Odorous Rotorua

We smelled Rotorua before we saw it. Driving up the Thermal Explorer Highway, plumes of yellow-gray vapor intermittently bubbling up from either side of the road, we had no idea, even then, of the sulphuric assault that was soon to overwhelm our senses. Sulphur Bay, Rotorua Imagine buying a dozen eggs, then forgetting them in the back of the cupboard. Imagine finding them three months later, opening the carton in horror, inhaling sharply in spite of yourself, and then, as if in slow motion, dropping the eggs on the ground as the powerful smell invades your nostrils. Imagine the eggs breaking. Yellow pus, white-gray ooze, and jagged eggshells strewn in viscous streaks across the floor. Imagine the scent filling your kitchen, your house, your yard, your street, your neighborhood. Imagine living in that smell forever. That, my friends, is Rotorua. Hot sewer - Rotorua We parked our car and stumbled, half-blind and nauseated, through the beautiful and pungent Government Gardens, passing bubbling mud pools, steaming ponds, and yellow-tinged streams, to reach our destination, the ill-fated Sulphur Point. Rotorua Museum of Art and History We marveled at the stately Museum of Art and History; who, we wondered, were the intrepid individuals who had braved stench and sulphuric vapor to erect a monument in this doomed domain? Steaming Rachel Spring, Rotorua Other unfortunate tourists like ourselves took photos of the malodorous plumes and sickening pools, the dramatic and cough-inducing features of a raw geothermic landscape. We even spotted two poor, lost souls wandering among the squirming gray soil of Sulphur Bay, heedless of the numerous warning signs; would they make it out alive, we wondered? Or had the fumes already taken them? And, more frighteningly, would this happen to us? Camerons Laughing Gas Pool, Rotorua Against our better judgement, we followed a rickety boardwalk to Camerons laughing gas pool, where daft Europeans of lore got themselves so drunk on hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide that they forgot they had willingly lowered themselves into a pit of stinking mud. The Coffee Pot, Rotorua Even more tragic was the Coffee Pot, a boiling mess of sin and sulphur. Europeans swore the dark liquid had healing properties, but all it really did was tint the skin a light brown. Then again, these were colonists. What more could you expect? Picturesque Sulfur Point, Rotorua We gasped anew, holding our shirt collars over our faces, as we finally reached the picturesque end of the boardwalk, where the ever-pervasive stench had followed us. Too disgusted and demoralized to continue, we turned back toward our car, declaring the expedition over. Once we returned to town, we made the masochist choice to order eggs at Fat Dog cafe. Clearly, the sulphur had done us in. Driving back, we bemoaned our trip, longing for a nice, clear, clean hot pool with no gray-brown mud to speak of. Somehow, through divine intervention, we learned of The Bridge, aka The Secret Spot, aka Hot and Cold, aka Waiotapu Stream. The Secret Spot, Waiotapu Stream Apart from a deadly amoeba that would crawl inside your ears and burrow itself in your brain if you made the mistake of dunking your head in the water, The Secret Spot was more than enjoyable. Yes, the area still smelled of sulphur. Yes, the water was so hot that we sometimes rose, gasping, clutching at the cool evening air. Maybe those Europeans were onto something after all. Or maybe we had simply been done in by too many eggs and too much sulphur. We, quite literally, had the vapors. sunset-rotorua Driving back to Taupo along the Thermal Explorer Highway, we witnessed a glorious sunset that, somehow, was the perfect end to a bizarre day. Sunset photo by G. Others, me. 

5 thoughts on “Odorous Rotorua

  1. I know I use the word ‘amazing’ a lot but this post is truly amazing! Love the photos, particularly the foggy photo from Waiotapu Stream, and your descriptions of the eggy stench actually caused some kind of sulphorous memories to emerge from some pools I visited in Malaysia, where I could also smell that nastiness. I also love that you ended up eating eggs. What fate!

    1. haha so glad you enjoyed it! I had to work to make this post entertaining, because Rotorua smelled truly awful at the time. Didn’t realize you’ve been to Malaysia – would love to hear more about it in person!

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