March 14, 2008

Photos From Rotorua - Day One

We drove down to Rotorua late Friday night after Warren finished work. Along the way we pulled over to admire the blanket of stars above us. With my handy pocket stargazing guide to the Southerm Hemisphere we were able to spot the Southern Cross, the tail of the Scorpion (I think) and a few other constellations I can't remember the names of. The Milky Way was especially beautiful--and so bright. About three hours later we pulled into our motel on the edge of Lake Rotorua.
We started the next day bright and early at the Skyline Skyrides, where a gondola whisked us up 200 meters to the top of a hill to ride the Rotorua Luge. This picture shows the view from the gondola. The entire town of Rotorua sits inside an ancient volcanic cone. You can see the edge of the crater just past the water.

This is Jerry and I on our way up to the top of the luge track.
Here's Jerry on his first ride down.
And Warren.
And me. We had a blast.
Our next adventure activity of the day was zorbing. What is a zorb? According to the t-shirt I bought at the Zorb Store it's a "transparent bi-spherical rapid descent device."And since we have now traveled in said device we are classified as "Zorbonauts."What's a Zorbonaut? Again, according to the t-shirt it's: "a person trained for traveling by Zorb, either; a. centrifugally or; b. hydro-kinetically." We're the hydro-kinetic type.At first we paid for one ride each but after our first run down the hill we decided once wasn't enough. We each did two more runs on the zig zag track. Who knew bouncing along a hillside in a wet rubber ball could be so much fun?
Having Zorbed to our hearts content we set out to see some of Rotorua's geothermal activity in action at Te Puia, part of the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve.
The entrance fee was a whopping $50 per person so we decided to find some less expensive hot spots and spent the rest of the day wandering around town, checking out the Government Gardens and lakeside area.
Here's a picture of our shadows in front of the Rotorua Museum of Art and History, formally a bathhouse.
Just across the way we found this gaping hole in the earth filled with boiling water that spews sulphurous (i.e., smelly) steam. Rotorua is one of the most active geothermal areas on the planet.
This is the pukeko, a bird native to New Zealand. We see them all over, which has prompted us to invent a driving game cleverly called (what else?) Pukeko. We get points for spotting the pukeko and other native birds. Points are taken away for shouting out names of other animals (like sheep, cow, or, Jerry's favorite, sheep butt).We see lots of giant dandelion seeds floating all over the place, too. Here's Jerry catching one.
After a walk through the Government Gardens we went down to Lake Rotorua. Look at all those seagulls. The seagulls are much prettier here than the ones at home and they're not nearly as aggressive as the gulls on California's beaches. The prize for most aggressive bird in New Zealand, however, goes to the cute little Sparrow. They have no fear. They're everywhere and will do anything to get at your food.
The aptly named "Volcanic Playground" is on the shores of Lake Rotorua.
Warren and I relaxed while Jerry played there for a while.Mokoia Island is just across the water from the playground. According to Maori legend a young chief named Tutanekai lived on the island. His beloved, Hinemoa, belonged to another tribe across the waters. Hinemoa's family forbade her from marrying Tutanekai and beached their waka (canoe) to keep her from visiting him. Lured by the sorrowful sounds of Tutanekai's flute, Hinemoa buoyed herself with gourds and swam across the lake. Tutanekai had already gone to bed, though, and since Hinemoa was naked she couldn't just waltz into the village and knock on the door of his whare (house) so she sat in a hot pool, washing her hair, until Tutanekai's slave came by to collect water. She smashed the slave's gourd and when he returned to his master with a broken vessel Tutanekai came down to the pool to investigate, where he found Hinemoa waiting for him. I don't know if they lived happily ever after and all that jazz, but they do have Tutanekai's flute in the museum and the story is believed to be more fact than fiction, which is pretty cool.
By this time we were all thoroughly exhausted. We returned to the motel, ate dinner and went straight to bed.

No comments: