We waved goodbye to Wendy who went off to work and we threw our things back into the van whilst we waited for Adrian to come back. After bidding him farewell we drove to Rotarua. I fell asleep along the way, which was a bad mistake because when I woke up we were parked in the car park for the gondola and Luge, how did that happen?? We bought our adventure passes for all of the attractions and rode in the gondola to the top of the hill to where the sky swing and Luge were. A couple of people were about to ride the swing as we arrived so we watched them first to see what we had let ourselves in for. Basically we would be strapped into one of a row of three seat inside a metal orb, we would then be lifted up backwards to a pylon that must have towered 70 feet in the air, then someone would pull the cord, which would release the orb to free fall a little way before the wire pulled tight and swung the ball up the other side and back again a few times until the orb lost momentum. I have butterflies just recalling it. Gulp!! This looked terrifying so we decided to get it over with first.
We were strapped in with a Canadian girl, whose boyfriend did not want to play (wise man) and as we were lifted into the air way above anything else surrounding us we both thought we were out of our minds to do this and getting far too old for this sort of thing. The orb shuddered to a stop and Dan was given the task of pulling the cord, which he eventually did.
ARRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!! I think I left my stomach at the top! Not quite too old then as I did find it exhilarating and wanted to ride again but it was very very scary. We watched the video when we finished, which was very funny so we bought it. Dan will try and upload it but we need access to a computer with a DVD drive to do so.
We went and joined the queue for the Luge, which is basically three tracks, beginner, intermediate and advanced, on which we drove what resembled a go-cart, but there were only three wheels and no pedals. You had to steer round corners and control your speed on the way down to the bottom, where a chair lift collected you and your ride. It was good fun and we had five rides, once on the beginner and two each on the other two. Naturally Dan was much faster than me (he is the one with the penalty points on his licence after all!) and even a couple of children overtook me but I gave everyone a run for their money!
By the time we got back to the bottom it was lunch time so we headed to a park beside Lake Rotarua where we had a couple of sandwiches and then a stroll around. For those of you who don't know, Rotarua is one giant hot spot. In many places hot sulphuric water bubbles to the surface causing the ground to heat up and create hot mud pools. They can be seen all around this town and are what attract visitors in their millions. There were several areas cordoned off in the park, where such mud pools lie. By now the smell of sulphur was very strong and it was very difficult to understand how anyone could possibly get used to it. It was however quite fascinating watching the mud bubble and steam rise.
We moved to Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, on the outskirts of Rotarua and we joined a tour to take us round the village. Several generations of Mauri live in this village and we were shown around their homes. Everywhere you looked there was steam rising from the ground in big clouds and the smell was pretty awful by now. We crossed a bridge as we entered the village to find children jumping off into a stream below for gold coins, which is a very old tradition. The water was very shallow but the tour guide tried to tell us that the children learn to curve on impact so they dive sideways rather than hit the bottom, I wasn't convinced. ,The female residents of the village cook food for their family in the natural hot water, or in a giant vent, which traps the scalding air, as there is no power supplied to the village. The whole village share a bathing area in one part of the village, which is hidden from the public view from the outside. As we walked round we were told how thin the ground is in places and how people have died falling through and into the scalding mud or water. We walked over to witness two geysers spurt high into the air, quite amazing. We walked passed the village hall where celebrations and meetings are held and also passed a couple of shops, which capture the passing trade of the tourists. It was a very interesting couple of hours.
Time to drive again and off we went to Waitomo. We were booked on the first slot on the following morning to tour the famous caves so it made sense to park up close by. We arrived just as the sun was setting so we cooked tea and then settled down for the evening.