Rafting The Kaituna River
Rotorua, New Zealand
I can’t believe I’ve never posted about last year’s white-water rafting experience in Rotorua, New Zealand. It was a blast!
Naturally, as a complete beginner, I opted to go on a grade 5 rafting trip down the Kaituna River (as a point of reference, the grade above grade 5 is classed as “effectively unnavigable”). The Kaituna is often referred to using words like “exhilarating” and “furious” and is notable for its 7 metre waterfall, the highest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. Yep, I’m a nutcase.
Despite at one point misinterpreting an instruction and having to be rescued from the foaming whitewater, it was a fantastic experience. Pretty draining though. I’ve never felt so unfit.
In the photos, I’m the guy either grinning or ‘woohooing’ in the middle of the boat!
Look at that naive fool in the photo above. That’s me, about the climb the 100 metre high Te Paki sand dunes at the northern tip of the North Island in New Zealand.
See how I playfully paddle through the shallow water at the foot of the dunes, shoes and socks off. Little do I realise the tortuous anguish that’s about to befall my inexperienced & asthmatic self.
Perhaps I should have judged the size of the dune before deciding to run up it. This second photo shows two tiny specks in the sand. Those are humans. Perhaps I could have taken note of the extremely humid conditions or listened to the voice in my head suggesting I ought to stop running, else I might damage myself.
Ahh, well. Not too much trouble was caused. It only took 10 minutes of dizziness and panting whilst flat on my back to muster the power to stand-up and descend. Plus, I only threw-up once.
Lesson learnt. Next time, I’ll get someone to carry me up.
Impromptu Helicopter Ride
What’s better than a helicopter ride? Well, an impromptu helicopter ride, that’s what. Whilst waiting for a rugby match to start just outside Taupo, New Zealand, I noticed a sign for NZ$45 helicopter rides. How could I pass up the opportunity?
In which Matt shouts at some Japanese people, goes to see Lady Knox and samples some Kiwi ales.
9 April 2011 - 0028 New Zealand
That’s it! I’m sick if this place (Crank Backpackers). There are some Japanese dudes in the room next to mine who won’t shut up. They keep bursting into spontaneous laughter and talking. They were playing music but I banged on their door and told them to stop it. There really is NOTHING in the way of sound proofing here. Windows are single-pane while the walls are as thin as they can be. The doors are ill-fitting, slam loudly and all of them have squeaky hinges and rattly handles. It’s a hostel you can’t sleep in. What’s the point? I am definitely checking out in the morning and finding a room at a motel. There are tonnes to choose from and all the nearby ones have good reviews. For a few quid more than what I’m paying now, I can have a three room suite with digital tv. Due to the geothermal activity in the area, most of the motels offer hot tubs in their units too.
Right, the inconsiderate douche bags next door have been quiet for about 5 minutes now so I’m going to take my chances and try to get some sleep. I’ll tell you what, it’s very therapeutic writing this. I was sitting here stewing before, but it’s good to vent. Goodnight… I hope!
They weren’t too bad. I got to sleep shortly after I wrote that last night.
I’m currently on a bus to Wai-O-Tapu. For some reason, having just picked us all up, the bus waits at the tourist information centre for 15 minutes. A terrible idea. Whinge, whinge, whine.
Back at the bar across the street for my last meal in Rotorua. It feels like it’s the end of my trip even though I’ve still got over a week left. Tomorrow, Iain and Co are due to kindly pick me up to go back to Auckland. But tonight, it’s the last night of my tour of New Zealand. It’s been 3 weeks of variety and fun and amazing views. I will never forget my time here. So I’m celebrating an awesome trip with a glass of Mata, a local beer recommended to me by the friendly guy behind the bar. I ordered a bottled import and he produced three shot glasses and started filling them with local beers and said I couldnt get them at home and I should try them. It’s not bad. A little bit malty for my liking, but it’s okay.
Today, I spent the morning with a few other people from my hostel at Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. A barren, unique and colourful landscape awaited us. One lake was luminous lime green, identical to the colour of Mountain Dew. Also, on the way, we stopped off at some awesomely violent, bubbling mud pools and the rather tame, disappointing staged but ultimately enjoyable Lady Knox Geyser. In all it’s been a great day.
In which I get the grumps, meet some Maori people & eat their food and stand in the eggy steam of some more geothermal features.
8 April 2011 - 0132 New Zealand
No climbing. Serge the Ukrainian was too tired for it, which is completely understandable. I don’t know why I wasn’t too tired really. I’m tired now. Trying to sleep but a local bar is insisting on playing music out on the street, or at least keeping it’s doors open. Very inconsiderate. I’m much more unhappy about the inconsideration rather than being kept awake. Even with earplugs, I can hear the music booming and the place’s patrons yelling at one another. I’ll be asking to move rooms in the morning. Honestly, the nerve!
