Rotorua. How I love thee. Let me count the ways.
Rotorua was so cool!! The hostel was lovely and it even had a climbing wall inside it. Ideal for my chronic insomnia. Only joking, no night climbs for me!
We couldn’t check in as we’d arrived really early so we dumped our bags and caught the bus to the “skyline,” an adventure park on top of a mountain that Jacob and Charlie had recommended to us. We got the gondola up the hill and then rode a kind of go kart called a “luge” down the hill. There were three tracks of varying steepness. It was just so much fun and we had such a good time. So good to be told about it as we probably wouldn’t have known it was there otherwise!
The next day, we headed to Whakarewarewa, a living Maori village. (By the way, the Maori language uses only 14 letters!) The village was built upon geothermal land, so there’s bubbling mud pools, explosive geysers and sulphur steam coming out from gaps in the earth. The people who live in the village use the underground pools to cook their food, and the hot natural baths to bathe in. Pretty cool huh?
We saw a cultural performance involving the famous Haka – a war dance used by the warriors to scare their enemies and to also psych themselves up for battle. This is still used by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team today. They group also sang and the women performed with poi – balls on strings that are swung to make patterns imitating birds in flight and also create percussion for the performance.
After that we had a tour of the village and learnt about the history of the place and how the geothermals are utilised. Then we tried some hangi pie (meat cooked in the hot water) and also sweet corn cooked the same way. Yum! It was a great day and much better than we’d expected.
The following day we got onto a bus at the ungodly hour of 7.15m. We had a tour guide was pointing out hilariously mundane sights such as “okay the road is bending to the left a bit now guys.” and “as you can see, it’s starting to rain a little now.” – I must add that we only found this hilarious in hindsight and it was incredibly annoying when you’re trying to sleep haha!!
A few hours later we arrived at the Waitomo Black Water Rafting Company (another recommendation from Jacob and Charlie, thanks guys!) we got into some rather fetching damp wetsuits and we taken in a mini bus to the entrance of the caves. We were each handed a large rubber ring and then practised jumping arse first into a freezing cold river. It was one of those moments where I was thinking “what the hell have I signed up for?!”
As we climbed into the caves all I was thinking was about “The Descent” (for those of you who haven’t seen it, it’s a horror film where a bunch of women get trapped in a cave with horrid human sized gollum monsters!)
As there were only four of us in our group we got to do some extra caving involving crawling through tiny spaces which was terrifying as it was pitch black and lit only by our head torches. The rest of the trip went from the extremely terrifying – jumping backwards off waterfalls into pitch blackness to the extremely relaxing – floating along an underground river looking at the glow worms in the ceiling whilst our guide sang to us. I loved seeing the glow worms in the dark, it was like looking at the night sky with turquoise stars. I absolutely loved the trip and I’m so glad we paid a bit extra to go in the rubber rings rather than the boat.
We were frozen when we got out, but felt much better after a hot shower, some soup and a bagel or three.
Back on the bus we went and off to Hobbiton! We were ridiculously excited to see the set of the Lord of the Rings films having re watched the over films the previous few days. We jumped on a big coach and were taken through the farm land to the film set. As I rounded the corner into the shire I was so excited!! It made me so giddy because it felt so magical.
There were loads of hobbit holes – for some reason I’d assumed there would only be three or four. It was interesting to learn about how they made some big hobbit holes so that the actors playing hobbits looked small and vice versa so the wizards look big. Great place, I won’t bore you with more details. We also got a free drink in the pub which was ace. The cider was lovely and 5% so I was nice and happy to be back on the coach. Awesome day!