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Monday, February 29, 2016

New Zealand's Secret Thermal Getaway - A Naturist Resort

Wayne enjoying Rotota's
hot waterfall.
In the heart of New Zealand's mystical geothermal territory lies a  hidden gem where for $25 a couple can 


  1. shower in a hot waterfall
  2. lounge in natural hot springs pools
  3. shimmy standing up in a warm stream through the moss-covered "squeeze" (~7 minute video from another visitor)
  4. skirt the lily pads for a swim or paddle in beautiful Lake Ohakuri
  5. enjoy the lake view from a communal hot tub
  6. hike a scenic overlook trail to fumeroles (natural steam vents) where some guests even cook their meals
  7. head over to one of New Zealand's best rated, least commercial and most uncrowded geothermal wonderland, Orekei Korako ($36 NZD/adult, $15/child).
  8. join a welcoming happy hour at lively yet comfortable clubhouse
  9. pitch a tent for the night (or book a basic caravan for $40 or simple cabin for $60)
  10. cook in one of the small shared kitchens
  11. enjoy a natural hot stream-fed shower and drink cool rainwater
  12. at night, check out the glow worms, and if you're really lucky, kiwi birds and shooting stars 


Entrance to Rotata's hot waterfall.  Member Graham in background..
Where?


At Rotota, a naturist club*.  Rotota's name's derived from the nearest towns, Rotorua + Tokoroa + Taupo.  

*What is a naturist club?  Click here to learn more about naturist resorts in New Zealand.  At their core, naturist clubs - also referred to as sun clubs -- are clothing optional spots -- a nudist resort.  For those new to the "go natural" concept, if you're feeling shy or chilled, no one expects you to strip down.  However in swim areas specifically, some naturist resorts request birthday suits only.  Lewd behavior, however, is actively discouraged.  Privacy is respected as no guest or visitor photos are allowed without prior permission.  



Natural hot soaking pool above hot waterfall.
Rotota, New Zealand, North Island.

Steam rising from the creek that flows into  Lake Ohakuri.
Rotota, New Zealand, North Island.


Remote. Gated. Primitive.  Rotota's not for everyone.

Remote.  With the road from to Rotota to Taupo periodically shifting to gravel there is a definite "out there" sense.  Not the place one who needs to be a hop and a skip from the grocery store should go without some careful consideration.  Like most naturist resorts, a Google Earth search is a good idea; hardly the kind of place you'll spot if you're expecting big visible signs or neon lights.



Squeeze walls - a bit fuzzy due to steam fogging my camera.
If you have the bandwidth, check out this 7 minute video
another visitor shot of Rotota's Squeeze
.
Fumerole (steam vent) from Rotota's Billy's Track.
Lake Okahuri in the background.  New Zealand's North Island,
geothermal country.


Gated.  Rotota's a locked gate community resort, so unless you're willing to walk a kilometer or so past the gate, you'll need to contact the club for the entry combination ahead of time.
Primitive.  Propane and solar powers the bare basics at Rotota; it's wisest to arrive self sufficient,  much like backpacking, but with shelter options and basic backpacker lodge/ hostel style amernities (shared bathroom, kitchen, commons living room).  If you can't disconnect from phone or wifi for a while, Rotota is not for you.
Instead, mother nature amply provides the starring attractions, enhanced by lovely member-built trails, serenity spots and natural social get-together areas.  




Amid the primordial steam and lush foliage, I half expected giant dragonflies and dinosaurs to rise out of the mist to join the tuis, California quail and nocturnal kiwi birds.
Rotota's naturally heated hot tub, alongside Lake Ohakuri.


Despite our rush to make it back to Whangarei to ready for our sailboat's boat maintenance haul-out, even in rainy weather we spent a couple days at Rotota.  It wasn't long enough.


We only hiked a few trails.  We didn't check out the glow worms or encounter a kiwi bird.  We never made it to Orekei Korako, just across Lake Ohakuri.  We never detoured from Lake Taupo for the thunderous blue Huka Falls, an award-winning free attraction.  We also skipped the affordable otherworldly ~hour-long Craters of the Moon ($8 NZD/adult) hike.
Quail Cottage, our shelter from the rain at Rotota, New Zealand.




