A Travellerspoint blog

Dunedin and Christchurch

Finishing off the South Island

We scheduled two days in Dunedin because it is the only real coastal town on the south island we would visit on the trip. Dunedin is known for two things world wide. The first is the incredible surf they get. They get swells from arctic storms that are gigantic, powerful and cold. The second is the steepest street in the world. It rises at a 35 degree angle. There are a lot of charming things about Dunedin, and it IS the oldest most historic city from a European perspective in New Zealand, but after falling in love with Queenstown, it’s hard to admit that we really just wanted to be back Queenstown.
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It rained during our visit and it was a little chilly, but we still got in a couple of nice dinners, a good surf session, visited the steepest street in the world and we visited a gorgeous place called “Natures Wonders”.
Natures Wonders is a converted farm that now is a very nice a wildlife sanctuary – though sheep still roam. This isn’t like Deer Park Heights. It’s a gorgeous place that acts as a preserve, (not a petting zoo) for the endangered yellow eyed penguin, and a breeding and birthing ground for fur seals. We saw a few slow-moving Yellow eyed penguins, a few blue penguins, as well as hundreds of baby fur seals that had just been born. Heaven for Griffin, though I thought we were going to crash on the way to the place as the lanes were at times one lane wide. We were driven around in 8 wheel vehicles (like the old Banana Split mobiles) to access the rugged and untouched coast line. The boys loved that.
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Parker and I walked up Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world according to the Guinness boo of world records, and it was incredibly steep. Unfortunately, somehow I nuked all of the pictures of our hike, so you’ll just have to gander at this stock photo to tell.
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The surf was powerful even though it wasn’t all that big, and it was teaming with life. There were so many jelly fish in the water it felt like soup when we were paddling, our hands pulling through hundreds of tiny purple jellies. With the wet suits, we didn’t care too much about the cold or the sea life. Neither of us got stung once.
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Dunedin had a very nice skate park which we had planned to abuse, but after about 15 minutes of skating, the rain came and thus came an end to the skate session. Instead, we toured the local “Speights” brewery, which had become my favorite beer in New Zealand, and as cheesy as the tour was, the boys enjoyed it, tending bar and pouring a couple of pints for the first time. A bizarre dichotomy in New Zealand: A parent can hand a 12 year old a beer and they can drink it legally, but that same parent can’t bring that 12 year old to an R rated movie, under any circumstance (e.g. American Gangster).
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Christchurch
We stayed in Christchurch for two days just to get ready for Africa. The drive to Christchurch from Dunedin was unremarkable, and the roads were straight. The land was actually flat for a change – and represented the only coastal plain on the east coast of the island. It felt a bit like the plain between the Ventura river and the Conejo Grade, with a lot less activity. We picked up a couple that was hitchhiking and looked like they were in need of some help. It turns out they were touring the coast in their sail boat, and their engine block cracked. They were now waiting for the repairs which could take the better part of a week or more. Now they just needed a lift to get to the nearest town, which was about 45 kilometers to restock some provisions. We dropped them off and continued north on our flat straight and uneventful road.

When we arrived in Christchurch, we returned the camper and were reunited with our bags and our gear that we had shipped to Christchurch. We washed laundry, and picked up any provisions we needed for our flight out. We also skated a nice skate park, dined at a couple of nice eateries, and strolled the city a bit on foot and on the bus system). One restaurant in particular deserves mention. It was called the Mexican Café, and the Mexican food was better than we get at home in San Luis Obispo, and the tequila selection was one of the best we had ever seen. If you’re in Christchurch, don’t miss it. Christchurch was a bit of an anticlimactic end to our New Zealand itinerary, but frankly, we were ready for the next adventure to start. On Monday we drove to the New Zealand airport with plenty of time to spare and readied ourselves for the longest airline trip we’ve ever taken.
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Posted by Blakei 03:03 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Queenstown

