Thursday, July 13, 2017

New Zealand, Day 5 - Rotorua and Waiotapu

We woke up to rain and the anticipation of rain for the rest of the day. We had plans to explore the town that morning and, although you couldn’t see much in the thick layer of fog, we decided we’d attempt to stick to the plan.

After a trip to the grocery store to restock the kitchen, we stopped by Skyline Rotorua just to “check it out.” One benefit to the weather was the lack of lines, so we decided we’d give the Luge a chance and before we knew it we had boarded a gondola and were on our way up the mountain. I’m sure the views would have been lovely but, again, we couldn’t see much beyond the rain and fog.

At the top we were fitted with helmets and given a quick lesson on how to work the luge cars—and then we were off! Julia rode with me, Joci rode with Jon, and the boys were on their own. We often joke about living in “lawless Hawaii,” but I think New Zealand enjoys even more freedom. Amazingly, no one made us sign a waiver or give our minors permission to whiz down a slick hill in a plastic cart. And I rather enjoyed the lack of rules!

Well, I should say, Julia and I had a grand time! I tried to take a video but it was very blurry and all you can hear is us screaming. Jack, and especially Jude, had a little bit harder time maneuvering their carts. And Jon had to stop a few times to get Jude back on track. But apparently it didn’t quench their thrill because all the kids claim the Luge was one of their favorite activities in New Zealand!

Yes, I lugged my rain boots halfway around the world and I NEVER regretted it!
We didn’t realize that we would have to ride a ski lift back up to the top of the mountain before catching the gondola back down. Our kids have absolutely no experience with ski lifts—and they only sit two people at a time. So we crossed our fingers and sent the boys up the mountain. Julia and I followed behind. And then Jon and Joci, who got banged on the non-bruised side of her head with the lift handle while getting loaded. Ouch!

Not only was Joci’s face banged up but everyone was very wet and cold by this point—these things happen when you’re racing luges and riding ski lifts in the rain. Fortunately, there’s a great cafĂ© at the top of the mountain and we all enjoyed lattes and hot cocoas with [what should have been] an amazing view.

Randomly, there is also a Jelly Belly store at the top of the mountain. We popped in to get the kids a treat and ended up letting Jack talk us into buying Beanboozled. Jack had seen it on a YouTube video and thought it’d make an excellent family activity. Let’s just say he was the only one that enjoyed it! 

The game includes several pair of jelly beans that look identical, but actually taste quite different. For instance, chocolate pudding or dog food or juicy pear or booger. You flick the spinner, choose whatever color jelly bean it lands on, and then pop it in your mouth while everyone is watching … and hope you got the good one! It was funny, I’ll admit, but it only takes one or two rounds of chewing vomit or rotten egg before the game starts to lose it’s lure. Of course, Jack thought it was all such wild fun and couldn’t understand why he was always the only one that wanted to play.

But now I'm getting ahead of myself! After getting our fill of the top of the mountain, we headed back down (where we got suckered into purchasing this photo of our family riding a gondola!) and out to our campervan to enjoy a potty break and lunch—perks of traveling with your toilet and kitchen!

And then we decided to check out Waiotapu Thermal Pools. I gotta be honest, I wasn’t real gung-ho about this excursion. Science isn’t really my thing. But I was pleasantly surprised! It was raining when we arrived, so there was hardly anyone else there (and that’s also why all these pictures are from the iPhone—didn’t want to bring the big camera out in the rain.) But it ended up tapering off right as we started our hike and stayed that way until the end—perfect!

It was a great walk—there are three loops so you can do the short, medium, or long version. We did the long one and the kids did really well. I was surprised at how interested they were in the thermal pools. But they WERE interesting. And there was a lot of variation—different colors, textures, temperatures; some were bubbly, some were stagnant, some were trickling … you get the picture.

Oh, and some (well, most) were really stinky! I’d say we all enjoyed the walk in fresh air but there was nothing fresh about that sulfury atmosphere. And it certainly added a new dimension to getting stuck with the “rotten egg” Jelly Belly later that evening!

We passed through the Gift Shop on our way out and the girls picked out their souvenirs for the trip—stuffed sheep. And while they were trying to find the perfect stuffy, I was over at the cosmetics display testing out all the face moisturizers. And there’s my hot traveling tip of the day: I neglected to bring moisturizer because I was attempting to pack light and it’s not something I use regularly here in humid Hawaii. And I was missing it within the first two days. But conveniently, nearly every place we visited had a gift shop and every gift shop had a display of lotion and cream samplers. And I unashamedly tried out most of them!

That evening we drove down to Lake Taupo for our next campground and had just enough time to stop off at Huka Falls. It’s not so much of a “falls” at it is a rapids. But the sheer force of water was quite impressive! It was raining again at this point so we didn’t do the hike or venture too far—just enough to snap a few pictures and load right back up again.


On this night, we were “camping” at the Lake Taupo Top 10. This was everyone’s favorite holiday park (and also the most expensive.) It’s really too bad it was raining because I think I would have enjoyed it more. It also didn’t help that the kids ran straight to the jumping pillow after we pulled in and returned soaking wet and covered in mud—it would be days before their rain boots would fully dry out again.

Not the best picture, but you get the idea! I'm sure this place is extra-dreamy in summer!

So what made this park so special, you ask? Well, basically one reason and one reason only—the pool. Not just any pool, but a zero-entry heated pool with attached hot tub, outdoor movie screen, and swim-up bar! Madagascar 3 was playing when we arrived and it didn’t take the boys long to figure out they could order their beloved ginger beer WHILE SWIMMING in the pool. The whole “heated” aspect just wasn’t quite enough for me, so I spent the evening either with chattering teeth in the kiddie pool area or dragging the girls to the hot tub to get warmed up again. Nevertheless, it was a pretty cool way to spend the evening and the perfect way to end our fifth day in New Zealand!

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