Monday, March 30, 2015

Day 5: Mudpots, Maoris, and Wallabies

Saturday, March 14:

By this point on our trip, our body clocks were pretty adjusted to New Zealand time, which meant the kids were taking advantage of being on vacation by staying up late into the night.  Because of that and the physically draining day we'd had the day before, we had a hard time dragging ourselves out of bed this particular morning.    If we'd been at home, we probably would have indulged in a lazy Saturday morning, but alas we were half-way across the world and the call of more New Zealand excitement proved too much to keep us in bed for too long!

Our first stop of the day was Skyline Rotorua Gondola and Luge!   Our GPS led us a little astray in getting there, so by the time we arrived the day's heat and the weekend crowds had already kicked in.

We enjoyed the fact that the gondola was large enough for our whole family….

so I could make sure that everyone had their sunscreen on...

and then ooh and ah over the lovely view together! 

After the gondola ride and the conversations about how much better we liked the view of Rotorua from a distance, we went on to the next part of our adventures….the luge! 

We had a grand time getting on our inner bobsled...
and ended the morning with tired arms, sweaty backs, and an appetite for ice cream!


After a little rest and some nourishment, we headed to Whakarewarewa Viewpoint Track, which was essentially a moderately difficult hike partway up a mountain.   Along the way we passed boiling mudpots...

which the kids were obsessed with throwing rocks into, so they could see them swallowed up in the bubbling mud!

The view from the look-out was amazing and once again we marveled at how lovely the over-commercialized Rotorua looked from a distance.   We especially enjoyed being able to see some of the geothermal features...

including this erupting geyser that  people had to pay $30 to see up close. 

 Rotorua is situated over a hotspot in the earth's crust, much in the same way that Yellowstone National Park is.   There are geysers, mudpots, hot springs, and the smell of sulphur everywhere!  The main difference is that YNP was protected and made into a National Park for everyone to enjoy and Rotorua had a city built up around it.   Most of the main attractions are privately owned and require an entrance fee to see, so being able to see the erupting geyser from above was actually quite a treat!  

We also enjoyed the beautiful New Zealand forest we walked through along the way, including some more redwood trees!  The girls were enamored with the Kiwi wildflowers and enjoyed making little bouquets for themselves.  


After that enjoyable hike we headed to Kuirau Park to relax a bit.  Kuirau Park is just a city park with walking trails, water features, and a big playground...

but since it's in Rotorua, it also had dangerous thermal areas within a stone's throw of the playground...

The pond there was unfenced, bubbling, and smelled of sulphur and we had to laugh at how different Yellowstone would have been if they had decided to commercialize it and turn it into a city instead of a national park.  

We enjoyed the leisurely pace (and the cooling weather) here and it allowed everyone the opportunity to unwind a bit. 


Our last adventure of the day was the Tamaki Maori Village.   
It was a challenge getting there and buying our tickets, but after a whole lot of running around, a pitstop at an iSite tourist spot we eventually got squared away.   

The Tamaki Maori Village was a fun cross between the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii and Medieval Times.   It was extremely commercialized (as was everything else about Rotorua), but  actually ended up being one of our favorite activities of the whole trip.  

Everyone was dressed head-to-toe in traditional Maori costume and we enjoyed the "stations" where we learned little tidbits about the Maori way of life.  

…including how to do the Haka!  (you can see Spence, Glen, and Adam if you look on the back row) 

Ellie got to try the poi ( a traditional Maori rhythmic activity)...

As always, Ellie loved meeting people and learning more about them.  

The Maoris only came to New Zealand about 800-years-ago, but in that relatively short amount of time developed some rich traditions...

After some more traditional Maori song and dance….

we enjoyed a hangi feast that came straight out of the ground.  

It really was an enjoyable experience and one we would highly recommend to someone spending time in the Rotorua region! 

Driving home from the Maori Village was the latest at night we ever drove while we were there, but it was also the coolest.   There were animals EVERYWHERE on the way home, including two wallabies which practically sent our car into hyperventilating excited hysterics.    We were convinced they were baby kangaroos until we got back to the cabin and looked it up.   It turns out that they were actually dama wallabies, which had been introduced to NZ from Australia and ironically only lived in the very immediate vicinity of where we happen to be!

We didn't get any pictures of the wallabies we saw, but this is the same species.

Seeing the wallabies was the perfect way to end another adventurous day in New Zealand! 

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