Our favorite city in New Zealand

sunny 74 °F

It’s unanimous. Queenstown is our favorite city in New Zealand and one of the top places we’ve visited on the trip. We were supposed to make our way down to the Milford sound and Teanau, but we decided to stay extra days in Queenstown instead. It’s just that nice. This place is cool, young, adventurous, active, diverse, international, and it is the adrenaline capital of the world.
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We drove for about 6 hours from the glacier in perfect weather and arrived in Queenstown in the afternoon. Even the drive to Queenstown was nothing short of spectacular, with gorgeous views around what seemed like every corner. We even had some straight roads for a change that bore through valleys of vineyards and fruit trees, where gentlemen vintners were applying their new retirement trade. Given the beauty of the area, the nearby ski fields, the abundance of all things adventure and outdoor, the reasonable real estate prices, as well as a great airport serving the area with 737s and A320s from Qantas and Air New Zealand, it isn’t a surprise that folks are retiring here. We took some shots from the road on our way to Queenstown that speak volumes to the beauty of the area – and this was before we ever made it town.
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When we arrived, we found the little city bustling with activity and our holiday park just a short walk from downtown, and an even shorter walk from the gondola that lifts you to the peak overlooking Queenstown. As we walked into town, paragliders carrying pilot and passenger floated through the sky, having just launched from the top of the gondola. They were landing right next to our holiday park in the elementary school play yard. As you walked downtown, you realize just how young the town is. There are twenty something’s everywhere patrolling the streets and they come from all over the world. Europeans, Australians, Africans, Israelis, Chinese and Japanese can be heard on the streets and in the shops, though all seem to speak English as well. We saw very few young Americans, which bothered us, and we quietly wished more young Americans would leave the US for some cultural immersion in a place like this. The Americans we did see were overweight, retired and in their 60s, and proudly wearing “we’re American” on their sleeves. This also bothered us, and we wondered how a cruise ship could have floated to this land locked city.
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Adventure tour operators filled store fronts all over town and it seemed that virtually anything you wanted to try out was available; horseback riding, paragliding, hang gliding, parachuting, mountain biking, motorcycling, luging, jet boat riding, river sledging, white water rafting, bungy jumping, sky swinging, water skiing, and I probably left out more than I just mentioned. The beauty, along with the adventure tours is what brings all these young people to town.

The Luge:
The first “adventure thing we did was “luging”. Truth be told, it wasn’t all that adventurous, but it was fun nonetheless. We took the gondola to the top of the mountain and took a chair lift further up from there, where we all jumped into wheeled carts that rocket down a cement “luge track”. They had a “scenic track” and a “fast track”, the prior being a little dangerous due to all of the slow pokes taking in the scenery, while we just wanted to race. Old folks, young kids and everything in between were shooting down the tracks and only a few times did any of us almost go over the side.
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Ride of the Rings:
