New Zealand Travelogue – Monday, 12th October 2015

Soundtrack: Take Me To Church, by Hozier

Google Fit stats Saturday:

  • Activity: 1 hour 21 minutes
  • Distance: 2.9 km
  • Calories: 696
  • Steps: 6,882

Google Fit stats Sunday:

  • Activity: 1 hour 33 minutes
  • Distance: 4.5 km
  • Calories: 803
  • Steps: 8,105

Another airport. We're checked in for our flight from Rotorua to Christchurch. It'll be our last flight for a while, something for which we are both very grateful.

I managed to catch some of the New Zealand rugby game. It was on at 7:30 in the morning, but y’know, jetlag and all that meant we were awake anyway. The All Blacks seem to be on scary form, as usual. Wonder if there’ll be an Ireland - New Zealand game while I’m here.

Saturday was another family day, this time for SWMBO's side of the family. Her uncle B moved out here many years ago, and has brought up his family here. I met B a few years ago but this is the first time I met the others.

SWMBO, B and me (looking like I could chew an apple through a tennis racquet)

SWMBO had talked about K, how she had lived in Norn Iron for a year when the whole family moved back, how she and J had come over to travel for a while when they were older, but I didn't know what to expect. I was even more surprised when I heard they were bringing their kids over to see us too.

First up, we went to Skyline. It’s a gondola/cable-car system to take you up to the top of the hill that overlooks Rotorua.

Family on Rotorua Skyline gondola
I suspect digital fakery, since the gondola was in the terminal when they took the picture

The gondola rides are a bit scary. I kept thinking of Where Eagles Dare. Time to confront that fear again.

(Looking up) ‘Hold me!’

(Looking down) ‘No, seriously, hold me!’

Everyone else was, of course, absolutely fine.

They also have a pretty cool ride up there - The Luge:

It’s more fun than it looks here

Safety first! (No, the luge didn’t damage my teeth. They’re always like that.)

It’s basically a simple gravity-powered cart. You get a brake and handlebars to steer and that’s it. ‘Kids’ ride!’ you say? I say ‘Yeah, probably’ but it was still a lot of fun. We all had a go. It turns out SWMBO’s uncle B is a bit manic on the luge. He was the biggest kid of all.

And every time you get to the bottom of the luge, you get to ride a ski-lift kind of thing to the top again.

What was that about confronting fears?

Yes, it turns out there’s a lot of potential for fear-confronting over here.

Lunch portions were huge. SWMBO and I both looked at the picture of what we were ordering and were gobsmacked when what we got was three times the size. I wonder if this is a general New Zealand thing.

What do you mean, ‘cheesey’?

Right next to the base of Skyline there’s a small wildlife park called Rainbow Springs. It wasn’t too late in the afternoon so we went there too. There was a, let’s call it a ‘minor tussle’ over paying entrance here. I feel bad about these guys coming to Rotorua to show us around so I really didn’t want them to have to pay as well. B was, well, quite insistent. Cue a scene the person taking the money described as ‘from The Hunger Games’. In the end I gave in. My excuse is that I didn’t think I could win without hurting him.

They have all sorts of native New Zealand wildlife - parrots, parakeets, and a couple of kiwis. And a very ugly fish:

A very ugly fish

While we were watching, this fish (or one of its brethren) attacked a duck that landed on his pool. I’ve never seen a fish attack a duck before. I’m still pretty surprised about it. I felt sorry for the duck.

It was getting near closing time when we got to the kiwi enclosure. The enclosure is kept dark during the day, so you can watch the nocturnal kiwis going about doing kiwi things without having to come along in the middle of the night. While we were in the enclosure, they said they were going to bring the lights up to simulate daytime and let the kiwis know it was time to go to sleep. This was great (‘fentestic’?) and we were able to get a much clearer view of the kiwis than we otherwise would have. Lucky timing!

After that, we went on the Big Splash ride.

Big Splash ride at Rainbow Springs, Rotorua (correct orientation)
Everyone else looks like they’re having fun. I look in abject terror.

We got wet. Some of us got wetter than others.

I may have looked worse, but it’s my camera!

As well as the drenching, B lost his cap. This was apparently a Big Deal - the hat was a gift. We couldn’t find the cap, even though we knew where it came off, and B was pretty inconsolable. After stopping the ride a couple of times and poking things with a pole the staff were able to find and retrieve the cap, with only a moderate amount of duck poo smeared into it. Happy B!

B’s trousers were a little damp from the ride too, but the sun coming through the window in the cafe was warm so he stood up on the chair to angle his trousers at the sunbeam. Then he moved the trousers a little to encourage drying.

Put simply, he stood on the chair and twerked at the window.

The lady at the table outside the window got up and left.

B, who was facing the other way to twerk at the window, was oblivious to all this.

After that we got a lift back to our motel and said our goodbyes. Had a great day with them all - the kids were little angels the whole day, it was the grown ups that were trouble... OK, let me be honest here – it was me and B that were trouble.

Rotorua has a street they call Eat Street, where there are a lot of bars and restaurants. SWMBO picked a place (after some considerable research over the previous month, I suspect) Atticus Finch. The food was excellent, and they had a nice range of cocktails. It seemed to me a glaring omission that they didn’t have a cocktail called ‘Tequila Mockingbird’. I feel like I should start a campaign to get them to create such a cocktail and add it to their list.

Atticus Finch’s menu is crying out for a Tequila Mockingbird, isn’t it?

Then it was back to the motel, a short dip in the hot tub, then bed.

Sunday arrived and it was the first day in a while where we had no travel scheduled and no relatives to see. A day off and a lie-in!

And then the hot tub again.

