January 24th (2)
We arrived in Rotorua late afternoon and checked into our hostel 'Base - Hot Rocks'. The hostel was not nice so we dumped our stuff and made our escape for the evening. We headed out into the 'city' centre (like the size of Hailsham!). It was only about half five but the place was dead. No people around and no shops open. In desperation of finding some real living people we looked for somewhere for dinner. We found an Irish pub called 'Hennesseys' which had a sign saying there would be live music so we settled there for the evening. We had lovely proper dinners and a glass of wine. The music was in the form of a duo called 'The Blarney Boys'. They were quite good. It was a good sing-song! They had a washboard that really was all bells and whistles luxury washboard. I asked the man if I could take a picture - I was that impressed. It will be winging it's way to Brian at some point! The pub was full of locals rather than other backpackers which was nice. We got catting to a few people at our table and had a really nice evening! We wobbled home and went to bed!
We got up and had tea and toast! We headed for the tourism centre and spent a while sieving through the millions of leaflets to make a plan of action of what to do with our time in Rotorua. We booked some bits and pices and then got on the 'Activity Shuttle' to take us to our afternoon destination! The bus dropped us at a thermal park called 'Te Puia' but after looking at the prices we walked 10 minutes down the road to 'Whakarewarewa' thermal village which was the same but cheaper!! Whakarewarewa is a living Maori village on top of a geothermically active area. They use the heat from the geothermal activity to cook food, heat their homes, and bathe. We had a tour of the main part of the village with boiling hot steam pools. The ground that you walk on feels really hot. We saw the geyser which is quite beautiful. We dropped out of the tour as we were dying from the heat and got a cold drink and lunch. With our eneryg levels replenished we headed up the top of the village to the outdoor performance area for a cultural performance. They performed some songs and dances but it was a bit rough around the edges! We walked up to the top viewing area for the geyser and saw the Catholic church and village meeting house. We also took a walk to one of the mud pools which smelt SOOO bad and sounded disgusting with gloopy mud bubble noises. We ended our visit by eating corn cobs cooked by dangling them in a bag into one of the geothermal pools! It took about 10 minutes after we got them for them to call down enough to eat, but they tasted lovely! We walked back up the road and caught the 'Activity bus' back into the city centre. We walked back to our hostel via some shops! After a short rest we headed out for the evening. First, we went to Kuirau park which was just over the road from our hostel. It has some smelly mud pools and steamy holes. It had a nice warm outdoor thermal pool for sitting with your feet in - very relaxing. We had some Chinese noodles for dinner then walked out to the edge of Lake Rotorua. The sun was just starting to set and it was quite pretty. We had a short walk but it was getting quite cold so we went back to our hostel. After some internet we went to bed. I had the worst night's sleep ever! Many things, such as loud music, snoring roommates, mobile phones etc creating bad sleeping conditions!
We had to be up and out early to get to the tourism centre in time for our shuttle to 'Hell's Gate'. We ended up getting picked up by the big boss in his posh car as a lot of the staff were at a wedding. We went on the 9.30 tour of the park. There were hot pools, a hot waterfall, sulphar crystals, mud pools, strange rocks, and a sulphur lake. George Bernard Shaw had visited the park and given it it's name. At the end of the tour we got the chance to try out a bit of wood carving! We had a liile square of wood with a design drawn on and a hammer and chisel! It was really fun! We then had some lunch and afterwards went and dipped our feet in the foot pool of thermal mud! The mud is warm and feels silky but kind of disgusting at the same time! It made our feet fell really dry later in the day! A shuttle bus took us back to the tourism centre. We popped back to the hostel so that I could change from a skirt to shorts and then went back to the tourism centre to get the activity bus out to the 'Skyline'. At the skyline you go up the side of the mountain to where there's a shop, cafe, and activities in a big gondola. I was scared!! At the top we put our bags in a locker and then headed for the 'luge' which goes down the side. It's a bit like a plastic sled but it has wheels and you can control the speed and brake by lifting and lowering the handlebars. You have to wear a silly helmet too!! It was really fun! We started with the 'scenic' beginners slope which isn't too steep and has no sharp bends. To get back up to the top you have to go on a chair lift like skiers. This was more scary than the gondola. There was a huge queue as a coachload of Japanese tourists had arrived so we grabbed a drink and waited for it to get shorter. For our second ride we went on the Intermediate track - slightly steeper and some sharp bends. We each bought a picture of us on the luge. We sped back onto the gondola to get back for the 'Activity bus' but saw it driving out of the car park! Aaaaaaah!! We were a bit worried as we had something booked for the evening. We went onto the main road to get a normal bus and the 'Activity bus ' came back for us!! We were much relieved and very lucky! Back at the hostel we got changed into warmer clothes and were picked up for our evenings entertainment at the Mitai hangi and concert. When we got there it turned out that it was right nextdoor to the skyline anyway so we needn't have worried!! We were taken into a marquee and sat at our allotted table. It was huge, there were over 150 people there. After a quick introduction we went and saw the food cooking on the hangi. We walked to the stream where we saw some Maori dressed and warriors coming down the stream in their waka (canoe). We went into a performance area. After a ritual peace offering between the Maori chief and a member of the audience there was a performance of dance and songs. Some of the male Maoris in the performance were wearing VERY little clothes! It was a little worrying when they started jumping up and down!! The chief explained the significance of the tattoos to the maori people and he made us all learn a few dance actions! We headed back to the buffet dinner. We had plenty to eat. The meat and veg that had been cooked in the hangi had a distinct slightly smoked taste about them. For pudding we had the choice between the tradional maori foods of Fruit salad, trifle, or chocolate roulade!! After dinner we were split into smaller groups and went for a walk in the dark around the area. The guide told us about things and we saw some more glowworms. We then got back on our buses and were taken back to our hostels to bed.