Lake Ohakuri from of Rotota New Zealand's tent pitch sites.
Click here for another view of the lake from my prior post.
Besides, Rotota's an incredibly beautiful spot and I'd be hard pressed to find a better place to unwind among a welcoming community.


We hope to make it back to Rotota before we leave New Zealand.  It's my first choice of where to return to of all the places we've visited.

Location Location

After our near month-long road trip blitzing New Zealand from Northlands to its Southernmost mainland tip, at Bluff, South Island, we're back.  Currently we're in Whangarei’s Riverside Marina (S35.43.674 E174.20.17), doing some much needed boat work before we resume cruising.  We hauled out today.  More on our haul-out surprise in my next post.

Oh to be back among Rotota's water lilies, rather than cleaning out
foul stinking muck from the bilge!  Refreshingly,
Rotota is not sulfur-y smelling at all.
Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles (visiting USA, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos [Ecuador], French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand).  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  We have not yet decided whether to sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu then Australia (~4,000 miles), or just to Australia (~1,500 miles).  We're leaning toward the former, then selling our boat and going back to work.






Sunday, February 28, 2016

NZ: Stripping Road Tripping’s Cost

Lovely wetlands adjacent our first New Zealand naturist resort stop,
Taranaki Naturist Club, just outside North Island’s New Plymouth.
Hotels, motels, b&bs (bed and breakfasts), Air BnB, backpacker lodges and youth hostels, VRBOs, caravan parks, glamping, freedom camping, camper vans, car camping, DoC campgrounds, tramping, farmstay, silostay.… Where do you want to rest your weary head when you’re road tripping across New Zealand?



Entry to Taranaki Naturist Club,
surrounded by pastureland, river, and the ocean.

There’s lots of ways to go…. For those of us trying to stretch a buck further than Queen Latifah’s lycra-encased derriere after a food orgy, here’s one value-packed option you probably haven’t considered…




River at the edge of Taranaki Naturist Club, as it meanders to the sea.

Nelson Sun Club, our second
stop, is the midst of winery
and hops country and about a
half-hour drive to South Island’s
lovely Abel Tasman National Park.
Interested in 
  • a pool, hot tub, hot showers, fully equipped kitchen, BBQ facilities, living room, perhaps a game of volleyball or P├ętanque
  • in a serene spot with pleasant gardens
  • near a major outdoor tourist attraction
  • to a tent pitch on a nice grassy spot for ~$25 NZD,
  • a basic caravan or bed cabin for ~$40 NZD
  • or a private room or simple cabin for $25-60 NZD? 




Perfect place to pitch a tent at Nelson Sun Club,
downwind of a lavender hedge.
$60 private room with shared bath at
Nelson’s sun club.
Consider a Sun Club aka Naturist Resort aka Nudist Resort.

I can guarantee you’ll have exactly the right thing to wear when you visit a Sun Club aka Naturist Resort aka Nudist Resort.

While the pool’s unheated, the Nelson area is
one of New Zealand’s sunniest spot.
Nelson Sun Club’s comfy albeit dowdy
club room. Great place to curl up with a book.
You don’t even have to be naked.  Naturist resorts are “clothing optional” though it is frowned upon and in some resorts even not allowed to not skinny dip in pools, hot tubs and spas, though etiquette requires where you plant your bod, you do drape some fabric between you and where you sit or lay.  Bring a sari, blanket sheet or towel and lots of sunscreen* and you’re good.

*A Kiwi nudist quips, “In New Zealand sun rays [on those somewhat rare days when it’s sunny!] aren’t just ultra violet, they’re ultra violent!”

Visiting a nudist report is ironically one of the best places to go if you have body image issues.  They are peopled by folks in varying sizes, ages and shapes as well as socio-economic status.  While there are a few buff folks around on occasion, they are typically the exception rather than the norm. 

Harassing guests at nudist resorts is considered unacceptable.  If you believe you’re getting unwanted attention, there’s few places you’ll find where polite intervention to put it to a stop is easier and swifter. 

For cruisers who enjoy sundowner get-togethers and potlucks, you’ll find happy hour and BBQ get-togethers common at naturist resorts, especially on weekends, and visitors warmly welcomed.

South Canterbury’s Sun Club comfy communal area
(tatty furniture aside); New Zealand’s South Island
outside the town of Geraldine.
Thus far, in our New Zealand travels, we’ve stayed at five naturist resorts, two in New Zealand’s North Island, three in New Zealand’s South Island.  Most were so pleasant, we opted to use it as a “home base” stayed longer than we originally planned.

