A Travellerspoint blog

Rotorua - Mount Manganui - Whitianga

Smelly towns,small mountains and hot beaches

overcast 12 °C

Imagine living in a town which constantly smells of eggy farts.... Well, that's Rotorua.

Rotorua is commonly known amongst non-locals as "Rottenrua" due to the rotting egg-like odour of the Hydrogen Sulphide gas produce by the prolific geothermal activity. The odour is most noticeable on cooler and rainy days,especially when there is low cloud, although most locals are immune to it and are usually unaware of its presence.

The especially pungent smell in the central-east 'Te Ngae' area is due to the dense sulphur deposits located next to the southern boundary of the Government Gardens, in the area known as 'Sulphur Point'.

How anyone can be immune to such a smell I have no idea. The place stinks and we stayed 3 whole days!!!

A lot of time was spent at the Polynesian Spa, soaking in hot mineral pools and generally being lazy. And we went to the cinema and.....

Well, it was a nice relaxing 3 days!

We then went off up to Mount Manganui for a quick 1 night stop. A nice little seaside town with a mountain at the end of the main street. Well, they call it a mountain but we thought Mound Manganui was more appropriate. Probably the smallest "mountain" we have ever seen.

We stayed in a nice little hostel and met some lovely people.

Next day we went off to Whitianga. We stopped off at Hot Water Beach along the way where we dug a hole in the sand and all this hot water bubbles up and fills the pool and then you just get in and relax. Your own mini beach spa pool.

From Whitianga we were meant to go to Thames and stay there for 2 nights but our lovely bus driver Lisa said it was very dull so we came back to Auckland.

So here we are. We had a night out on Sunday with some of the tour bus drivers and some other travellers and rocked in about 6am. A quiet night!

Next stop Fiji - don't be exciting anything more for a while. We will mostly be spending the next 2 weeks lying on a beach catching some rays.

Posted by J9travels 16:45 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Taupo

What a rush!!

sunny 10 °C

Now, I know I said on the last blog that the next stop was Rotorua and now I am in Taupo. Well, we did stop in Rotorua for 1 night (in the skankiest hostel yet visited, called Hot Rocks, don't go there, it's not nice) and then decided to head to Taupo the next day because the weather report said it was due to be a fine day and we needed good weather for what we planned to do.

So, we were up early to catch the bus to Taupo. We had a nice group of people on our bus, some that we'd met before, others that had just joined.

On the way down to Taupo we stopped of at the Lody Knox geyser which is a, er, geyser and they put soap down it and then you wait a bit and then all the water shoots up about 20 feet into the air. Not the most exciting spectacle but worth a look.

We also stopped off at Tuapo Rock and Ropes centre and a few people did a little bungy swing, but not Laura and I, we had other things on our minds.

Next stop was the SKY DIVE centre. Yes, that's right my friends, black water rafting and abseiling just wasn't enough for us so we signed up to do the 12,000 feet sky dive (is this exciting enough for you Griff?!).

There were 12 of us on our bus that had decided to do it and 2 of those had done it before!

We were picked up by Dave, a brummie, and driven over to the centre. On the way we stopped to watch a goup of jumpers in the distance. They seemed to be very high up. This made me a little nervous.

And then we were there signing in and getting weighed. There was then a good hour of waiting around for our turn because the weather was soo good they were having a really busy day, everybody in Taupo wanted to jump out of a plane it seemed. Laura and I were put in a group with Leanne, a lovely English girl on our bus whose friend Hannah had decided not to do it (sensible girl), a Japanese girl who I don't think realised what she'd signed up for!! And 2 American guys who were jumping from 15,000 feet.

We got all dressed up in the lovely jump suits and harnesses and gloves and hats and goggles - we looked hot. And then waited for our jump masters. Mine was called Benny and I had Liam as my camera man (yes, I wanted moving picture proof that I had done this!). And then we were off.

I was 3rd into the plane which was good as it meant that I wasn't going to be first to jump. Laura was last on. Unlucky!

We were all crammed into the tiniest of planes and we set off up straight away doing quite a steep climb. After about 10 minutes Leanne said to me that this looked like a good height to jump but we were kindly informed that we were only at 5000 feet! Another 7000 still to go. I was slightly nervous but not as much as I thought I would be. It was so nice and clear you could see for miles so it was nice to enjoy the view!

And then it happened all sooooo quickly. All of a sudden, the plane door went up and Laura wasn't there anymore. Oh my god!

We climbed forward and there I was, hanging out of a plane at 12,000 feet with my jump master telling me to turn round and smile for the camera!! Which I did.

