The ground was filled with shards of glass indicating the bad neighbourhood.
As a traveller one is often not aware of which regions offer potential danger. Most of New Zealand is exceptionally safe. Yet, certain regions are prone to gang activity. The place I planned to go to next, is one of those. Welcome to the bad neighbourhood.
Bad Neighbourhood in New Zealand
It was in Rotorua, where I volunteered for Fish&Game that I was warned by co-workers and friends from this unsafe area. I do not want to specify where I was but, let me tell you it was a small settlement south east of Rotorua. The main issue there was gang activity such as displayed in the movie Once We Were Wariors. Nonetheless, I wanted to go there for visiting a remarkable feature of the landscape: The most beautiful gorge in New Zealand.
In order to not be too exposed to any criminal activity, I opted to leave all my belongings at my host family’s place. I took only the bare necessities for the hike with me and even emptied my entire car. Looking at the map, I searched for another possibility to park the car, but there was none.
When I arrived at the infamous area, I stepped out of my car and the suspicions were confirmed: The entire parking lot was covered with broken glass. Preparing the car, I opened the glove pocket, removed the cover of the trunk and made sure everything was visible from the outside.
A Pleasure to the Eye
It was a pleasant hike through the mesmerizingly beautiful forest of New Zealand. The fauna with the many different types of ferns always reminds me of a time, back when dinosaurs roamed this planet. I quickly proceeded along the trek and eventually reached my destination: a ravine with distinct terraced walls which looked surreal. They looked like stairways. I wondered to where they lead?
However, I struggled to find a way down into the gorge. Gorges have the odd characteristic of featuring steep walls. Hence, it came as no surprise that I could not get down at most places. I tried at the entrance and the end for access, but to no avail. Following along the drop-off, I started believing that I should have brought a rope, when suddenly I recognised a small track. Glancing down, I bet I could get down there. Yet, I was not sure whether I was able to get back up. It did not worry me at that time though.
The Most Beautiful Gorge in New Zealand
Down by the river, I was overwhelmed by the diversity of shapes and colours. The glimmering sun light that fell through the dense foliage, lit up the water in different hues of blue. The contours ocaf the back-lit mynss were eye-catching, and it was as if time stood still. Even I stood still too, because the humid conditions made every step a risky undertaking and I did not fancy a fall into the wet abyss.
It was truly the most beautiful gorge in New Zealand.
It was truly amazing and I was glad that this place had not yet been spoilt by tourism. Perhaps this was due to the criminal activity, which made it a dodgy area to go. This thought brought me back to reality and I instantly hoped my car would be fine.
The right scepticism
Back at the parking lot, my car was still there, and no windows were smashed. I was relieved. Looking around, I saw two more cars who both had exercised the same precautions. It appears to be a popular place. On the way back, I stopped at a café to have lunch. A Maori woman and her grandmother welcomed me and offered leftovers even though the shop was closed. We had some good talks and taught each other some vocabulary in our respective mother tongue. You should not be misled by the fact that a few individuals mess around in an area, there are still good people.
Faith in Humanity
Perhaps I was just lucky that I was not being robbed in this bad neighbourhood. However, this story vividly showed me that it was good to exercise caution, because glass pieces on the ground spoke for themselves. Nonetheless, this does not mean that anyone in a bad neighbourhood is a bad person. Mostly, it is just a few individuals, who mess it up for the entire community. In the case of this gorge, there is even something good about its reputation:
It is left unspoilt for the few who dare.