner or melt the flesh off your bones... 

It's all separated from the walkway by a wooden barrier no more than a couple of centimetres high!

But don't worry, the very chill tour guide will take great delight in warning you about crossing over to the death side; turns out that there are many people who are quite happy to win themselves a Darwin Award, and all for the sake of a selfie!

I'm sorry, did you not notice the VERY HOT STEAM AND MUD literally licking the back of your ankles?
To celebrate escaping the Hells Gate Bush Walk unscathed (which I 100% recommend you do if you ever find yourself in Rotorua - if geography was half that interesting at school I would still be studying it to this day) we decide to take a dip in the Medicine Lake - reduced in price thanks to booking through the Stray bus driver. By this point my leg is turning me into Long John Silver so chilling in some hot sulphur water is just what the doctor ordered. Not only is it very relaxing, but it leaves you with baby soft skin that everyone will take get delight in stroking afterwards.

Just a little advice to anyone thinking of going for a dip:
  • If you like your nice silver jewellery, like a Pandora bracelet for example... TAKE IT OFF! Unless you want it to be tarnished almost beyond repair.
  • Prepare to throw away (or at least wash a million times) you swimming costume, towel, pants... pretty much anything anything that the water comes into contact with, lest it stink of egg forever more.
  • If you longer hair, wear it up! Trust me on this one.
Lesson Number 24: If you have the travel time to allow it, try not to rush through places that may not look exciting at first. Sometimes those little blips on the map may turn out to be one of the most interesting places on your journey.
Now thanks to the cheaper price of Hot Rocks in Rotorua in comparison to other Base's we've encountered so far ($23 a night at the time of visiting - I did arrive during winter so please don't yell at me if it's more expensive - for a single bed in a 6 person shared room PLUS ensuite bathroom? Yes please!) coupled with the fact my bank balance is creeping into "computer says no" territory, I've decided to be sensible and to hop off the Stray Bus for at least the next week to do some *shudders* job hunting. 

The beauty of booking a year pass to travel with a company like Stray Travel (or Kiwi Experience, who also operate in New Zealand) is that you can hop on and hop off where ever you like along the route - providing there's room on the next bus of course - so if you'd like to spend more than the allotted 1 or 2 days at each stop and explore more... then you can! So here I am, exploring the city centre of wonderfully weird Rotorua, after 5 hours of application sending on SEEK having led to an interview in Wellington next week (yes I know I'm bloody lucky to have scored one that quickly) when I just so happen to pass the Hobbiton Tours bus collection centre along the way.

Whilst happening to have my open-dated Hobbiton Tour ticket stuck in my back pocket...

Three guesses as to what I'm doing tomorrow!


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