Monday, June 16, 2008

Adventures in Rotorua

Rotorua is famous not just for all of the adventure possibilities but for the fact that it is situated in an area of large Geothermal activity. Some of the adventure stuff is based on this Geothermal activity and one of those places is Hell’s Gate. Hell’s Gate has pathways through an area that is filled with steam vents that are spewing sulphur-filled steam and mud pools that bubble at high temperatures. There is also a waterfall that is 35C. At the end of the 2 km walk, you can rest with your feet in a hot mud bath. Michelle and Cathy and I do this while Dave and Paul and Anna get a carving lesson from the Maori guide Ben. John orders a carving to add to his collection.

From Hell’s Gate we head all the way around to the other side of the lake to play a round of minigolf. The highlight of the golf was the little dog that the manager had named Holly. It was a mix between a poodle and some breed we’d never heard of. They had piped in bird calls and it took us a while to figure out the birds weren’t there.

The next day we played some tennis at Ken and Shirley’s, do 5 loads of laundry and then headed out to go zorbing. Zorbing is a uniquely Kiwi activity. They drive you to the top of a hill and put you in a huge plastic ball with warm water in it and push you down the hill. The boys said it felt like a really long waterslide.

From zorbing, we head to the skydiving place so that those who did not skydive in Queenstown in the South could try it here. Anna is totally game to go, as is John. Cathy is unsure but when I agree to go, she changes her mind. Anna and John go from 12,000 feet and we tell Cathy we will go from 9,000 (but really we tell the pilot to go to 12,000 – I mean really, once you’re jumping out of a plane, what is an extra 3,000 feet?!) John and I did a static line jump from 4,000 feet in 1991 before they closed Beiseker down for safety reasons!! I didn’t really think I’d be skydiving ever again, but what we don’t do for our kids?!

Anna and John appear as tiny dots in the clear blue sky and after about a minute they are more recognizable. They come in right over us and land in the field in front of us. Anna wants to go again right away and John has had a rather hard landing and would rather wait a few days!

Cathy and I climb into the plane and sit on the floor with our jumpleaders. The plane is really just a hollow that we can only sit in with a sliding window that doesn’t get closed right away. Once we are taxiing down the runway, Cathy’s jumpleader closes the door. The view is quite amazing from the plane with all of the sheep appearing as little white specks. There are numerous lakes and the view is unreal with the bright blue lakes and green hills.

It is finally time for us to jump and Cathy goes first. She disappears and very quickly I am up. I jump on command and the wind hits me very hard. My ears won’t pop and I feel every bit of liquid escaping my face and I realize why my instructor right behind me (we are attached by harness to them) is wearing goggles! I remember Cathy’s instructor telling her to remember to breathe and if she forgot then to scream. I don’t need to scream but I do have to remember to breathe. It is actually quite cold at that height and I can hardly wait for the freefall to end. After what seems like forever, he pulls the chute and we slow right down and drift slowly over the landscape. Things are now quite enjoyable and I relax and take in the view. It takes us a few minutes to drift down to the airport and then we can see everyone and he tells me to lift my legs up to my chest and we drift in for a very gentle landing on our butts. Unlike Cathy who is ecstatic and not at all mad about the extra 3,000 feet, I am sure I will never be doing this again!

The next day we head out to go whitewater rafting. We are picked up by another dreadlocked adventure dude named Nigel. They bus us back to Hell’s Gate and get us all kitted up in wetsuits and booties, fleece shirts, spray shirts and lifejackets and helmets. You are supposed to be 13, but we assure them Paul will be right in there no problem. This is the place that our Kiwi friend in Wellington told us to go to as they take you over a 7 meter waterfall. We head out on the river and he talks to us about paddling together. This is what we will be doing this summer when we canoe the Bowron Lakes Circuit so it is a good little start.

Our first corner takes us immediately onto rapids that are bigger than anything we have ever seen. We then do a 2 meter waterfall and then more rapids. We are in a dark narrow highbanked river gully covered in rainforest. It is quite a sacred place to the Maori as there are eels in the river that they ate. They also used to bury their dead in the splits in the rock and we say Maori prayers several times along the river. Next up is the big 7 meter drop and he teaches us how to drop down into the boat and tuck our chins so we don’t smack our heads on the helmets of the people in front of us. We have to paddle hard to get us into the waterfall and then we drop down into the boat and it throws us sideways and fills with water. This is the moment of truth as if we are going to flip it will be now. I hold my breath and we pop out at the bottom right side up!! I guess these things do tip about 1 in 4 times so it’s great to be still in the boat.

We then proceed down the river and there is a thermal spring that heats the river. Dave and I jump in and take the next waterfall holding onto the side of the boat. The water is really warm. We then do some surfing where he drives us right into the waterfall and then the front ends goes under and soaks the people in the front We all take turns and then we round the last bend and get out. The next bend after that would have been over a 9 meter waterfall that has killed many people!

Our adventures over, we head back to the cabin at the Top Ten to do a couple of days of homework.


Molly said...

Your stories bring back so many memories of our trip to NZ. Sigh! Our family has been dreaming about sailing to NZ since, well before kids. My husband was sure he would arrive by sailboat first. Unfortunately, it was by plane on a business trip.

How has it been schooling your children? Do you have any resources you can share? Our girls are 11 & 9. They have an idea of what home schooling would be like on a boat since reading Chasing Sunsets. The authors son, Ryan, was 8 when they took off on their 6 1/2 year circumnavigation. I'm all for using experience as a catalyst for curriculum.

Thanks for sharing your story. I'm going to be checking back in with you.

Sean said...


We just wanted to drop you a note to say that we enjoy your website/blog and thank you for sharing your personal story and travel adventures.

We also wanted to introduce ourselves. We are Sean, Gina, Grant, and Genevieve (Gigi) and our blog tracks our travels in Latin America for the past year and our decision to change our family’s lifestyle.

Anyway, we just wanted to connect with kindred spirits - a small but seemingly growing group – and let you know how much we enjoy reading about your adventures.

Safe Travels…

The Lannins