Queenstown is Lord of the Rings Country. The mountains, valleys, hillsides and forests, that surround Queenstown are the backdrop for many of the movies’ scenes. There are many location tours, most by car, some by plane and a few by horseback. We thought it most appropriate to take the tour on horseback, since that is how the actors travelled on screen, so we chose a tour called “Ride of the Rings” which departed from the tiny and quaint town of Glenorchy and trekked through forest and hills and valleys. Some of the horses were actually from the movie. Our guide was a guy named “Soap” and he knew more about the Lord of the Rings than anyone we have met, as well as being one of the few folks who can lay claim to actually being in the movie. He was an uruk-hai. He showed us sites on the way to the ride, on the way home from the ride, though a nice young woman named Ellie actually took us on the trek while Soap arranged all of our horses for us and made sure Ellie had all she needed. Soap was absolutely awesome with the kids and we invited him over for a drink after the tour. The tour was cool, and the kids could actually spot scenes from the movie before they were pointed out. “Here is where so and so was shot”, and “That is where the pippin hid from the Uruk-hai”, and “The Orks ran down that hill!”, and the guide would say “Yes that’s right kids, now shut up and let me point that stuff out” :-). The horses were easy to ride, excepting Carol’s that had a bit of a mean streak, and kept nipping at the other horses as he jockeyed for the front position.
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Deer Park Heights
Queenstown sits on the shores of Lake Waikatipu, the largest lake in New Zealand. It’s a glacier fed lake, filled by cascading glacial rivers throughout the region. On the other side of the river is an area known as “Deer Park Heights”. Soap asked us if we would like to take a trip to Deer Park Heights and he picked us up and gave is a personal tour of the area. Deer Park Heights is a privately owned farm of sorts that is now sort of a gigantic petting zoo. Deer, Alpacas, Pigs, Buffalo, Yaks, Elk, etc roam the hills free as you drive through the park on dirt paths. As you enter, you pour yourself a big can of deer pellets – which all the animals love. Shake the can, and herds of whatever is nearby start running toward you. It’s a little unnerving, but it was really cool having Alpacas, Miniature horses, and deer eating out of our hands. Some animals even stuck their heads in the cars to get a little pellet action
The other thing Deer Park heights has are numerous sites from Lord of the Rings including the cliff from which Aragorn fell, after being attacked by a warg. We took all of these sites in, including a couple of sets from the upcoming Wolverine, movie. Deer Park Heights also has the best sunset views of Queenstown you will ever see. We took many photos as the sun dove, trying to capture the light over Lake Waikatipu. At one point while we were snapping away, a group of male deer approached and I lightly walked toward them to get a picture from a distance that is almost too close to believe.
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Kowabunga!
We saved the adrenaline rush for the last day in Queenstown. When we jumped off the tower in Auckland, it was actually in preparation for a bungy jump in Queenstown. Once again, we all did it. It was actually quite fun and while it was a little scary, it wasn’t as visually terrifying as the jump in Auckland. The boys and I jumped off something called the ledge Bungy at the top of the Gondola in Queenstown, which is only 47 meters of Bungy, but it feels like every bit of the 400 meters you are above the town. Carol bungy’d off of the Kawarau bridge with the intent of getting dunked in the water at the bottom, but as luck would have it, her bungy cord didn’t make it all the way to the water. All of us let out a hoot or a scream as we plunged. She actually did say Kowabunga when she jumped. It's on the video. The boys did us one better by dropping from the sky on something called a sky swing, which they both maintain was much more scary than the bungy jump. After watching them drop about 80 feet or so before the rope actually starts to swing, and after hearing their screams, I believe ‘em.
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Posted by Blakei 08:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

