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Rotorua – The Sulphur City


Maori Museum, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand

Maori Museum, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand

In case you wonder where this nickname comes from, wander through the street of this small town and the odour of rotten eggs says it all. This is geothermal country with exploding geysers, bubbling mud pools and the omnipresent smell of sulphur. The potential of this thermal wonderland was recognized from early on. Tourists travelled here to marvel at the geothermal landscape as early as the late 19th century and spas were built around 1902, promising cure from gout and rheumatism.

Unfortunately, fall finally caught up with us here! After five weeks of mostly sunshine and blue skies, it rained us in: it simply did not stop, with temperatures dropping to uncomfortable levels, even during the day. This is especially unpleasant in a place where almost all activities are outdoors. As a consequence, we feel it is slowly getting time for us to move on towards the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia. Of course, once there we will immediately start complaining about the climate. Well, anyway, less than one week to go before we fly to Hong Kong!

We used the rainy day to visit the Museum of History and Art with a strong focus on Maori history. The most impressive part was the section on the 28th Maori Battalion that fought in Greece, Italy and North Africa in World War II. It pays a very strong, very emotional, very personal tribute to the many Maori men whose life was wasted in this horrid war.

One of the displays quotes Rommel, the German general leading the Africa Corp. When he was asked by Hitler what he needed to win the war in North Africa, Rommel answered: “A battalion of Maoris”. These men fought with all their courage for a country they did not even know, a country that sent them to the deadliest missions there were. It makes you angry and sad to learn about this.

Heidi had a similar sensation when she visited a former Japanese labour camp two hours west of Bangkok, where the roads were lined with cemeteries of young Dutch and New Zealanders who died in Japanese forced labour camps, building the infamous railway line along the River Kwai.

Unfortunately, on the second day the weather did not turn any better, it became even worse! So we could not visit the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland as we had planed. Instead, we got very active planning our trip to Southeast Asia. Finally, we have the time to read travel reports we had downloaded a long time ago.


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