Day Forty-Two & Forty-Three – Rotorua

Having had our fill of Waitomo’s Caves, we headed to Rotorua which was about 2 hours away. Rotorua is basically the ‘Queenstown’ of the North Island and the hub for a great number of activities such as zorbing and bungee jumping etc. We had other plans! I’d seen an advert for a Canopy Tour, which is basically zip-lining through the Forest. Sounded good, but we couldn’t do it until the following day, so on arrival we did our usual orientation walk of the town and had some lunch.
The first thing you notice about Rotorua is it smells….a lot. The reason being is that it’s built on a geothermal hotspot and so there are lots of thermal pools dotted around giving off sulphureous odour.
By evening we are both pretty tired but decide to head to the cinema – Laura chose the film (Snatched), it was pretty terrible by all accounts but it made us giggle a bit. At least it wasn’t that long!
The following morning we got up early and waited for our pick up to the Canopy Tour and one of the tour guides was our driver and first impressions were good. He was a local, and knew lots about the area but not only that, he was funny and clearly loved his job. We were in for some fun.
This was only reinforced when we met the other guide, who again was a local and again, very passionate about the forest but also had a brilliant sense of humor. These two could have their own comedy show!
Joining us on the tour was a group of American students and their professor.
We were kitted up with harnesses, jackets and gloves and bussed up into the forest and immediately I was struck by how beautiful and peaceful it was. A short trek through the forest and meeting a tiny forest Robin along the way and hand-feeding it, we got to the first platform and the first zip-line, which went our across the valley. This was a tame introduction for what was to come. Over the next couple of hours we were treated to a number of zip lines and swing bridges through the upper canopy of the forest and entertained and informed by our guides. Sadly, due to human interference the native bird populations have been decimated, mainly due to the introduction of predators such as possum, weasels and rats. Before humans reached NZ shores, the birds had little or no predators and so were mainly ground-feeding, so when we brought the predators in, the birds had no chance. Luckily, money from the tours and other fund-raising activities has meant that this reserve is seeing a resurgence of life, through a number of increasingly clever methods of trapping the predators, although sadly not in time to prevent the extinction of several endemic bird and reptile species.
The rest of the day was spent wandering around town and looking at the various thermal pools, feeling slightly amazed that with the exception of some rudimentary barriers, there is nothing stopping anyone from jumping in – not that you’d want to, it’d be pretty fatal, but that’s kind of my point. In the UK we are so used to being protected from everything that to come here and see something so dangerous just meters from a kids playground for instance is eye-opening and also refreshing. People here take responsibility for themselves and don’t seem to rely on others to ‘protect’ them, having talked to some of the guides in the tourism industry whilst we’ve been here though does suggest that this is changing.

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