We were rudely awoken by some inconsiderate roommates. We spent the morning organising our trip to White Island, bus and extra accomodation. We headed out for lunch and then went to the i-site to catch the activity bus to the 'Agrodome' - big touristy agricultural place. We intended to go to see their sheep shearing show but there was a real farm show (like a miniture version of the South of England Show -not made up for tourists) in the grounds which was free entry. As part of this farm show there was a sheep shearing competition. It was suprisingly enthralling! There were several rounds and a final. There were five people at a time and they had to shear around ten sheep the quickest. They were also judged on the quality of their shearing. There were shearing a whole sheep in only a minute! There were sheep flying everywhere. In a break in the competition we looked round the stalls. There were animals, food, local wine, and various other things. We headed back to our bus pick up point as soon as the show finished as we didn't want to miss it again. We got it fine but this time there were loads of people missing. The driver managed to drive around and find most of them. We got dropped back in the centre and had dinner, internet, then bed.
We very glad to check out of Hot Rocks and move round the corner to a far nicer hostel called Treks. It was Auckland Day, a bank holiday, so everwhere was even quieter thaan normal. We went round the few souvenir shops that were open and had lunch. We didn't really have any plans as we only had this extra day as the White Island tour was full until the next day. We went for a walk along the lakeside for a bit. At one point we heard some loud music and went to have a look. We found the 'Bluesfeast'. A very small local music, beer, and wine festival. We got a souvenir glass with entry and I got a glass of ale - mmmmm, real beer! We sat on the grass down the front to watch the ' lumberjack show' and see the music. We got interviewed by a journalist from a local paper and got our names in print! We were absolutely boiling hot and some people saw us looking for shade and offered us the free seats at their table under a marquee. They were a local family and friends. They were really friendly and we ended up spending most of the afternoon their four year old son, Ben! He was absolutely adorable but it was very tiring!! There was a really nice atmosphere, we nearly felt like we were at home. We headed back to our hostel via the supermarket. We went on the internet and organised all our bits for the next day and had an early night!
We got up bright and early and walked to the tourist centre to catch our shuttle bus to Whakatane. We ended up being privately chauffered as we were the only ones booked on! The bus got there in time for us to catch our 9 o'clock boat out to White Island, a live mareine volcano. We were on the boat Peejay V. We went along the river and out into the sea. We passed by Whale Island (which is shaped like a whale!). We then came across a pod of dolphins. We slowed down and then swam and jumped alongside the boat. There were about seven of them including a baby. We arrived at the island around 11/11.30. We went to the island in a little dingy thing. We were split into three groups for the tour of the island. We had to wear big yellow hard hats and take gas masks. First we saw the scientific equipment that scientists use to check on the activity of the volcano, then we sawa some of the rocks that had been blasted out during the last eruption. Walking closer to the crater we saw vents and sulphar crystals. There was then a bit of a drama as Fi tripped up and grazed her knee and they weren't properly equipped for first aid! We then went and stood on the edge of the crater lake which gave me a tickly throat and I had to use the gasmask. We walked around the other side of the flat area of the volcano and saw lots of rocks! Finally, we looked around what was left of the last attempt to mine sulphar from the volcano. We then went back onto the boat and were given lunch. When we got back into Whakatane our bus met us and took us back to Rotorua. He dropped us at our hostel and we made ourselves dinner. We went on the internet and did journals, packed up our bags and went to bed.