I get sore feet. Plantar fasciitis is the official term, but really for me it just means my feet get sore. Anyway, the regular hot baths in Rotorua mineral water seems to really help ease the pain. Long may that continue - I reckon SWMBO will have me walking a fair bit.

In absence of anything planned, we took a taxi out to the Maori village Whakarewarewa. I was a bit worried about this. It would be easy to see this ‘living village’ as a display to point and laugh at, or something put on just to get the tourists in. I was relieved when it didn’t feel like that at all. It does come across just as they say - a living Maori village, surrounded by geothermal features, that you get to walk around and ask questions about.

Oh, just a geothermal vent letting off steam next to the buildings

The buildings really are separated by lots of geothermal features. They said they can’t bury bodies in the village because if they dig 3 feet below the surface the geothermal activity can be too much.

Ooh, get him, taking a fancy panorama with his phone

You can take a tour of the village with a guide and get some corn cooked in the geothermal steam. We took the tour (it was good). We didn’t get any corn. That bit had closed by the time we were done asking questions and walking around. Ah well.

I learned a bit about the Maori language here too. The letter ‘r’ is rolled. (I was told to roll it like I was a kid pretending I was shooting a machine gun.) I was surprised the first time I heard Rotorua pronounced Rrrotorrrua. The ‘wh’ combination is pronounced as an ‘f’. So, Whakarewarewa is (I believe) pronounced like Faka Rrrewa Rrrewa.

I didn’t know whether to generally pronounce words with the ‘r’s with the rolling or not. It’d be pretty clear I was new at it if I tried, but would ballsing it up be worse than not trying? And should it depend on who I’m speaking to? Generally I aimed for what I figured was the least offensive option for the person I was speaking to. I hope I got it right.

Korotiotio means ‘grumpy old man’. Make up your own joke here.

While we’re on the subject of language, people here - in Rrrotorrrua, not just Whakarewarewa - use the word ‘geothermal’ as a noun. I guess when they talk about it so much it’s easier to shorten ‘the geothermal activity’ and ‘the geothermal feature’ to just ‘the geothermal’. Seemed odd to me at first but I got used to it.

Just look at those geothermals

There was a bit of a show put on by the villagers as well, all in traditional Maori costumes. I have an easier time with this kind of thing, given how often diddly-dee music is played back home. And it was fun. Some nice performances, some nice singing.

And then they did the haka.

And it was scary.

I can see why they did it to terrify the enemy (or their opponents, in the case of the All Blacks). It is quite intimidating to be on the other end of it.

Each of the moves, each of the actions has a meaning, so the wide eyes and the tongue are significant. Overall it’s a challenge, and Kerry (the ‘fentestic’ guide) said yesterday that doing the haka at games was the All Blacks’ way of honouring the opposing team, of saying they were a worthy challenge. I like that idea, but it seems simpler to say it’s designed to scare the shit out of you. It did make me wonder why they were allowed to do it in tournaments when other teams don’t do anything similar.

Then I started wondering what the Ireland team could do, to intimidate the other team or to respond to the haka. All I could come up with was them dropping their shorts and mooning the other team. I don’t think that would go down well. (This is why I’m not in charge of any sports teams. Well, that and my lack of ability.)

This guy also sang an incredible version of Pokarekare Ana

After the haka, they sang Pokarekare Ana, a lovely tune I first heard on the end credits of Billy Connolly’s World Tour Of New Zealand. This version was slower, more dramatic, and had Significant Hand Movements. (I have no idea what the Significant Hand Movements signified.)

Then we wandered around looking at more geothermals. (That still doesn’t sound right to me.)

I have no recollection of taking this photo

They have one big geyser called Pohutu that erupts regularly, and - strangely, I think - the smaller Prince of Wales Feathers geyser beside it always erupt first. So you can tell when there’s going to be big eruption soon just by watching the smaller one. Handy.

Among all the geothermals SWMBO noticed a small pond with a whirlpool of sorts in it. It seemed natural, and I’m not sure where the water was going, but it was interesting. People poo-poo the idea of the Coriolis effect having much to do with the direction the vortex swirls in such small systems so I figured this would be proof.

Here comes the science bit:

The Coriolis Effect is the observed curved path of moving objects relative to the surface of the Earth. Hurricanes are good visual examples. Hurricane air flow (winds) moves counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere and clockwise in the southern hemisphere. This is due to the rotation of the Earth.

According to that, the swirl in the vortex due to the Coriolis effect should be clockwise here in New Zealand. Here’s the (unedited) video of the vortex swirling anti-clockwise, just to prove to me that the Coriolis effect wasn’t at work here.

After all that Whakarewarewa-ing we headed back into Rotorua. Had a beer or two in Brew where a girl duo called ‘Aves’ were performing. Just two girls and an acoustic guitar, but they had a very good sound and presence. They did a kickass version of Take Me To Church. I find the verses in that song to be hard going, a bit of a plod to get through before the great chorus, but Aves carried it off well.

‘What are you looking at? You never seen a black swan before?’

Finished off with a dander down to the waterfront to see the black swans again, before back to the motel for another dip in the hot tub and bed.

Monday morning was my last chance to use the hot tub, so I did. That makes it 6 times I’ve used it - every morning and evening we’ve been in Rotorua. Feet certainly feel much better for it. I don’t know if it’s just the heat or if the minerals have anything to do with it, but I’m happy that my feet are happy.

Then we packed up and headed for the airport for the flight to Christchurch.

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All the New Zealand Travelogue entries

Here are all the New Zealand 2015 Travelogue entries, in order Tuesday, 6th October 2015 – Travel to Kuala Lumpur Thursday, 8th October 2015 – Kuala Lumpur Saturday, 10th October 2015 – Arriving in Rotorua Monday, 12th October 2015 – Family and Whakarew...
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