And then we jumped! It was such a weird feeling that it's really hard to describe. I'd taken a deep breath as someone had told me to keep my mouth shut otherwise you get winded. But after the first few seconds I felt fine and was screaming like a banshee!!!

I didn't even really get the stomach lurch that you usually get when you drop out of a plane or on a bungy jump. Almost as soon as we were out of the plan it felt like we were just floating.

The camera guy was there and at first I wondered what he was doing coming up so close and grabbing me and then I realised I was being filmed so did my best to smile whilst falling at 200kph!! It seemed to last forever and at the same time it was over in seconds. Well, quite literally as we were only allowed to free fall for 45 seconds!!

When he pulled the parachute we flew up sharply and then we were just floating again and the goggles came off and I could admire the view. Awesome! He kept pulling the parachute cords so that we cirlced round and round one way then the other and then we landed.

All over so quickly but what a buzz! The best thrill ever and I would totally recommend it. I'll definitely do it again if the opportunity comes up. If you come to Taupo you have to do it!!!! Not one of us was disappointed. We were all on a total high!!

Celebrations were in order that evening and all 12 of us went out in our Sky Dive tee-shirts!!!

So glad I did it but still can't believe I have!!!

I've downloaded some photos onto my site:

http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/J9travels/

Laura's story:- mmmmm yes, as soon as I realised I was the last to get on the plane I asked possibly the most rhetorical question ever posed: "Am I 1st then?" - "Yep". This meant that I was sat on the floor by possibly the thinist piece of clear plastic I ever seen been called a door, complete with slight crack!
I was so lucky as I had the nicest Tandum Master (is it me or does that sound rude) ever, called Brad who just kept chatting to me all the way up & told me loads of Essex jokes? (didn't realise they'd made it this far).
The door went up & I had to swing my legs round out of the plane & my camera man stepped beside me. Brad informed me that we had to wait until the light went green... WAIT! WAIT! oh yeah right ok, I can WAIT here, legs dangling 12000 feet above the ground!!
I don't know what Brad said to me after that but I remember informimg him that the light had gone green & as he thanked me for this advice I was tilted forwarded out of the plane. I don't remember screaming but apparently, I found out later, J9 had done this for me anyway. The free fall was possibly the longest 5 seconds I have ever encountered but god what a buzz, there's no time for wondering if you're feeling scared or not, it's just amazing. I seem to remember screaming AWESOME! at the cameraman (all extreme sports peeps say stuff like that you see).
The chute went up & you go from horizontal to verticle instantly & the next part of the trip follows. I was asked how I felt & I couldn't quite put a sentence together but I made noises assuring I had enjoyed it & so I was introduced to some mad spinning moves on the descent. Plus somehow he managed to release the tension in the chute so you just feel like you're dropping which makes your stomach lurch & then the tension takes hold again. I said I wasn't sure if I liked that so much so Brad happily did it another two times so I could decide for sure mmmm. So that was that, needless to say I proposed to Brad immediately after I got my feet on the floor.

Not sure we can top that really but we'll see. Next stop Rotorua.

Posted by J9travels 21:05 Archived in New Zealand Comments (2)

Waitomo

Full of adventures!!!

rain 10 °C

The name waitomo comes from wai meaning water and tomo meaning hole/shaft. A very appropriate name given the countryside is dotted with numerous shafts dropping abruptly into underground cave systems and streams.

These are the main tourist attraction and why Waitomo was our first stop on our little tour of the north island.

It's only a small place and if you're not down the caves then there isn't much for you to do.

Whilst on the bus we were flicking through the list of activities trying to decide what we wanted to do, or more importantly, what we dared to do.

I fancied the caving as I really wanted to see the glow worms but wasn't sure whether I wanted to take the easy option of a boat ride through it and therefore not get wet. However, seen as it was chucking it down, Laura wisely pointed out that we were going to get wet whatever we decided to do. So, blackwater tubing through the Glow Worm caves it was. I'm pretty glad I didn't know what this entailed before I went down.

We arrived in Waitomo and there were 8 of us who had decided to do the tubing. We were taken by a quite large young man called Kerry down to a shed to change into our wetsuits. We all stripped off into our bikinis (except the lads, who wore trunks)and then spent a good half hour trying to squeeze into already wet wetsuits. Once in there was little room for movement, I found that I couldn't really bend my legs and was slightly worried that the blood wasn't getting to my feet.

We were then given hard hats and all piled into the minibus and driven to the top of a hill in a field. We were joined by Winny, who was even bigger than Kerry (and when I say big, I don't mean tall!). Someone made a comment that if the caves were small we might get stuck but Kerry pointed out that if he and Winny could get through, we'd have no problems..!

