Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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One fun part of traveling without guidebooks is that you can easily overlook the smallest things... such as huge lakes erupting with billowing steam directly next to the city. One night I was walking down a street I hadn't explored before, when I noticed a very large body of water directly ahead. Though in many ways like any other lake, this one is fed by a series of boiling underground springs that make the water warm to the touch and indeed, in places, outright scalding. Anyway, I felt silly not knowing it was there - it'd be like going go Tahoe and not knowing it's on a lake.

Rotarua most characteristic attribute is its smell: a soft, sulfuric scent that hangs over the city and imposes itself as a most unwelcome souvenir upon all visitors. The source of this odor is the city's placement directly above a highly-active geothermal spring, and scattered throughout the town are bleached holes and tall poles that belch the inner smells of the earth up to the surface for all to enjoy. Of course, the city's aroma isn't its only attraction: Rotarua is well known for its boiling hot springs, one of which has been harnessed by the Polynesian Spa, a hip place to soak away the ardors of travel.
The large complex is set on the corner of town directly on the shore. As you walk in past the gift store and coffeeshop (which I didn't taste), you're presented with a series of gates, one of which lead to my selection: the free-form bathing springs (other options are a regular swimming pool, rectangular hot springs, and a family area). Given that I picked the exclusive option (at least, i... [more]

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