Alex: Day of adventure

July 22, 2011

This is part of the historical post series. The day of adventure was Friday the 8th of July. It’s been a while, so excuse me if I gloss over a few details (not that you’ll know, since you weren’t there).

First, you should know that going in to this day I was fully expecting not to enjoy myself. This was somewhere around day four or five of living on two days worth of clothing, and I was getting quite sick of it. Not only that, but I was getting a little exhausted from my constant strained attempts at socialization with my group-mates who were practically still strangers.

The morning of my day of adventure, I picked up my vouchers and was told to pack an extra set of clothes because I would be ogo-ing, and I would get wet. This did not put me in the best of moods. I had so far not been able to enjoy the hot pool at our hostel because I didn’t have any sort of swim suit. I only had the one pair of shorts I wore on the plane and the one pair of jeans I had packed, so the idea of soaking fully one half of my leg-covering clothing was not appealing, but I did it anyway.

The morning began at the Agrodome with the “world famous” (I had never heard of it before) Agrodome Sheep Show. There were a ton of different kinds of sheep. Kate and Mayu (the two girls who were also in my group) got volunteered to milk a cow, and I (against my will) ended up feeding some sort of infant of the sheep or goat family.

After that was the Ogo. An ogo is big inflatable ball, probably ten feet in diameter, with a hollow center in which a person or persons sit and roll down a hill on a predetermined course. In our case the ogo was filled with pleasantly warm water. This doesn’t sound thrilling or terrifying at all I know, but I assure that it is both of those things. It’s a bit like being on a roller-coaster where you cannot see where you are going, it’s all one big fall, and about half way through you start to do flips inside of the car. Exhilarating indeed.

Next we went to Skyline where we took a gondola chair lift up to the top of this mountain that formed the edge of the Rotorua caldera. We took a break to have lunch at this fantastic buffet that had a breathtaking view of Rotorua. After lunch we did a bunch of luge rides down the side of the mountain on these sort of gravity-powered go-carts on this paved path. Also fairly exhilarating.

Finally we had to rush off to Te Puia, which is sort of a touristy highlights center with an active geyser and a Marae and all sorts of stuff. The carvings alone in this place were worth the trip. It was here that I was part of my first (of at least three so far) powhiri, which is a traditional Maori welcoming ceremony of sorts. The group of us then watched a Maori musical performance that was pretty entertaining. One of the performers was glaring at me for an entire song, so I refused to break his eye contact until the song had ended. Not sure why that was significant but it stuck out in my mind.

All of the performers, by the way, had brilliantly done, but clearly quite fake, facial moko. I appreciate the effort, but it did make me feel a little pandered to, a feeling that had been slowly growing, and continued to grow as I spent time in Rotorua. It is a wonderful place to visit, but it is very clearly a tourist town. Something like seventy percent of its population works in the tourism industry, so there is a lot of pandering going on.

After the performance the three of us met up with a guided tour of the rest of the facility. We saw the boiling mud pools and the active geyser, although we did not have time to wait for it to erupt. The tour group made an initial pass through the kiwi sanctuary where they have a mating pair of kiwi. This sanctuary is mostly dark and they don’t allow photography because the birds are nocturnal and they don’t want to risk someone accidentally leaving a flash on, because it disorients the birds. While the tour as a whole was unsuccessful in kiwispotting, the trio of us returned after the end of the tour and saw one of the kiwi strutting back and forth in front of the exhibit glass. More on kiwis in a later post, this one is already running a bit long.

That Friday ended with good ol’ fish and chips, a few good beers and an unexpected level of satisfaction.

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