We each picked up a black rubber ring and then climed down into the depths of the cave.

As soon as we were told to turn the lights off on our helmets the place was lit up with tiny flourescent lights. Thousands of glow worms. I was enjoying this!!

We walked a bit further into the caves and then the really deep water started. It was brown and really bloody cold too. We were all told to sit in out rings and then you had to grab the feet of the person behind you and rest them on your ring (fnar fnar!!). This meant that as we sailed down the depths of the cave we would all keep together!! Well, that was what was meant to happen. Unforntunately for Laura, the Japanese girl in front of her was having a hard time understanding the feet holding principle and kept grabbing onto my shoulders and letting Laura float away (they still have't found her, ha ha ha!!!!).

So we floated along in the the really cold dirty water with our lights off marvelling at all the glow warms. It really was a spectacular sight, there's millions of them.

We then came to our first waterfall. Only about 8 feet high but we had to fall backwards over it onto our rings, keeping our mouths shut so as not to get a mouthful of dirty water. This was a little difficult for me as I found it all so funny and was therefore unable to keep my mouth shut. I swallowed a lot of dirty water which will no doubt result in me getting some dirty water desease!

We did some more floating and then it was the 20 foot water slide down another waterfall. Awesome!!! It's very strange to be sitting on a black rubber tube 100 feet underground getting ready to slide down a plastic slide. Unfortunately, Kerry had taken a bit of a shine to Laura and I and decided that before we wooshed down the slide, he'd pull our heads back so that all the dirty water gushing down the waterfall went right into our wetsuits and all over our faces. Another healthy lungfull of cave water for each of us. Nice.

At the bottom of the slide we were given a hot drink of orange and continued our way through the cave to the exit. This was the hardest bit, walking through a cave, hot orange in one hand, a blig black rubber tube in the other and only a small torch on our heads. Not many of us got to drink that hot orange as most of it spilled out.

It was a great experience though. Some people were literally shaking with the cold by the time we finished but we had hot showers and soup back at the shed. Awesome!!!

And if that's not enough, the next day we'd booked to go abseiling!!!

To give J9's typing fingers a rest I will tell you about the abseiling + there's no reason for having 2 blogs on the go, when no one can be arsed to read one as it is.....so
Abseiling you say? yes abseiling. That's the one where you lower yourself down cliffs & things on ropes yeah? oh yes... & that's exactly what we did.

We had to go back to the same office as we'd been yesterday for the caving & we were horrified to be met by Kerry again with a glint in his eye, informing us we would spend the afternoon with him again. J9 promptly & politely replied "I'm not going anywhere with you" which made him laugh but the group preparing for caving looked a little shaken by this. We're pro's now & flipantly waved the young cavers off & met our real abseiling guide for the day Ross - who had one leg & eye patch..... only jestting, but could you imagine!

We were taken by mini bus up to the top of the hills - we were calm at this stage.
We were fitted into harness's & the same god awful wellies we had to wear yesterday (this meant more wettness) - we were calm at this stage too.
We donned hard hats & were taken over to a rope to secure our cows tails to (that's professional term for the clips you secure from your harness) - still calm.
We came to a metal contruction & platform which as we got closer realised it was positioned above a rather large chasm - calm isn't exactly a word I'd use at this stage but it wasn't anything compared to the fear we felt as we were told to swing round & sit on the metal bar across the abyss & then let our legs dangle!
Being a true friend I allowed J9 to do this bit 1st, normally such cowardness would of enraged her but she was too scared to notice I'd even volunteered her.
So there we were dangling 60 meters above not a lot & gradually began to descend. Now I'm not showing off but that initial dread soon passes & about 10 meters down we were already jesting about stopping off for cups of tea - my how we laughed. Our guide was ace too & kept telling us how well we were doing, so we tried to race him down the final stretch. It really was amazing!
Unfortunately, what goes down must go up & luckily, after all the joking about "well, you only paid for an abseil" we had to climb back to the top again... mmmmm.... we wondered... how?????
By ladder!!!! yep, lots of em as well. This was almost as worrying as the initial descent because now we were climbing away from the ground - why would anyone want to do that?
Well we did it & to reassure ourselves that we really were brave & the 1st time wasn't a fluke we did it all over again....
Loved it!!

Next stop Rotorua

Posted by J9travels 21:34 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Bay of Islands

Up north

sunny 14 °C

I spent a few days in Auckland waiting for Laura to arrive. This is where over a third of the NZ population live. It's a pretty big city but nothing too exciting.

Laura ariived on Wednesday sans luggage. That had gone to Singapore. Luckily, NZ is quite efficient compared to the UK and after talking to one person at the airport the luggage was found and dropped off at the hostel that evening with minimum fuss.

