Along the Away

a traveler's tales

Archive for August, 2014

Rainbows at home

August 28, 2014 Life Comments

Rainbow Palm tree

When you’re away, every day brings interesting, extraordinary, novel things to be recorded on camera, to be posted on Facebook, to be retold on a blog, to write home and gush about. It all seems so worthy of sharing because it’s new and different, and we don’t want to forget.

Normal, ordinary, routine life just happens. Passes by.

This morning I woke to heavy rain; a deliciously warm, cosy awakening, safely cacooned in my quilt listening to the roar of the downpour, the energy of nature.

Then it calmed down and without leaving my bed I saw a beautiful rainbow arcing over the sky.

Perhaps today will be filled with exciting, extraordinary, novel things.

Along the Away NZ Trip Map Rotorua

Poor Rotorua and it’s stinky reputation. Not stinky as in it’s the pits, but stinky as in, rotten eggs stinky… That’s the sulphur for you, that darn old thermal activity.

Which gives us hot thermal springs and nutrient rich mud baths (good).

Lake Rotorua

And the bog of eternal stench (bad).

Rotorua Mud Pool

It was not so bad really, though no one is joking when they say that ‘the smell’ lingers gently over the whole town. You learn to breathe through the mouth.

Rotorua’s other reputation is for adventure filled fun so I definitely signed up for some of that. First up was white water rafting on the Kaituna River, a grade five river, which according to Wikipedia in white water terms means:

“Grade 5 – Whitewater, large waves, large volume, possibility of large rocks and hazards, possibility of a large drop, requires precise maneuvering.”

To put my feat in context:

Grade 6 – Class 6 rapids are considered to be so dangerous that they are effectively unnavigable on a reliably safe basis. Rafters can expect to encounter substantial whitewater, huge waves, huge rocks and hazards, and/or substantial drops that will impart severe impacts beyond the structural capacities and impact ratings of almost all rafting equipment. Traversing a Class 6 rapid has a dramatically increased likelihood of ending in serious injury or death compared to lesser classes.

Yes, so Grade 5 is a big deal. The biggest deal you can raft without facing almost certain death. I was quite excited and a little apprehensive about the cold (yeah the cold, and maybe a bit about smashing my head on a rock or getting trapped under a capsized raft, but mostly the cold). I psyched myself up to tackle the challenges on the river including surviving the largest waterfall drop which can peak to 7m depending on the conditions! I’m not a thrill seeker by any means, for example you will not see a post featuring bungy jumping or sky diving from me. But I do like adventure!

We got picked up by River Rats From the hotel and drove about 40 mins to a shed a couple of hundred metres from where we would be starting our raft. We got kitted out in fleece tops, wetsuits, boots, helmets and life jackets. We hopped in the raft on the gravel to run through a quick lesson on what to do on each instruction. We practised synchronised rowing – funny that took the longest to master – and the ‘hold’ sequence, basically grabbing on and ducking down, which would be our go-to position on the scary-uh-I-mean-turbulent parts. Like the 7m waterfall drop. Yikes.

We spent about an hour on the river paddling when we told to and holding on the extra-turbulent parts. Our instructor was good fun and guided us through numerous rapids, down three waterfalls and UP a couple as well (the splash back was good fun!)

I thought the water would be unbearably freezing but with all the paddling and adrenaline plus the fleece and wetsuit it was actually OK!

The biggest deal was the big waterfall! It was at 6.5m when we got to it. There were three rafts in our group and mine was the last, bobbing on the water off to the side, hanging on to bits of leaves and branches while the other two took their turn paddling to the top of the waterfall then tipping slowly over and plunging down. The first raft tumbled down the white water and disappeared before it’s underside popped back up to the top while it’s occupants scattered around it scrambling to right it and get back in. The second raft approached the top with everyone grimmacing with concentration – over it went, disappearing in a flash before popping back up underside at the top. Oh no! Two capsizes! I really started to get uncomfortable with the idea of getting stuck under the raft. But no time to dwell on it, our guide yelled out “PADDLE!” and we gripped our paddles and splashed them haphazardly in the water, getting closer and closer.


Ahhh we’re so close! We reached the top, the adrenaline pumped, we started to tip…


I yanked my hand to the rope at the side while still gripping my paddle. I shoved my body down in the tiny space and scrambled my other hand to find the hold inside the raft. I felt the raft get ripped off the top and accelerate down the drop. My last thought was ‘I am NOT falling out of this raft!’ I tucked my chin just as we entered a washing machine spin of chaos. A jet of cold water slammed up my nostrils into the back of my skull. I swished and swirled and lost all sense of anything til I felt us surge up and I emerged coughing and spluttering. ‘What happened? Did we make it?’ was my first thought as I opened my eyes. The two girls in front were missing, I looked beside me and noticed the four of us in the back were all still wedged in our places, helmets askew and watering streaming out of everywhere. WE MADE IT!

We located our missing crew and pulled one poor girl back into the raft with blood gushing from her hand. A fake nail had been ripped off in her tumble from the raft. I felt so bad for her that she had to get back in and keep paddling, blood running a river down the side of the raft.

But after that waterfall it was all cake. Some more fun rapids before we hopped out and trudged up the road holding our raft above our heads. That was the worst bit actually, I was one of the tallest and the full weight of the raft crushed down on my neck causing something to twinge! Didn’t really appreciate the guide laughing off what could have caused a potential neck injury but apart from that the adventure itself was good fun!

The photo below is not mine (it’s all over the web though I believe original copyright must belong to River Rats) but you have gotten through my long written account of the adventure, you deserve a visual – here’s a pic of the waterfall:


My next Rotorua adventure was off to Hobbiton! The film site of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit where rolling green hills are dotted with colourful front doors built into the hillside, picket fences and vegetable gardens and hobbit-sized laundry flapping on clothes lines. Adventure in a different sense of the word.

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

It was certainly a fun experience, I’m a fan of the books and films so I got a kick out of seeing the attention to detail that went into the set production.

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand

2014 New Zealand (1421)

For your information, this tree is part real tree, part fake. Peter Jackson was so particular about recreating the hobbit village exactly as the books describe that they relocated this tree from somewhere else, stripped all the leaves off and sewed silk leaves onto it’s branches… The attention to detail is serious business.

Hobbiton New Zealand

Hobbiton New Zealand


Hobbiton New Zealand

I’m not sure the $100+ entry is quite justified though it does include a beer, cider or ginger ale in the Green Dragon Inn which is a real treat – roaring fire place, a friendly cat sleeping on the rug, lots of big wooden tables and chairs, a truly cosy and leisurely end to the tour. If you’re a big fan you won’t want to miss out, just cough up the price and go.

Hobbiton New Zealand

There’s so much to do in Rotorua, if I’d had time I would have liked to go to the thermal sulphur baths however I couldn’t fit it in. Next time!

Goodbye Lake Rotorua, I’m off to Lake Taupo in the morning.

Lake Rotorua