Ten to 3 in the morning and they’re playing The Rivers of fricking Babylon! That’s not funny! That’s just a piss take. Urge to kill rising…
Now theres some idiot sitting outside on a bike or in a noisy stationary vehicle and leaving the engine running. What is the matter with some people?! SWITCH THE DAMN ENGINE OFF OR SOD OFF HOME! I hoping that in five minutes time, the license to irritate the neighbours runs out and I can start trying to get some sleep. What’s the point in having a hostel here if you can’t bloody sleep in it. It’s a valuable lesson learnt on this trip. The saving of staying in hostels is negated by the comfort lost. It’s not worth the saving.
Now… Two minutes to 3 and I dare say, sense has prevailed. The music has stopped. Perhaps a fellow hostel guest went and strangled the DJ. I applaud you sir. Ok, all clear I think. Goodnight Earth!
Well, I’ve been to reception and they’ve moved me to a different room. I have an entire 4 bed dorm room to myself on the opposite side of the building. And very nice it is too.
Anyway, enough whinging. Today, I’ve been to Whakarewarewa, a living Maori village set in a steamy geothermal village. Upon arrival, I was shown around the village by a resident who explained a bit about village life and pointed out some of the more interesting geothermal attractions (the most interesting being a natural pool of crystal clear water that was at a constant 100 degrees Celsius). He then took the group into the performance room where traditional dances and songs were performed. These were brilliant! Then, I went to the village cafe to have a Hāngi lunch, a meal of chicken, pork and vegetables cooked by the geothermal activity alone. Everything was overcooked and the entire meal had a distinct sense of being prepared by a grandmother, but I enjoyed it for its novelty and cultural significance. Then, I went on a nature walk to check out some more geothermal pools and lakes. In all, it was a great excursion and one I highly recommend.
Very comfortable in my new room so far. The tv lounge is just along to corridor so that’s a bit noisy but I fall asleep well enough in front of the tv at home so no concerns.
I came back from the Maori village and had a nap. After that, I popped to the Pak’nSave and got some more fruit. Can’t get enough of the stuff. Let’s hope it continues. Then, on the way back, I turned left instead of right and found myself at Government Gardens, a strange mix of old English bowling greens, a grand museum building and large gaping holes in the ground billowing steam. I stayed and watched the steam blow around in the wind and catch the light of the setting sun. For a short time, I was hypnotised.
Tomorrow, my last day in Rotorua is to be spent at Wai-O-Tapu, another geothermal reserve. This one boasts a full spectrum of colours being produced by the minerals and violent bubbling mud pools. That should take me to lunchtime. Then, who knows. Going back to do some more luging is a distinct possibility.
In which I take in the sulphurous air, cascade down the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall and regain my appetite.
7 April 2011 - 1120 Rotorua, New Zealand
Just had the best sandwich of the trip. A delicious pastrami, Swiss cheese, salad and gherkin sandwich on incredible seedy brown brown. I’ll be going back there again. Yummers! I’m eating early as I’m getting picked up to go White water rafting at 12. Better get my trunks on!
God it really does stink here. It’s not like Iceland where there was a thin (though noticeable) whisper of sulphur in the air and water. Here, it’s pungent. A thick, eggy smack in the chops the second you go outside. It’s the richest egg smell I’ve ever smelt. Imagine an egg, then wrap it in another egg and then dip it in oil of egg and you might come close to the eggness. Man, it smells like egg here! Like I’m wearing a boiled egg on my upper lip. Like I’ve bathed in egg mayonnaise. Like I’m wearing a shirt made out of egg.
Got back a short time ago from White water rafting down a 7m waterfall, the highest commercially rafted waterfall IN THE WORLD. Made a tit of myself by misinterpreting an instruction and then jumping out of the boat into the rapids. The guy wanted me to sit on the other side of the boat but he used the word ‘jump’. So I jumped. Anyway, great fun, though much more of a workout than I expected and hauling the boat up a hill on my head after an hour of rafting wasn’t fun at all. Can’t see me wanting to do it again, but I’m very very glad I did it today.
Just had my first decent square meal in ages. And in a pub no less. Good old fish and chips! Three fillets of fresh fish in beer batter and good “chip shop” chips, followed by an enormous creme brûlée with cream and toffee ice cream. I’ve been struggling to eat well in New Zealand, a mixture of poor quality food and a mysterious loss of appetite. but tonight, both those things were shunted to the sideline. And to top it off, I was sat square in front of a tv showing French Top 14 rugby.
It’s been a good day. In about 35 minutes, I’m meeting up with a Ukrainian dude I met at the rafting and we’re going climbing at the climbing centre in the basement of the hostel.
