As we enter Rotorua the stench of a thousand eggs hits me, the city is built over crust that measures only 1.5km thick, making it a hive of thermal activity, and earning it the nickname Sulphur city. After the previous 24 hours of caving, hobbiting and Maori villaging I wanted a relaxed day – this wasn’t to be.
Zorbing was our first activity on the agenda, and a free one at that given we’d romped to victory with my bubble blowing exploits in Auckland.
We were trying to organise a free pickup by the Zorbing company when we met Jackie and Stef, who had heard they could also go Zorbing for free if they went naked and donated $2 to charity. Brave of them, so we squeezed them into the back of the pickup van driven by a nice bloke, who told us all about himself, and Rotovegas (nicknamed so because it is a tourist hotspot).
At the top of the small(ish) hill now donned in our swimwear (or towels in the girls case), we had to each enter our zorb. This involved filling it a little with water and diving through a plug hole about the size of a beach ball. Once inside it was warm and comfy.
I went first and as we had chosen the zig zag course, braced for impact. The zig zag course is as exactly as it sounds, a route downhill that takes many a turn down a deep trench, throwing you left and right and sometimes as per my first corner hit, upwards!
Sloshing around inside a huge plastic ball I whooped loudly for a minute before resting at the bottom, and then emerging out of the zorb in a decidedly inelegant manner.
Once we’d all had a go, Kelly and I decided to do one more together and opted for the pedestrian course that simply rolled down the hill. It was a fun experience together but after that we’d had enough Zorbing for one day.
The team had a discussion about seeing some Kiwis at the local wildlife centre and we asked our driver to take us there instead of the hostel. He obliged and whilst discussing the kiwis he pointed out that we would see them at Te Pahua the following day, rendering our current venture pointless. It was to be a lucky few minutes as we happened to be passing the mountain where we could luge, so we darted out and rushed inside, where a customer greeted us with a free luging pass she hadn’t used.
Luging is brilliant. Think go cart vs gravity, throw in a semi-reliable handle-cum-brake that you pull back to slow down and steer and you’ve got the basic concept. We got tickets for 5 runs and made our way up on the cable car to the top.
After losing $4 on a couple of dodgy lockers, we’d secured our stuff and slapped on our helmets ready for action.
For our first run we had to tackle the training ‘easy’ run, which turned out to have the most scenic views of Rotorua. Bang we were off.
Down we went as a foursome, Kelly going first at driving miss Daisy speed, Jackie and me vying to overtake but holding back for our first run. Twisting and turning at speed, I found it hilarious and exhilarating to scream ‘Luge’ at the top of my voice round corners or down hills where the wind warped the sound.
At the bottom we got a cable chair up to the top, passing discarded helmets in the bushes below, wondering if the same fate had happened to their owners.
Run 2 was the intermediate, and our final option, given the advanced run was closed. It wasn’t to matter as the intermediate split into two options, one with an extra hill! Boom, whoosh, done get me back to the top. The sun was shining and luging fun, but as we ran out of our allotted runs it was time to head back.
Back at the hostel Jackie filled us in on all things Hong Kong and Japan, her previous destinations prior to NZ. Her encyclopaedic knowledge of the cool little things to do hastily noted down before we shipped out for a relaxing evening in some thermal hot pools, ranging from 36 degrees (pleasant) to 42 (scalding).
The next day as we left Rotorua we got to see some proper geisers, spewing tonnes of gas and water. Our guide boiled us some eggs as a snack in one of the less violent ones (8 minutes if you must know) and we wolfed them down before heading to the kiwi enclosure.
Disappointingly kiwis are nocturnal, and even though the enclosure was inside and pitch black, the only glimpse of a real-life kiwi was via the video feed into the hut where the kiwi was snoozing. This was to turn out to be our best sighting in NZ, more than most of our fellow travellers we came to discover.
Onwards and just outside of Rotorua we stopped by a bubbling mud pool that put me in somewhat of a trance as it plopped and spluttered soothingly. With that our time in the thermal town of Rotorua was complete, next stop Lake Taupo.