June 4, 2003
A weekday in February, it was nevertheless summer, which meant reservations were required no matter where stayed. We'd seen plenty of disappointed people stranded all over NZ pleading for accommodations from tiny Takaka to touristy Franz.
Suddenly we were in their company. But by choice. We'd jumped off the Stray backpacker bus somewhere en route from Waitomo to Coromandel, deciding that going solo would be HEAPS better than sharing the company of sullen 20 year olds who desired nothing more than a sleepy existence glued to headphones instead of bounding outdoors to kayak, hike, parachute or jetboat.
As precious minutes disappeared from my calling card, I finally heard a "Yes" from a lady at Rotorua's Sport of Kings Motel. She took our reservation and offered to send a driver to meet us at the bus stop, and off we went.
Several hours later, shivering in front of the closed Visitor Centre, we waited for our motel shuttle. At 8pm busy Fenton Street was strangely quiet and deserted for a main drag. Soon a little car pulled up and a talkative Kiwi took us to his motel 10 minutes south of town.
He talked non-stop about Rotorua's attractions then asked us our plans. But we downplayed our stay in Rotorua, thinking we'd be transferring to Hot Rock Backpackers tomorrow. When we told him of our continuing plans in Tongariro, he tried to convince us to stay in a tiny town where he'd stayed and played miniature golf at a course modeled after volcanoes.
Exhausted, we were relieved when we pulled into the motel on Peace Street (hoping for a little of our own). But, the driver was the owner. He checked us in, took our breakfast order, then began extracting tourist brochures...sending his wife to search for additional information.
The helpful chap followed us to our room to show us ‘where everything was' talking incessantly. We tried subtle clues to accelerate his exit, but he didn't notice. I even excused myself to pee, sat on the bed, took off my boots, sweater, and sorted through my backpack...averting any encouraging eye contact. His wife rescued us thirty minutes later when she came to retrieve him.
As for the motel–we had a spotless spacious room with a kitchenette and bathroom. Two private enclosed spas and a heated outdoor pool were additional perks. But the bed was calling. Unfortunately, stress from the tiring day, an unexpected fight, and the stench of intensifying sulphur seeping through closed windows kept me awake. At 6:30am irritated at barking dogs next door, I got up to soak in one of the private spas..ahhh...and let the tensions melt away.
From journal Rotorua's Maori & Geothermal lands