Tomorrow will be an easy day I think.
In which I go to ‘Roto-vegas”, take a gondola up a hill and luge my way back down again and visit another thermal zone.
6 April 2011 - 0912 New Zealand
Off again this morning. A thankfully short 1 hour journey this time to Rotorua.
And thank god it was an hour. Due to a clutch problem, we were squeezed into a tiny little bus. There was no room for my legs so I had to keep them in the aisle. After about half and hour, I started experiencing back pain so I shifted about a bit and dozed in order to shorten the experience. And it worked.
Right now, I’m at SkyLines SkyRides, just outside Rotorua town centre. I’ve just been lugeing, which is to say, allowing gravity to whisk myself for up to 2km down a hill in a little 3 wheeled go kart. And boy was it fun, particularly the advanced course where speed really picked up nicely.
Tomorrow, I’m booked in to do some white water rafting. One of the waterfalls is 7 metres high. Gonna be AWESOME! Well, with any luck. Right now, I’m gonna let this carrot cake go down, then I’m off to Kuirau Park for some more thermal stuff.
Laundry drying. Waiting for a pizza. Life ticking along nicely in Rotorua.
In which I eat my breakfast with another wild bird and I recount my jetboating experience.
5 April 2011 - 1146 New Zealand
I’m in Friends Cafe this morning awaiting a Big Breakfast. Out the window is the vast expanse of Lake Taupo. It’s really difficult to comprehend it’s a volcano crater. It’s enormous! And it’s scary to think it could blow again any day. Well, not scary. There’s not much point being scared of a volcano. Either you’re in the vicinity of it’s destructive power, in which case you’re definitely going to die and die quickly, or you’re not in the vicinity. I am definitely in the vicinity and if the volcano were to blow, I’d be dead in seconds. Doesn’t really trouble me now I think about it. I’m more concerned over the whereabouts of my food.
I know its ridiculous, and I keep going on about birds, but there’s a sparrow in this cafe! It’s hoping about on the floor looking for crumbs. I don’t know what’s happening to me. I’ve always attracted birds. They just seem to like hanging out with me. But it’s getting a bit silly now.
The Jet Boat ride yesterday was incredible. We zipped across the surface of the Waitomo River at 85km/hr, jumped into the air over rapids and got drenched as the boat did 180 degree spins. After the 30 minute ride, my heart was racing and the adrenaline was pumping. Loved it! But I need more now! Genuinely considering throwing myself off of the Auckland SkyTower in a week or so now. Reckon I could do it. Could I?
Got no plans today. None at all. Need a rest day after two solid days of fun. Tomorrow, I’m off to Rotorua, New Zealand’s tourist capital, where my list of things to do is massive! So this rest day will come in handy.
In which I burn rubber on a scooter and take in the sights of the Taupo surroundings.
4 April 2011 - 1216 New Zealand
Today, I’m scooting about the attractions north of Taupo. And when I say scooting, I mean it quite literally. For the paltry sum of NZ$37, I’ve hired a scooter for the day. So far its been a mixture of fun and terror. I’ve now pretty much got used to the quirks of the machine and it’s been fun getting up to the dizzy heights of 80km/hr. That said, I have been worried about the other motorists.
Kiwis, and forgive the generalisation, are poor drivers. I’ve seen a few near misses and it seems that their driver training and tests aren’t nearly as good as the UKs. I was told that a few years ago, all restricted license holders were just given full licenses without having to pass a test. Still, the worry decreases, the fun increases and I have a packed afternoon ahead.
I’ve just been and booked myself onto a jet boat ride. That’s at 1pm. Before that, I’m at a hydroelectric power station which is set to open it’s sluices in 10 minutes. It’s good enough to be in the travel guides so it’s good enough to stick around for. After the sluices open, I dont know what to do between then and 1pm. I’m in the middle of nowhere and I’ve stupidly not bought any food with me. Ah well, such is the life of an overseas adventurer.
In which I go to see some live rugby and end up in a helicopter.
3 April 2011 - 1332 New Zealand
A chilled out day today. I’m at Owen Delaney Park just outside Taupo to watch some more NRL rugby. Everyone expects the New Zealand Warriors to lose against the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks today but the suns out, the crowds are happy and I’ve just been on a ride in a helicopter… Oh, didn’t I mention that? Hmm, would have thought that was something I’d have mentioned.
There are lots of trade stands around the grounds and one of them happens to be for a local scenic flights company who are flogging NZ$45 flights around the area. Couldn’t miss the opportunity, especially at that price, so off I went. It was awesome! Really smooth, no shakiness, just wiggling around in the breeze. The pilot tried to do as many tricks as he could in the 15 minutes in the air. Banking was the most fun. The chopper was almost completely on it’s side. Great fun. A real experience.