We spent a few days in Auckland waiting for Laura to get over her jet lag. She said she was fine but would promptly fall asleep at 7pm and then be waking me up at 4am.

We then decided to get a bus up to the Bay of Islands.

On the way up we stopped off at various points. One time to look at a big Kauri tree. These are really big old trees that the Kiwi's are very proud of despite there not being many left because the Europeans chopped most of them down. Now they are protected so when they find a really big old one they make it into a tourist attraction.

We also stoppped off in Opononi to watch a short film about Opo the gay dolphin. He swam into the harbour in 1955 and was instantly a huge star because of his friendly nature. They said he was gay because they were trynig to be politically correct!?! Anyway, he was a big star until he died 2 years later. No one knows why he died but some say that he might have got in the way of the local fishermen who used to fish with dynamite... What they did find out when his body was washed up was that Opo was in fact a girl... He/she is buried in the village and there's a little statue of him/her.

We based ourselves in Paihai which is a nice little coastal resort just on the Bay of Islands.

We took a day trip up to Cape Reinga which is the northern most point of NZ that you can reach by vehicle. A nice little spot with a lighthouse and where the Pacific meets the Tasman sea. We had a nice guide called Murray who assummed we were all a bit hard of hearing (well, Laura is getting on a bit) as he liked to say everything twice. He kept us all entralled with various stories throughout the day. He was particularly found of stories involving cars sinking on 90 mile beach. We heard a few of them...

It was a long day on the bus but the sights were good. We were told all about the Kauri tree again (I even bought a bit for $16, it's 40,000 years old!).

We also went boogie boarding on the sand dunes which was really cool, photos to follow.

And we took a stroll along 90 mile beach which is actaully only 64 miles long but the NZ tourism quite rightly agreed that no one would visit it if they called it 64 mile beach so they lie and say it's 90 miles long to pull in the tourists. It works, we went!!

The next day we hired bikes and went for a ride. We followed the only road out of town which soon turned into the longest gravel road ever so the day turned into more of a bike push than a bike ride. We took a picnic though and ate that at the top of a big hill with glorious views of the bay and 100mph winds. It's really hard to put crisps in your sarnies when it's that windy!

We also took a boat trip out into the Bay of Islands which is pretty much what it says it is, a big bay with loads of islands. We saw the hole in the rock, again another fine example of creative naming, it's a big rock with a hole. The trip was OK but improved as soon as we sailed into a big pod of crazy dolphins. There were loads of them and they were all coming right up to the boat and diving out of the sea, it was pretty spectacular. Unforntunatley we weren't allowed to swim with them as there were babies in the pod but they were nice to see.

Our final day we took a walk up to the Treaty House where the Maoris signed the agreement to give NZ to the British. We managed to get in for free by taking the coastal walk up to the grounds and sneaking around. Laura is already getting into the traveller ways of getting stuff for free or as cheaply as possible. Didn't take her long, the pikey!

Then it was the bus back to Auckland.

Next stop, Waitomo

Posted by J9travels 18:14 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Wellington

Yes, it's windy here!

rain 5 °C

Despite my bus to Picton to catch the ferry beign over an hour late and then breaking down and all the passengers having to jumpe on another coach we made the ferry by the skin of our teeths.

A nice ride across the Cook Strait and we arrived in Welly!

I've been here just short of a week and enjoyed it. It's a nice ciplace, has a city feel to it and there are loads of lovely bars and restaurants. The most upmarket place I've been to yet in NZ and I feel very scruffy wandering around in my traveller clothes but I haven't been shopping. Well, OK, I have, but I only bought a new bag and that was because mine broke so I had to!

The weather hasn't been too great (it's cold and rainy at the moment) so I have been doing a lot of indoor activities, which include spending many hours in coffee shops, eating cake and watching the world go by and reading my book!

They have a really good museum called Te Papa which is their national museum and tells you all about the history of NZ and what we Europeans destroyed when we got here (75% of their forestry) and explains the story of the Maoris. A good place, well worth a visit.

And that's about it. Yes, I am being a bit dull but I'm saving pennies for when Laura arrives!! I did have a night out the other night. Nice glass of wine which turned into several once I got chatting to some nice local men who insisted on buying me drinks. What's a girl to do?! Felt a little bit rough the next day!

But now I must continue up north. Next stop is Taupo where I will assess the idea of doing a sky dive and whether I can convince Laura to do it too. I'll let you know.

Getting the Kiwi Experience bus too. I said I wouldn't but it's $30 cheaper than the others... Wonder if I'll be oldest passenger!

Posted by J9travels 22:04 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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