Ticking 4 Things off the 'Things to do before I die' list

Rotorua Travel Blog

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This morning we drove to Rotarura to do white water rafting. This is one of the things I have wanted to do all my life so I was really excited. We'd heard a few horror stories whilst traveling; Clare dropped out because of the 7m waterfall, Geisha on our Fraser Island trip told us a girl on her boat had drowned when she got her foot trapped between 2 rocks, so I was a bit more apprehensive that I might have been otherwise but still very excited.

When we got there we got dressed up in our dorky outfits and then went down to the river. The river is called 'Food Eel' in Maori because the tribe that lived on the river would lower the women and children of the tribe down to caves in the cliffside while they went off to hunt and war and they would trap eel with traps. Maori people used to leave their dead out by the riverside, so the river was essentially a cemetary.

The bodies were all exhumed and moved to a new cemetary but when the tour operators started operating on the river they asked the Maoris how they could continue to use the river respectfully. The Maori's asked them to always say a prayer before entering the water and that is what they have done every trip for 20 years since they started.

Once on the river oure guide Sarah showed us how to paddle, what to do on waterfalls, what commands she would use, and what to do if our boat flipped under the waterfall. Flips occur about 1 in 10 and passengers should always be in the 'down' position anyway which means they are hanging onto the boat already so they should stay hanging on and pull themselves up to the inside of the boat to breathe. If they get seperated from the boat and are being pushed down by the force of the waterfall you should curl up into a ball and so reducing the surface area for the water to push you down.

If you are splayed out you will stay down!

We were to go down 3 waterfalls; the first and second 3m and 1m respectively and in close succession, and then a 7m waterfall. We yelled and shouted Maori prayers for strength and courage in preparation and then in celebration as we nailed each one. The last waterfall was pretty nerve-wracking, fear paralyses my brain and I was mildly panicking about remembering all the instructions; paddle stowed sideway to the boat, hang on to both tight with left hand, slide down to floor, grab floor handgrab with right hand, curl back, smile as we go over, tuck chin in as we fall. It may seem simple in type, but it was feary. Our guide had handed us all some silver fern, the symbol for sporting New Zealanders and a leaf of which all sportsmen place beside their heart when they play.
I put mine beside my heart and we fell fine, we didn't dump out, and only one person with a bloody nose. Hurrah! What a great thrill! And one off my list...

Back on the bus we headed to some hot water springs where we donned swimmers and floated around in the hot waterfall. It was like being in the bath, and so too intense for most of the fellas. I got quite dizzy myself after a time. But it was another one off the list. We passed Rainbow Mountain on the way which is so called because it changes colour depending on what minerals it is extruding. On this ocasion it was red and white, but it can be green and gold and orange.

Then we headed to some geysers and spent ages trying to get good photos of these unpredictable and camera-unfriendly smoking mud plops. They stank too, like most of Rotarura because of the volanic activity and hot springs all around the region.
Seeing geysers smoke and plop is number three on my list! Then on the way to Taupo we stopped off for a quick photo opportunity of Huka Falls which is a stunning waterfall of azure water. Personally I think it pisses all over Niagara for sheer beauty, even if it is a fraction of the size.

Finally we arrived in Taupo where we dropped off some people to do a sky dive. I have been deliberating about doing this, as before I came traveling I was dead set against it but although I was not yet completely convinced, I am definitely more yes than no though. I am not scared of the falling, just of the sick feeling waiting for the jump from plane take-off to jump! Back at the hostel I got my stuff sorted and then sat up drinking with the bus driver and the hostel staff till late. When the sky divers came back I watched their videos. They ALL said they hadn't felt scared on the way up because they were just buzzing with adrenaline, and everybody pointed out that because you have no ground perception because you are so far up, it's like looking at a map so it's not scary, plus the DVD looked amazing. I am now convinced. Bring it on!

Out of interest, Taupo is a huge lake around which are a number of visible volcanoes, one of which the group is walking up tomorrow. The lake itself is so big that you could fit the smallest of the New Zealand islands, Stewart Island inside it. It is 620 square kilometres big, and since Singapore is 602 square km you could fit it inside with a really big ditch. If two people were to stand on opposite banks and a piece of string was strung between them, the string in the middle would be 90cm under water because of the curvature of the Earth. In short, it's big. Real big. But, not only that, but it is also a caldera. And for anyone that doesn't know what that means, it means it'd it is a super volcano, so the whole lake is a massive volcanic crater. In fact it has two distinct craters, one of which is land-based and which we were sat right beside in our bus as we looked out over the water...

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photo by: Vanessa_Mun_Yee