We’ve met some incredibly nice folks, who offered excellent local insider tips on where to go and what to do.

Conversely, we paid a whopping $25 NZD for our own private cabin with a turn of the century community room in a resort we were the only ones there.  It was a perfect oasis on a drizzly day; we happily lit the potbelly stove with the provided wood and kindling and kicked back.

Outside Christchurch, New Zealand’s South Island, from this entry
you’d hardly expect the formally manicured gardens inside
at Pineglades Naturist Resort. 
Ready to get comfortable in your own skin and ditch your tan lines in New Zealand?  One of the easiest ways find a nudist resort is by checking out New Zealand Naturist Federation’s website, http://gonatural.co.nz/locations-events.

Admittedly, finding a locale with a resort is the first step. 

Pineglades Naturist Resort pool.  Pineglades sauna
and hot tub is also quite nice.
Most resorts are a bit off the beaten path, by design not all that easy to spot from the road, and sometimes gated with locks.  As many are managed by volunteer staff, often with spotty phone and wifi service, it’s best to plan ahead and once you have an address, look it up on Google Earth. 

However, we’re notoriously bad at knowing in advance where we’ll go.  As a result we find ourselves making repeat phone calls right before arriving to get gate combos, parking our car outside locked gates and hiking a ways.  Once ‘arrived’ we’ve also wandered around trying to figure out where the heck the “office” is.

One resort was completely surrounded by a new suburb.  The road-facing foliage on privacy hedge at the resorts entrance looked like out lost out in a chainsaw massacre.  Before turning into the living spaces, we encountered a parking lot with 20 or so randomly stored plastic outhouses, which gave us serious pause.  Despite it all, we decided to persist.  Once inside, the grounds featured magnificently manicured gardens.  We not only decided to stay, we stayed a couple days.  We even got our laundry done, thanks to the resort’s communal wash machine, sunshine and ample clothes lines.  Yes, even nudists need to do laundry!

Plain sign once past gated and locked
Rotota Naturist Resort, in the heart of
New Zealand’s North Island geothermal
country.  Further in, though….
The most popular resort we visited, Rotata, was a geothermal delight.  It’s a destination itself with fern-fringed natural hot pools, warm streams, fabulous trails, fumeroles (steam vents) and more – so much more my following blog post will focus on just that one resort. 

Just a teaser on Rotota Naturist Resort, North Island, New Zealand.  Watch for my next blog post for more!
If our boat is ready to resume cruising with time to spare in New Zealand, Rotata is my #1 choice of all the places we’ve seen so far to return via road trip.  Considering we spent nearly a month visiting New Zealand from Northland North Island to the Southernmost mainland point in South Island, that’s saying a lot!

Who knows? If enough folks consider naturist resorts for their New Zealand travel, New Zealand’s Naked Bus will add it to their bookings and lists of stops. 


Oh, were you expecting pictures of naked people?  Not allowed!  Not at the resort – unless permission is first requested – nor on this website.  Just in case that’s a worry.  There is indeed an appropriate limit to openness!
Some pricing (subject to change!) and my impressions of the five Nez Zealand Naturist resorts we visited.

Our engine, at Riverside Marina, Whangarei.
We haul out this Monday.
Location Location
After our near month-long road trip blitzing New Zealand from Northlands to its Southernmost mainland tip, at Bluff, South Island, we're back.  Currently we're in Whangarei’s Riverside Marina (S35.43.674 E174.20.17), doing some much needed boat work before we resume cruising.  We haul out this Monday.

Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles (visiting USA, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos [Ecuador], French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand).  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  We have not yet decided whether to sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu then Australia (~4,000 miles), or just to Australia (~1,500 miles).  We're leaning toward the former, then selling our boat and going back to work.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

New Zealand Mexicali?!? (original recipe)

Lean Mexicali Casserole - tastes like home.
This 11" x 17" pyrex baking dish barely fits into my tiny galley oven.
No sweat in the oven in our temporary apartment!
New Zealand is not a place you’ll find what for me is California soul food – Mexican cuisine, where the divine chili does the cucaracha with garlic and onions upon my tongue. Fabulous fresh seafood, especially green-lipped mussels, and outstanding Indian food abounds.  Yes for me, when I get a hankering for Mexican Food, there's not place like home.

