The Redwoods of Rotorua

Rotorua, New Zealand

The rain had stopped and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky this morning as we walked past Lake Rotorua, which sits atop a spent volcano. Some children threw bread into the water, drawing the attention of a large group of black swans, which honked and fought over the food.

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After some flat white coffees, we drove to Whakarewarewa (inexplicably pronounced “Fa-ka-re-wa-re-wa”) Forest. It’s home to 170 species of trees which were planted in 1899 to determine which could be grown successfully for timber.

At the Waipa Mill entrance, Planet Bike had set up a makeshift rental agency out of the back of a truck. Fitted on two mountain bikes and with a map of the 100 kilometers of one-way tails, we got peddling. Because the ground was drenched, we were advised to stick with the Green (Easy). Slogging up and down steep paths with various obstacles in our way, we learned that New Zealanders have a different concept of “Easy” than Americans.

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Of the 170 species, radiata pine was deemed the best and it dominates many hillsides here today. But it’s the mighty California redwoods that draw in the visitors. These tall, majestic trees can grow to 360 feet tall and live 600 years. In Whakarewarewa, the largest stand at around 219 feet high and 66.5 inches in diameter. The trees provide a shelter for New Zealand Silver fern and giant Mamaku ferns, which, given their size, look more like palm trees.

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On our way back, we stopped at Blue Lake, its bright turquoise waters shimmering majestically against a backdrop of lush green forest and vibrant blue sky.

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We spent the remainder of the day at the Polynesian Spa, voted a top 10 spa by Condé Nast Traveler. The baths were filled with mineral rich water of varying temperatures; all overlooked picturesque Lake Rotorua.

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Dinner was at the Pig & Whistle — housed in the town’s former police station, the pub served up tasty burgers and pints of local Mac’s lager.

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