A place that constantly smells of rotten eggs isn't everyones idea of a great location but Rotorua is New Zealand's biggest tourist attraction. The smell definitely lives up to its reputation and as soon as we stepped out of the car it became obvious that we weren't likely to stand the smell in a tent so we chickened out and got a cheap cabin instead. Rotorua is much like Queenstown in that all the sights and attractions come with a hefty price tag and our biggest mistake was that we were watching our pennies a little too much and didnt experience it like we should have (not this time anyway....). On the bright side Nat did manage to replace the bikini that we no longer speak about! After a few hours wandering round Rotorua we were totally overwhelmed by the smell but in awe of the way that steam just comes out of the ground.
There was one attraction that really caught our eye and no amount of scrimping was going to stop us - The Agrodome Sheep Show. We set off early next morning about 10km outside of town to a barn converted into a rather crazy theatre. We were joined by tonnes of coachtrippers from all over the world to witness sheep skills and shearing in the most bizarre show you are ever likely to see. Its really a case of seeing is believing. Before the show the sheep are all lined up in pens for photo ops and one got a bit excited at the sight of Nat and gave her a sloppy one on the cheek drawing laughter from all over the audience! If sheep shearing isnt your thing you can go jetboating, zorbing or bungee jumping (is there anywhere in NZ you can't do bungee jumping??!!). We were off though, to Waitomo.
It was a bit out of the way but ever since we bought our NZ guidebook in Australia we'd been eager to try some black water rafting, floating on a rubber ring through caves deep underground. As it turns out it wasn't really an adrenaline thing, a lot of the time was spent floating gently in the pitch black looking at the glowworms that adorned the walls. A backwards 'waterfall jump' and a cave slide made it a little more adventurous but all in all it was pretty calm fun. It was only afterwards that we realised how perilous it was and that had more to do with the tour operator than the activity. I hope I'm not being libelous but the setup was definitely a bit dangerous, one guide for 8 people (100m underground), rubber rings that burst (poor German gynaecologist), jumps into pitifully shallow water (bruised Ecuadorian guy) and a slidey thing that thrusts you straight into a wall in utter darkness. Definitely added to the fun though and we had a completely crazy group, especially the maddest Australian woman you could ever wish to meet, we'd never have guessed that she used to work for the UN in Rome. Anyway, Caveworld might not be the most well known 'tubing' company but their ramshackle approach definitely makes it good fun.
With 8 days left before we need to be in Auckland we thought we would head up to Northland to see some of the less developed areas of the island. We drove for 6hrs to Whangerai for the night. Not the best start as it was the least friendly campsite yet, grumpy manager and lousy facilities. When we made it to Paihia in the Bay of Islands the next day things weren't a whole lot better as the weather was drab and the most exciting thing to happen was realising that we'd left a camera in an internet cafe and speeding across town to get it back. A really nice couple from Chelmsford helped brighten up our evening but aside from that we realised the fun was back in Rotorua....