But what if the base ingredients are here in New Zealand?  Thanks to a little luck and good timing, they are!


At Whangarei’s [wonderful] Grower’s Market, held every Saturday morning from 6:30 am – 10 am, several items inspired me to make my own “Mexican” soul food.  Its roots are dish I first tried near Santa Fe, New Mexico, calabacitas, though this recipe is neither truly traditional Mexican or nor even Tex-Mex, but a leaner contemporary fusion made with mostly available ingredients.  

This original concoction satisfied my salivary gland's homesick blues.  It takes a bit of effort, but makes makes enough for several servings, even for the ravenous, homesick for good Mexican-style food.  

The recipe:

Lean Mexicali Casserole
(created by Dana Greyson,
aka “The Galley Wench” @ www.GalleyWenchTales.com)
No reflection on my cooking or this recipe.  Just a friendly safety demo
at today's Pasifika Fusion  
estival in Whangarei, New Zealand.
Don't try this at home!

Ingredients
  • 4-6 cups couragettes (zucchini) and/or their yellow (summer squash) equivalent, diced
  • 2 cups corn kernels, cooked (fresh or frozen
  • 1 large red onion (or 1 ½ medium or two small onions), diced
  • 1 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 green capsicums (bell peppers), diced
  • 1-2 jalapenos, finely diced
  • 250 g chorizo (I used Long Flat Bacon’s chorizo), minced, fine
  • 1/3 c mild green taco sauce (I used Victoria)
  • 2/3 c spicy green salsa verde (tomatillo) sauce (I used La Costena)
  • 1 T fresh or 1 t dry oregano or 1 ½ t dry oregano leaves, (optional)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 250 g corn tortillas (about 10 small tortillas), cut into strips a finger-width wide
  • 1 1/2 c. cheese (I used a mix of 2/3 gated pizza cheese and 1/3 reduced fat feta, crumbled
  • ¼ cup sliced olives (I used a sliced kalamata pizza mix)
  • 2 scallions, sliced


Preparation
  1. Cook corn, squash in minimal water, until tender.  Drain.  Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet over the stove, over medium heat cook the onion in olive oil until transparent. 
  3. Add the garlic.  Cook until the garlic fragrance rises, about 1 minute. 
  4. Add the capsicums, jalapenos and chorizo.  Cook until the peppers are tender, about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  5. To the skillet, add and gently mix the cooked corn and squash to the onion, chorizo, garlic and pepper mixture.  Sprinkle the salt, pepper, oregano powder over the top (or if using dried leaves, rub them between your palms over the mixture) then gently mix.
  6. In something easy to pour from (like a pyrex measuring cup) mix the taco sauce and salsa verde together.
  7. In a rectangular 9 x 17 baking pan (I use pyrex), pour about ½ the green sauce mix coating the pan’s bottom with a rubbery spatula.
  8. Evenly scatter ½ the corn tortilla strips across the bottom of the baking pan over the sauce.
  9. Spread half of the veggie-onion mix across the pan.
  10. Scatter the remaining tortilla strips on top of the veggie mix.
  11. Sprinkle roughly half the cheese across the veggie mix.
  12. Spread the remaining veggie mix across the pan.
  13. Pour the remaining green sauce over the veggie mix.
  14. Top with remaining cheese, olives and sliced scallions.
  15. Bake until cheese is melted at 200 C (or 350 F) degrees, about 15 minutes. 

Engine out; boat goes on the hard tomorrow.
Pearson 365's Westerbek 40.  TLC coming.
Location Location
After our near month long road trip blitzing New Zealand from Northlands to its Southernmost mainland tip, at Bluff, South Island, we're back.  Currently we're in Whangarei’s Riverside Marina (S35.43.674 E174.20.17), doing some much needed boat work before we resume cruising.

Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles (visiting USA, Cuba, Colombia, Panama, Galapagos [Ecuador], French Polynesia, Cook Islands, American Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand).  We will resume serious cruising when cyclone season ends in ~April 2016.  We have not yet decided whether to sail to Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu then Australia (~4,000 miles), or just to Australia (~1,500 miles).  We're leaning toward the former, then selling our boat and going back to work.