|Next stop from Napier was Rotorua - the sulphur capital of New Zealand (if not the world!) We spent the morning in Napier visiting the Hawkes Bay Mueseum which ahs the ususla mix of oddities we've come to know and love including an exhibition of homewares from 1900-2000 and some dinosaur fossils. After that we headed out to the Faraday Museum (can you guess whose request that was??) only to find its opening hours were 9.00 - 11.30 and it was shut. Genuine disappointment all round. No, really. We found a superb cafe for lunch called The Starving Artist and if you are in Napier you really must go there. All the food is made on the premises by little old ladies (you know how good they are at cakes!) and it was just fantastic. It's about a 2 hour drive to Rotorua, back through Taupo. We found our motel completely by chance as it's the very first road you come to. We thought being a little out of town would help alleviate the eggy smell but in fact it didn't. There are little puffs of rising steam almost everywhere you go and more motels than I think I've ever seen. Our motel had a spa pool in a private courtyard which was lovely, apart from the fact that initially the water was very hot indeed (I suppose I could have put some cold in but it felt alright when I tested it with my hand) and then someone who shall remain nameless, Mad, tripped the power by pressing the wrong button which was all the more amazing since there were only 2 buttons to choose from. It all got sorted in the end though and we spent a happy hour bubbling away, sipping cheap fizzy grog and eating miniature heroes which are almost but not quite the same as the UK ones. Given all the drought talk at home, it was great to have a guilt-free wallow in natural hot water.
The next day (MY BIRTHDAY) we went to Te-Whakarewarea thermal village which was literally over the road from our motel. It's a "living village" so you are wandering in and around peoples houses and you have to be out by 5.00 as that's when the villagers all have their baths in the thermal waters. We arrived in time to get a guided tour which made it all the more interesting. The villagers use the hot pools to bathe in, cook food and use the steam to heat their houses so it's incredibly efficient. The downsides are that new steam holes can and do appear anywhere at any time, even if that happens to be under your house and of course there is the perma-smell of bad eggs. In some areas of the village the ground is only 30cm deep and very hot! Part of the visit includes a cultural performance by some of the villagers where they perform traditional songs, dances and of course the Haka. As a race the Maoris tend to be pretty well-built so a load of them doing the Haka is quite intimidating! We also did a little audience participation with the Maori hokey-cokey....
On the way out the village kids lurk in the river and you can throw coins down to them which they will catch by diving off the side which is no mean feat! When they catch them they put them in their mouth for safekeeping - I don't know what they do when their mouths are full as they seem to be able to hold a huge amount in there! In the afternoon we went to the Rotorua Museum which is in the old spa house which was famous in the early 1900's as one of the worlds best but got plagued with problems and debt and finally closed in the early 60's. Mostly they didn't understand the effects of the chemicals in the water which knackered the pipes, turned everything yellow and stunk the place out on a very regular basis, so they were constantly re-plumbing and getting the baths replaced. Also on offer were a range of "treatments" including the electric bath where you sat in the waters with a load of electrodes attached while a man in a white coat twiddled some buttons on a scary looking machine. God knows what that did to you but it was meant to be a good thing!