The South Island Begins

... and the Franz Josef Glacier

64 °F

We departed the Ferry in Picton on the Northern tip of the South Island and headed toward the Abel Tasman National Park. The Park is supposed to be spectacular when the weather is good, with beautiful aqua blue bays and lovely beaches, perfect for kayaking, hiking, and just lounging in the sun. As luck would have it though, on the way toward Abel Tasman, it started to rain and it became apparent that it was the beginning of a real storm. We ended up pulling into a holiday park in Nelson, a pretty big town about 100km from Abel Tasman. I couldn’t bare driving another two hours in the rain. The roads to Nelson from the Ferry had been the curviest of the trip and we were averaging about 40km per hour. It’s a strange feeling to drive by looking out your side window, or in some extreme corners, looking over your shoulder just to see what the next stretch of road looks like. As we ate dinner in the camper, we began rethinking our visit to Abel Tasman entirely. It would not be fun in a pouring rain, so we decided to head for our next stop, the Franz Josef Glacier. The next day we drove through a steady and at times heavy rain for about 400km. The roads were better but still I white knuckled it with some pretty scary traffic, and even a single lane bridge that actually was shared by the railroad – and this was the good road. We arrived in the tiny town of Franz Josef in the early evening.
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The Franz Josef Glacier
We pulled into the “Rain Forest Holiday Park” in Franz Josef just as the skies were starting to part and the rain slowed to a minute drizzle. Now, you might be asking why would something in a town with a Glacier be called “rain forest” anything? It’s a pretty crazy thing, but the central west side of New Zealand gets hammered by rain. The mountains rise to 10,000 feet within a few km of the coast, so Tasman Sea storms dump literally meters of rain as the clouds get pushed upward by the mountain range. The saying in town is “We measure our rain in meters”, and we heard that a few times as we were told that they get over 5 meters of rain every year. This rain has sprouted a beautiful and lush rain forest over the years with beautiful ferns, grasses, massive and mossy trees, broad leafed and otherwise. Our Camper felt like a fern bar inside – which was pretty cool. You would have no idea that a massive and still advancing Glacier is only 3 km from town.
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Hiking the Glacier was the reason we came here. Our first day in town, we went to the Glacier museum and Imax and learned about the area and the Glacier. We booked a guided hike for the next day. The hike was called a “3/4 day hike” which put you on the Glacier for about 4 hours. Luck was on our side this day for weather. In a town that gets over 15 feet of rain a year, this morning’s sky was a stunning blue, interrupted only by misty clouds clinging to the mountain sides. We met the guides and our fellow hikers that morning and put on the hiking gear provided. The guiding company provided boots, a jacket and crampons (spike attachments) for walking on the ice. We piled onto a bus that took us over the milky blue glacial river to the park entrance, chattering excitedly, where we all disembarked and began tramping toward the base of the glacier. Unfortunately, the path to the glacier had been washed out by heavy rains, so we walked on newly cut paths, that required us to scale up and down ladders affixed to rock faces, just to get to the river bed. Most of this walk was in lush rain forest, with cliffs covered with waterfalls, vegetation and ferns, climbing up to the now-clearing mist above. We then tramped for about 2km across the river and toward the Glacier base. Huge ice blocks, some the size of cars, lay in the river from an explosion last week where the snout of the Glacier gave way to a flood of water and Ice. Our guide paused and pointed to the face of the glacier to show us some tiny little black dots that turned out to be hikers making their way across the glacier ahead of us. “We will be there in an hour or two” we were told.
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We strapped and re-strapped our crampons on to our boots and began slogging up the glacier. The face of the Glacier was covered in shale and was a difficult trudge. It looked like a mountain of Rock, but just under the layer of Rock was frozen ice. Ice that is the densest on the planet. So dense that it glows blue when uncovered by snow or rock. We climbed up perhaps 100 feet before we reached ice that you might viscerally associate with a glacier. From here, we climbed a ladder of ice and clung to a chain that had been hammered into the ice. We climbed for hundreds of meters, between crags, over crevasses using a ladder, even through a cave, and we continued upward. We stopped quite often, catching our wind, as the guide pointed out glacier facts. He showed us how high the Glacier had been over the past decades and how far it had advanced in the past few years. The glacier was advancing meters per day only a few years ago, but had slowed now, yet it was still advancing. In the ice age of course it had reached the ocean which was about 10 km to the west. A glacier is like a frozen waterfall we were told, pushing itself down the mountain and the more snow that accumulates on the top of the mountain, the more mass to push the glacier along.
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We reached the peak of our trek, and rested by a little glacial waterfall where we filled our water bottles with real glacier water – which was tasty and cool to say the least. We could look up toward the mountain’s peaks and see the glacier flowing downward. There were cliffs of ice above us, and it was nearly impossible to judge the scale of these cliffs until a helicopter appeared in front of one, looking more like a gnat on a refrigerator door than a helicopter carrying hikers. It was hard to believe that we were on a glacier and near sea level with crampons on our feet and plenty of air filling our lungs, when only three months earlier we were hiking in Tibet at 17,000 feet, wearing our tennis shoes, but gasping for air.
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It felt like the hike back to the Bus would never end, and while it was only 9km total, it seemed so long with rented boots and crampons on our feet. It had taken its toll on all of the hikers, and the bus was eerily silent on the way back to town, with each of the hikers looking glazed over and tired. Now, the guides and the crew that had been clearing and cutting ice paths that day chattered excitedly, while all us hikers sat slack jawed and exhausted, remembering the beauty of whatwe had seen that day and what our aching feet had accomplished.

