I am fighting a constant battle to try and write an entry as often as possible so there is not a ton of stuff to tell and risk of forgetting but we are so so busy and i want to be out doing stuff to tell you about!
We have just left rotarua so this is what has been happening since saturday...
4 hours on a coach and we finally pulled up in our new city for the next few days...the doors opened and BAM! the smell! you have never been in anything like it! i mean you meet smelly people, or cars or shops or houses but this is an entire city that just reeks! rotten eggs is the closest description of it, sulpher is the scientists description...what a fascinating city/town
The town is built on top of a highly active geothermal basin, there are volcanos everywhere and boiling mud pools, rocks steam, pools steam - there are hot springs everywhere so pools everywhere, steam puffs out from little vents everywhere - in parks, yards, streets, houses, lakeside, footpaths, even the ground steams in places and can be very hot to walk on the concreate (you can feel it through shoes). It feels kind of weird to be there, you know that only a few feet below you the temperature could fry you within seconds - slightly alarming! but there are so many things to see that you forget the facts!
Saturday evening we after check in to our hostel, a really sweet place really clean and homey (on a side note we have joined a scheme of independant hostels around NZ called BBH, we now get discounts and so far they have all been really unique and lovely - tip for anyone coming out here!). We are were in an 8bed dorm thats twice the size of the 8 bed dorm in the bay of islands, so lots of space, bbq and swinging chairs in lovely outdoor area so yea a nice place. We went out and grabbed food from the nearby supermarket and spent the evening eating, chatting (we met a really good group of people here and spent lots of time together over the four days was really good!), sorting out what we wanted to see in the town, and playing some rather intense rounds of connect 4
! Haha there werent tvs in this hostel so everyone was really up for playing games was such a nice atmosphere!
Sunday we got our bearings in the town, packed a picnic lunch and set off. Rotorua is very influnenced by the maori culture, far more than anywhere else we have been so it was really good to see that. We couldn't get over the steam that appeared from everywhere and the bubbling noises of boiling water as you walked past a hole in the ground. The centre is nice, very spacious and laid out, didnt really feel like a big town but it is one of the bigger cities over here! We headed out to Kuirau domain, this is a huge park you can enter for free at the top of the town, huge areas of steaming pools, some you can use for bathing others are boiling, boiling mud and lovely green areas, all accessed over wooden boarded walkways and bridges, its really lovely. We then headed to the museum (the weather wasnt brilliant) and learnt all about the history of the town, the volcano that changed the face of it killing many people and covering the pink and white terraces (one of the wonders of the world, the pictures looked stunning!) through an interactive film that shook us around! and of course all about the maori tribes that did and still do occupy the area and their battlians of men they sent to help us fight the world wars. They had a very unique approach - when the order came to bayonet charge towards the germans front line and guns (their amunition had run out!) one man stood up and started to do the haka (im sure you know this from the rugby matches, their pre battle chant!), soon they all joined in much to the terror of the germans before charging at them
. A very interesting and sombering afternoon. We headed to the polynesian spa to lighten the mood. Natural mineral hot springs with high acidity that claim to solve arthritus and rheumatism and any aches and pains (which i'm inclined to believe after the amount we have learnt about this place!). It was beautiful, a very very reasonable entry price (less than 10pounds) gets you in then you can choose what you do. There are 7 pools on varying levels and different sizes, ranging from warm to hot hot hot. There is a part roof over a big pool but the rest of them are on steps down to the level of the huge lake here. I felt rather luxurious as we melted away and watched the sun slowly dip down over the mountains in beautiful hot healing mineral water. It was exciting to slip into the different pools and feel the new temperature, im not sure that I had any aches and pains beforehand but i definately didn't afterwards! a lovely meal and more games and laughter with everyone later we were ready for bed.
