Rotorua, New Zealand

The scenery so far in New Zealand has been amazing. Everything is green, picturesque, and full of cows and sheep. On our way to Rotorua, we attended a sheep show at the Agrodome where they sheared a sheep  and showed us how the dogs herd them.

New Zealand loves to invent new adventures, like the black water rafting in Waitomo. In Rotorua we got to see another invention: zorbing, where they put you inside a plastic ball and shove you down the hill. It looked pretty fun and not too scary, but I didn’t do it because I knew I would throw up inside and roll down in my own vomit. But I did try the small race car called luge down the hill. First you have to take a gondola (cable car) up the hill where you have a beautiful view of Lake Rotorua. Very similar to Lake Tahoe and the gondola at Heavenly, but I don’t think you could use the luge to go down with all the ice and snow in Tahoe.

Rotorua is actually a city INSIDE a volcano. The city limits is pretty much the crater rim, so when you’re in town you are actually in a caldera. The area is full of geothermal activity and everywhere you look there is steam coming off the ground along with a pungent smell of rotten eggs because of all the sulfur. In the 1800’s they capitalized on the thermal hot pools and built a bath house attracting tourists for its medicinal purposes. Now the bath house is a museum holding tons of Maori artifacts.

Speaking of Maori, we went to two of their villages. Ohinemutu is a functional one by the lake where they live and worship. We learned a bit about their culture (they take pride in tracing their ancestors and sometimes tattoo their genealogy on their faces) and their mythology (like the one princess from Lake Rotorua who swam to the island to be with her lover after he played the flute for her.) There is an Anglican church carved with beautiful Maori art and a Marae, which is a meeting house used for ceremonies. In Te Puia we also visited a Maori carving and weaving school, but the most beautiful area was the Pohutu Geyser, full of hot-water springs and mud pools, with a geyser going off every few minutes.

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Back at the hotel we relaxed at the Polynesian Spa and their thermal hot water pools overlooking the lake and had a hangi, which is a dinner cooked under hot stones on the ground. For dessert, we tried some pavlova, a merengue cake with fruit.

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