I don’t know why it has taken me over a month to finish writing about our trip to Australia/New Zealand. But rather than psychoanalyse myself about it, I’ll get right to it.
So after leaving lovely Matamata, John drove us south to Rotorua. New Zealand, a commonwealth of England, has abandoned reason in favor of tradition and mandates that one must drive on the wrong side of the road in a vehicle with the steering wheel on the wrong side. John went on his mission to England lo, these twenty years ago, and still has no problem driving on the left whilst steering on the right, so he was our driver. He asked me several times if I wanted to drive, but since we still have dependent offspring I declined.
We found Rotorua and its Information Centre, which also housed an internet cafe and a sizeable gift shop. Because my second daughter’s nickname is Kiwi (which is also NZ’s symbol and the nickname they are known by), I had a hard time resisting buying every cool kiwi item that I saw. We ended up getting her quite a few things, tho’, just because it had to be done. I tried to even it out a bit with gifts for the others–Kiwi got a kiwi Christmas ornament made from NZ shell, so I got ornaments for the other five, but I didn’t make up for the Wild Kiwi polo shirt, the jewelry box with a shell inlay shaped like a kiwi, two kiwi keychains (that’s legit–she has a keychain collection), and a stuffed (pretend) kiwi. (You know how if you look at a word too many times, it suddenly looks weird and kinda loses its meaning? That’s happening to me with “kiwi.” I’m moving on.)
We bought half an hour of internet time to check and send email (ok, I admit it! I also checked fMh for the UtahSnacker report), then set about finding a motel. We settled on Kirau Park Motor Lodge, which had a great combo of good prices, location, accomodations, and an owner/manager who was the best concierge ever. He set us up with evening entertainment, a lake cruise for the next morning, AND he filled our private geothermal pool for us since we were going to be out past the normal time he shuts the hot pipes down. I had to take a photo of our pool:
A shuttle picked us up to take us to a traditional Maori meal baked in a hangi–an in-ground cooking pit that steams food. While we ate, we were treated to Maori songs and dances as a means of telling their story. At one point it got a little hokey when I got pulled up on stage to make a spectacle of myself trying to dance with poi balls, but it wasn’t as funny as the men who got chosen to do the haka!
Back at the motel we simmered in our hot tub for a while. Rotorua was built over a thermal field, so most buildings built before 20 years ago took advantage of the free heat–our motel was one such place. However, over 100 natural geysers became extinct, and when Rotorua’s most famous geyser, Pohotu, stopped spouting, the government took action and cemented over 160 wells in the area and banned future geothermic wells in order to attempt recovery. Pohotu and a few other geysers have since reactivated, suggesting that the well draw was indeed the culprit. The sulfur smell was strong sometimes, but the natural attractions were worth it.
The next morning (my birthday! Happy 38th to me!) we got on The Lakeland Queen Cruise steamboat for a breakfast cruise around Rotorua’s lake. We followed that with a ride on The Swoop at the Agrodome–a sort of tandem bungy swing that takes you up about 125 feet before you pull your own ripcord and soar down at about 90mph, swinging back and forth until you lose momentum and they finally let you off. It was very fun, but what we REALLY wanted to ride was THE ZORB.
I don’t know why we don’t have Zorb in the U.S. Well, I guess I do–we’re too sue-happy and the liability would be crushing. Still, you can’t argue that it would be fun to get inside a big rubber ball with a couple of buckets of water sloshed in, and roll down a hill. Unfortunately, John’s back and neck would never take it, and the day we were there was cold and windy, and I didn’t want to be wet and cold. Here is a link to a YouTube Zorb experience (and don’t forget Jackie Chan’s Zorb escape in Operation Condor!): The Zorb!
After all that, we still had the afternoon to visit the geothermal reserve at Te Puia, acres and acres of hot springs, boiling mud pools, steamy streams, and geysers, crisscrossed with paths and bridges on which to take your own nature walk. None of our photos did it justice, but we tried:
We could have stayed for hours longer, but the reserve closed at 5:30pm. So we settled for Thai food and a soak in our tub-o-sulfur.
Best. Birthday. Ever.