Monday we had decided to get a bus out of town and do a few of the wild life parks that are famous here. First of all the agrodome, a huge sheep farm famed for its incredibly choreographed shows (who thought sheep were stupid?!) and its adrenaline filled rides. We got of the bus, paid for entry and went into their huge show room. I suddenly realised the sides were lined with sheep, real sheep, i had no idea there were so many kinds of sheep
. The show man came on stage and it all kicked off. A very funny man, one by one they were bought on stage until all displayed on a huge podium, facts and jokes about each one and they all behaved impecibly! well until the guy got steve to hold the gate closed and the sheep he was supposed to be holding back vaulted the gate and took the guys legs away! brilliant fun! next the cows and i got to milk one!!! haha i even have a certificate! lambs were bottle fed, sheep dogs (several different types) rounded up ducks before running across the backs of the sheep and finally settling. Outside we saw sheepdog trials (like on the film babe!) the dog got the sheep through all the obstacles and into the pen (the trainer looked rather relieved!). It was so much fun! Next the adrenaline stuff...well there was the bungy, the speed jet, the luge and the zorb (a huge plastic ball you roll down a mountain in) but these werent quite priced for the backpacker budget (we will do something at some point but are going to have to choose our places!) so what did we do? headed for the huge maze!!!! haha it was so funny and totally exhausting! we raced eachother - naturally, around this huge huge circular maze, we must have run for miles. We had it to ourselves and was so funny to hear the other one running around somewhere close by, i was so close but got lost just towards the end and suddenly heard steves victory cry - hmph.
The afternoon was spent in the rainbow springs wildlife park, we saw all types of fish, birds and trees native to New zealand, plus farm animals reptiles and possums
. All brilliant in a fantastic layout (wooden bridges, forested areas, huge walk through aviarys) but the highlight had to be the kiwi tour....our guide talked alot about the problems they are facing in the wild, the most adorable things but they are so vunerable and they just do not help themselves (leaving the babies on their own, no defenses, loud mating calls, a very distinct smell), this was a conservation centre. They track male kiwi's - they sit on the eggs, they go in when hes sitting on one, nick it of him, raise in in captivity for one year before releasing it back into the wild, their survival rate goes from 5% to 75% doing it this way! We got taken into their labs and saw the incubating eggs (the kiwi lays the biggest egg in proportion to body size out of any animal, the equivilant of women giving birth to a 4year old child, its a third of their body weight! ouch!!) before we got lead into the hatching area. A little kiwi had hatched that morning!!! a lady bought it out on her hands, it was curled up in a ball with its nose/beak quivering away as it smelt what was going on (ie us! they have a fantastic sense of smell but bad eye sight!). it was just the most adorable little thing. We saw some of the adults in the nocturnal centre, fantastic to see the country's icon so up close. We finished the day with a free drink in a pub, the backpacker leaflet had a voucher in it with no strings attached! so a group of us went and got our free round!heehee!
Yesterday we headed off with two of the guys we had met in the hostel, one had a car - fab
! both happened to be german but weren't travelling together and we both so lovely they had both come up from the south so we had swapped tips about the opposite ends of the country and had had such laughs with them. We drove out to a maori thermal village, its been there hundreds of years and a tribe still lives there, the highlight of my stay in rotorua. We were allowed to wander all round, they completely use the geothermal area, they have huge bubbling ponds (some scientists cannot find the bottom too, 200meters down it is over 200degrees!!! they wrap food in muslin cloths and dangle it in with a rope - cooked in seconds. Warm spring waters pools are channeled into bathing areas. All around the village are steam vents, some which have wooden boxes built around them and can be used for cooking. Their houses are all naturally heated from the hot hot ground underneath them, they have to be very careful and cannot dig down as the boiling thermal undercurrents are just 3 feet down. One family performed many traditional songs dances and games for us, they are beautiful singers and have such intricate moves, these have been passed down through the generations to keep them supple for battle and healthy. Then men performed the Haka - terrifying! their faces! unbelievable! they had warned there would be ordience participation, i was so glad to be a women at this point, they called up the three guys around me and along with a few others they learnt several bits of the haka and then performed it to us, priceless!!! hysterical! we learn white men cant haka! good sports though! before heading home we stopped at a nearby redwood forests, these are huge trees that we inported from america, but the conditions over here mean they grow and reproduce so much quicker so they are just massive here! we did a lovely walk through the forest learning all about each other before heading back, having pies for dinner (they are proud of their pies here, i had butter chicken which my aunty had told me I had to try, it was delicious!) more games and then out for another free round of drinks! fab day!
Rotorua - like no other place on earth, smelly and beautiful and what am i taking with me? 26 mosquito bites - fantastic!
Sending lots of love to everyone and after some very sad news about our dog back home i'm sending very speedy get well wishes to her.