Posted by Blakei 08:56 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Finishing off the North Island

Taupo, Tongariro and Wellington

sunny 65 °F

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After viewing the geyser at Wai-O-Tapu, we took a short two hour drive south to Lake Taupo and stopped for lunch. Lake Taupo is huge, deep, crystal clear, and absolutely gorgeous. Hard to believe, but it is larger and deeper than Lake Tahoe. Lake Taupo was a volcano at one point just like Lake Rotorua. When Taupo exploded 18 thousand years ago, it covered New Zealand in a hundred of feet of ash, and the ash even covered Australia. You can see the thick layer of ash in the river beds and on canyon faces. The magnitude of the explosion was apparently 100,000 times larger than Mt St. Helens. The Tongariro National Park borders the south shore of Lake Taupo and contains within it a chain of jagged and ominous peaks that stretch to 7,000 feet and offer a spectacular and foreboding view from the Lake. One of these mountains you might recognize as Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings. We ate lunch in the little town of Taupo which sits on the northern shore of the lake to take in the views.

After lunch we intended to head down to Tongariro to hike the Tongariro crossing, a 17km tramp across the park that is widely believed to be the best one day hike in New Zealand, trekking through shale desert, glaciers, forests, and calderas. However, after we ate lunch and strolled the Taupo town center, we enquired about the “crossing” and were told that “in this heat” the trek would incredibly hard and a very fit employee in a sporting goods store told us that even he wouldn’t do it in heat like this. Completely coincidentally, (I swear this was coincidence), it turns out that a race was being held at the Taupo race track. It wasn’t a little race you would expect to fit the size of the town, but rather, a series of races including the New Zealand Porsche GT3 Cup, the New Zealand V8s, and the A1GP international formula race, which had just received Ferrari sponsorship. This was the real deal. We decided to stay in town to check into our options. It seemed there was much to do. We stayed at a great big holiday park that had, pools, saunas, trampolines, and other little things the kids loved. By the end of the day, we decided to ditch the hike. Carol, Parker and Griffin would go white water rafting, and Blake would go see a day of racing. It was a qualifying day at the track so the crowds would be small.
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That morning Blake hitch hiked to the race, and Carol and the boys were picked up at the holiday park and driven to Tongariro area for their rafting trip. The day was awesome for everyone, with Blake squeezing past security into the Porsche Paddock, and Carol and the boys squeezing through some Class 3 rapids that were a whole lot of work. The raft didn’t flip, but the kids and Carol described some close calls and heavy paddling to keep the raft upright. It was pretty hairy. Carol said the water was crystal clear and she saw trout in the water the size of large salmon. Sorry Mike Hillygus, they didn’t catch, nor release any.

Wellington
After Taupo, we drove about 400km to Wellington, which is on the southern tip of the North Island. The landscape changed through this 400km dramatically. The highways on the north end of the North Island wind their way through dense forests while the south end of the island reminded us at times of the high desert, and at other times the rolling hills of Ireland, and at even other times the lave fields of Hawaii. The roads were never wider then two lanes, and our little camper van was passed by cars and trucks with reckless abandon. We were treated to awesome coastal views as we approached Wellington and you could see the mountain ranges of New Zealand’s South Island in the distance. We pulled into Wellington and decided to stay at a hotel in the middle of the City so we could experience the downtown area. We were only in Wellington for two nights, but we didn’t want to have to take a bus in from a holiday park outside the city each day.
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We loved Wellington. It reminded us all a bit of the Seattle downtown, and maybe even a little of Hong Kong, but it was infinitely more approachable and walk able. It had a great water front, wonderful family amenities, fantastic restaurants, a museum, sail boats that dotted the water front, a working harbor with sturdy ships, all framed by hills punctuated with Victorian homes that complemented the modest skyline. It also had a killer skate park right in the heart of the city. We really liked this place. We also lucked out as the weather was wonderful.
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Ferry to the South Island
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The last morning in Wellington, we gathered our things, moved back into the motor home, and drove to the ferry terminal which we would take to the South Island. We were in a long line of Camper Vans and cars that were using the sole four wheel connection between the north and south islands. There were campers, buses, horse trailers, and even Ferraris piling onto the Ferry for the 3 hour ride between the North and South Islands. The ferry was large, comfortable and had pretty much every creature comfort you would want - on a ferry. The weather was wonderful, the seas were calm, and a penguin paddled into Griffin’s view. Perhaps some good foreshadowing for the South Island? We sat on the outside deck of the boat at a table and absorbed some sun and the magnificent view as the North Island shrank in the distance and the South island rose before us.
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Posted by Blakei 04:08 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Rotorua and Waitomo

Geothermal and Underground Wonders… and the Zorb

sunny

We left the Coromandel peninsula and headed south for the town Rotorua which sits between the east and west coasts on the southerly part on the north island. Rotorua is known for two things. First, the town sits within an old caldera which is still an intensely active geothermal area and is affectionately called “fartopolis” because of the stench of all the rising sulfur gas. There is a large lake, with a lava dome island in the center, that is largely fed by geothermal hot springs. Hot springs of boiling water and mud can easily be found throughout the town and there is a rich and recent history of volcanic eruptions from the active volcanic peaks that sit on the edge of this caldera. We were told by locals that it isn’t at all uncommon for a homeowner to wake up to a new “pool” in their yard that has opened up and sports bubbling and stinky mud or water. Some homes we walked by on the way to town actually had harnessed the water or steam to heat their houses or pools. The second thing Rotorua is known for is adventure “sports” venues. Zorbing, Bungy, Giant Swings, Skydiving, Luges, Jet Boats, and other activities are plentiful in town, not unlike Queenstown on the south island. The main business in Rotorua is tourism and we heard languages from all over the planet.
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Our Holiday Park in Rotorua was quite nice and featured (surprise) hot springs right on site. We don’t know if that was accidental or not. There were three pools that were fed by geothermal springs, all cooled to different temperatures, and there was a geothermal creek bordering the park. There was also a natural “steam cooker” where you could cook vegetables, right from a steam vent. We didn’t do this, but in retrospect wish we had. The park was pretty fragrant, but we didn’t notice it after a while.

