The whole group (with Cara and Daphne added thru the magic of Photoshop)
7:30 am Leave hotel for breakfast on mountain top restaurant ( Mt Ngongotaha) 9:00 am Visit to the Agrodome and various ram, sheep and dairy demonstrations. Then to Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve and the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Continue to a model Maori village and the Thermal Valley All before lunch!!
Rotorua is in a very active thermal area, even for New Zealand, and has lots of hot springs and a sulfur smell that permeates the entire area.
Fog rising from thermal pools below Mt. Ngongotaha.
However, it’s really not objectionable and I soon didn’t even notice it.
The town is on Lake Rotorua
which is actually the caldera of a volcano.
The tour group met in the morning at 7:30 to ride gondolas up to the top of Mr. Ngongotaha for breakfast in a mountaintop restaurant. It’s a 900 m long cable rising up to 487 m high but since it was early and I hadn’t had coffee yet, the height didn’t bother me. Also it was overcast and cloudy so it was easy to ignore everything outside the windows. As I was finishing my 3rd cup of coffee, the sun broke through the clouds and portions of the town of Rotorua below were in full sun.
Alan on the luge ride
Even better was the highlight on the clouds of steam rising from some of the thermal pools.
Most of the tour group went outside to the restaurant terraces and started photographing the scene.
We had the option of trying the luge - a ride down the mountain on a sled with wheels in a concrete track. Of course my husband and I tried it, even in the rain. The parting words as I took off were, “Don’t forget to pull back to brake - If the steering bar’s too far forward you lose control.” Yikes!! It was fun and I’d happily have spent the morning there. If you’re interested there’s even a short clip of the ride on YouTube. Go to http://youtube.com/watch?v=Rtuw9U9RCTs
We had a new bus driver today, Pete (Tomati had the day off), who took us to the Agrodome, a “World Famous & Live Sheep Show”.
The grand finale - sheering, sample sheep of the different breeds, and dogs sitting on the sheep. Hard to top that but the sheep were unimpressed.
I’d hard a hard time getting excited about a sheep show (especially when I was having so much fun on the luge) but the show was very well done.
I’ll spare you all the details about sheep so you can go see the show yourself but the grand finale was audience members milking cows and sheep dogs sitting on the backs of sheep.
(Strangely 2 of our group of 19 were chosen to participate in the milking out of the hundreds of people there.)
The next stop was the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve, the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and a model Maori village with an re-enactment of a traditional welcoming ceremony. (I’ll save the Maoris for the next page.) We took group photos at the Maori village and then went back to the hotel at lunchtime.
My husband and I had earlier made reservations at the nearby Polynesian Spa for hydromassages and a long soak in the thermal pools so we didn’t have time for more than a quick sandwich at the Spa.
The first of several opportunites to watch thermal mud pools. Strangely fascinating!
The hydromassage was wonderful - a full massage using warm cocoanut oil while you are gently sprayed with warm water.
Afterwards I tried all the thermal pools (penguins aren’t the only ones adept at this body temperature regulation process) from 42 degrees C down in 2 degree steps to 38 degrees.
The pools are rock lined in a natural setting with a great view of the lake, even in the rain.
I spent a pleasant hour moving from one pool to another and soaking in warm water in the rain while watching the lake through clouds of steam.
You absolutely have to try this if you go to Rotorua
By now it was time to eat again so we had dinner in the hotel; it was still raining and we were too relaxed from the spa to go exploring for a restaurant.
the Prince of Wales Feather Geyser. It erupts almost constantly to about 7 m high and was very active while we were there.
It proved to be a forgettable meal compared to what we did after it stopped raining.
Neither one of us had ever seem the night sky in the Southern Hemisphere (before this trip) so about 10 o’clock we walked to the lake.
It was fairly dark with a few lights scattered in the lakeside park and not too much light spill from the town as we walked onto a pier.
The stars were magnificent but in unrecognizable patterns.
The attraction, however, turned out to be in the water which was filled with waterweeds blown in to shore by the earlier rainstorms.
The water was totally black and slowly out of the gloom 6 black swans picked their way thru the weeds to float below us.
They probably were hoping for food, which we didn’t have, but seemed content to stay around while we talked to them.
It’s a mental picture I won’t soon forget - black swans floating on black water while unfamiliar stars glowed overhead.