We took some time to walk to the Rotorua museum which was only a few kilometers from our holiday park. The museum was long ago used as a healing spa where natural sulfur and mud baths would nurse virtually every skin or orthopedic ailment back to health. The museum sat within a gorgeous park with beautiful rose gardens along the banks of Lake Rotorua, next to a giant thermal pool that fed the lake. It was stinky – but cool, highlighting the geography of the area, the history of the building, and featured a special exhibit dedicated to the New Zealanders who fought in World War II. Being a tourist town, there were awesome restaurants and many hotels within walking distance.
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We actually came to Rotorua to experience something Parker had read about called “Zorbing”. Zorbing is a pretty cool experience that I must say isn’t like anything you’ve likely done before and apparently is only done in Rotorua. A Zorb is a giant air-filled ball about 10 feet tall, that suspends another giant ball within it. Through the wonder of air tight zippers, and 1,000 rubber bands, the inner ball stays in the center of the outer ball. There is a hatch that allows you to climb into the inner ball, and you can choose to either be strapped onto the wall of the inner ball, or float freely within it along with about 20 gallons of water. Why in god’s name would you climb inside a Zorb? The Zorbmeisters push you down a giant hill and you roll all the way to the bottom. Zorb Rotorua has straight line and zig zag tracks and when the ball rolls down the hill, you are bounced and spun about like a pair of tennis shoes in a dryer. It’s fun to do and it’s pretty fun to watch as well. We did it alone, with each other and no one got as much as a scratch.
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We had intended to pull up our poll tents, and move to Waitomo, only 120km to the west, but we decided to take a bus and return that same day. Waitomo is famous for its beautiful caves and a phenomena known as glow worms. I won’t go into in detail, but suffice it to say that these little critters actually “glow” a phosphorescent green, hang on to the ceiling of the cave, and attract food with the little light. In a pitch black cave they look like stars on a moonless night. Did I mention that the caves are filled with water? I didn’t think so. They are, and we had a few choices to make about how we would view these caves. You could abseil, (rope slide), into the caves, climb and swim the caves (with an inner tube), float the cave in a boat, or walk on an elevated path. Because Griffin was under age, Carol and Griffin took the boat, and Parker and I chose to climb-swim. Both the experiences were very cool. We all wished that Griffin and Carol would have done the climb-swim experience because Grif was easily a strong enough swimmer. We had to squeeze through water filled tunnels, jump off little waterfalls and float in our inner tubes through the caves. We had on 5 mil wetsuits and even with those on, it was very cold – and extremely dark. The only illumination came from the glow worms and the lights on our helmets, (which got pretty banged up on the sides of the caves. It was a blast and a real wonder. The caves were carved from under water rivers, not from volcanic activity. In some places, there were water holes that reached to the surface from 180 feet below, and it is not unusual for these holes to simply “open up”. Carol and Grif’s tour guide told them that they had to remove a cow from the caves a few days earlier because the cow fell into a new “sink hole” falling to it’s death. That same tour guide told of a good friend of hers that had a pretty little pond on their property, and one morning they awoke to find their pond replaced by a giant sink hole. It is even said that farmers (the entire cave area is covered by grazing lands) can’t stand sink holes because they lose cows. They just lose em…
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We left Rotorua and headed south for our next destination. On the way there, we stopped at a national park called Wai-O-Tapu only 50 km outside of Rotorua which stands for ”sacred waters” in Maori. It is a pretty big park, but the geothermal touring area is only 18sq km. We had heard that a geyser spouts at 10:15 each day so we arrived right around then to see this. We toured the park and watched the geyser unload in front of an appreciative amphitheatre. The 18 sq km were very desolate and it looked like a moonscape, but only steps away was lush forest. The colors of the waters were pretty incredible, and some of the thermal pools were huge. The touring path needs to be moved relatively often because craters open up and swallow it. The geyser actually had to be prompted by one of the park rangers to shoot into the sky. He did this by throwing a few soap bars into the geyser mouth to release the surface tension in the water below, which is something that Old Faithful does all by itself. We asked the park ranger later in the day what the differences were between the two. He told us that besides being about the same size, and having the same amount of water, there are some technical differences that allow old faithful to erupt predictably, while this geyser requires prompting. I won’t go into the details here, but suffice it to say that we appreciate old faithful much more than we did in the past.
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Posted by Blakei 12:08 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

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