Rotorua, New Zealand 2010 – Day 15


Heading out of Auckland today and we wanted to rent a car to continue our journey to Rotorua and area. We got picked up by the car rental van. The guy was a total jerk and we definitely didn’t vibe with him. Ill refer to him as jerk. Anyways, we were told terms beforehand which couldn’t be offered for example parking. We will be driving back on the 12th as our flight is on the 13th at 7AM meaning we need to check in at 5AM. The jerk put us through a lot but luckily there was a customer who had just returned a car and was getting dropped off at the airport so we asked to be dropped off at the airport where we can rent a car for the rest of our trip and also drop off the car anytime. We rented with Europcar and prices were a little higher because we are “young drivers” under 25 and picked up a Hyundai Gatz. We drove straight to Rotorua as this was a hitch in our day with the jerk who took away 3 more hours than we would’ve liked.

GPS is our friend. I highly recommend making sure your rental has GPS included. Andrew was driving and well… I hate how he drives in toronto… Add new zealand driving on top of that…. Great… but I get to drive tomorrow! New Zealand/Auckland feels like a mixture of Pasadena/NYC filled with the hustle and bustle but its not crazy busy as NYC is. The streets especially residential are filled with slopes similar to Pasadena terrain. Getting on the highway from Auckland going towards Rotorua, the hills reminded me of LA like the the route heading up to Golden Oaks Ranch.

3 hours later we arrived into Rotorua and its got a very distinctive smell of rotten eggs due to all of the geothermal sulphurous gases. We checked into our hostel Crash Palace Backpackers (1271 Hinemaru Street) and basically strolled the town or surrounding streets. Can I tell you how dead it was… Mind you it’s Mothers day and a Sunday. The streets were empty and very much like Ottawa at 8PM.

We booked a Mitai (Mitai Maori Village – 196 Fairy Springs Rd) and Kiwi (Rainbow Springs) encounters upgrade for tonight and it was not let down. The Mitai was run by one family for generations but now is run by multiple families. They also called themselves the Maori. Aoeteroa – land of the long white cloud. We went to Mitai to enjoy a ceremonial hangi dinner where we participated in the burying lamb chicken potatoes and sweet potatoes in the earth where the heat would slow cook it making everything perfect. As we waited for the food to cook, we were led down to a river where a canoe arrived with men welding torches appearing then led us to a stage where they performed a cultural piece for us. In this performance, they showed us their traditional weapons, instruments, fighting techniques, training, music and games – well done!

They also explained the meaning behind the moko tattooing of birds. The story begins with a god and goddess in a quarrel where the god strikes his wife. The wife runs away and the man goes after her. On his adventure, he comes upon another god who has a beautiful moko tattoo on his face. He befriends him and asks him to give it to him as well. That man decides that he will only if he gives him his bird – owl, parrot, bat and kiwi in return for a custom/unique design. On the women, they have owls tattooed on their chin as they are the protectors. The males have bats on their foreheads with wings spanning over their temples. The face represents a home where the bat represents intelligence and wisdom. By doing so, the bat is historically placed in the very top of the house. The next bird they present on the face is that of a parrot being the watchers. They would place the parrot on the windowsill. the parrot’s eyes become the person’s eyes thus seeing both sides of the beak on their nose. The kiwi; the flightless bird remains on the ground, protecting the home by eating intruders. The beak and head of the kiwi is tattooed around the mouth. On the left hand side is the design of the mother clan (intelligence, calmness, femininity) and the right the father clan (rage, anger, power, masculinity). Yin and yang.

After a wonderful dinner and show, we went on a 45 minute tour at Rainbow Springs to see the kiwis at night and other animals. The Kiwi’s are nocturnal with very sensitive hearing and sight. The park had 4 on site and we would catch glimpse of them at the back of their cage.

Rotorua is the largest tourist area in New Zealand and it thrives off of that. This town is in it’s down season at the moment because its fall and snow hasn’t fallen just yet.

Tongariro National Park tomorrow!

Cairns, Australia 2010 – Day 7 & 8


We went to Kuranda via SkyRail Rainforest Cableway for a full day experience – Tjapukai Aboriginal Experience, Scenic Skyrail ($103.50CAD), Koala Gardens and Bird World ($28CAD). We got picked up from Cairns Central and headed to the Skyrail Station.

Our first stop was the Tjapukai experience from local aboriginals that inhabited this area/village. We got to throw with the aboriginal spear thrower and also throw boomerangs. The spear would be held in the throwing stick holder where the spear is held by a hook before it is launched. I threw it past the targets. The guy that was teaching us boomerang said that he didn’t expect me to have so much power as I threw the boomerang too hard. You need to throw at 1 O’Clock for the perfect throw to return. The boomerangs were actually used as weapons to hunt their prey. I bought a plain boomerang so I can throw it back home while Andrew bought a nicer looking one for the shelf. They did a little performance for us about their culture and about the animals and performed a bit of didgeridoo for us.

We then hopped on the Skyrail and went straight up to the top of the rail line (well a 40min ride) after bungee jumping, heights aren’t really too bad except for the rickety parts when the gondola passes the towers. We decided to B line past the towers to Kuranda Village that was filled with multiple arts and crafts shops. The locals seem to live off the tourism. We decided to eat lunch in this area and I finally was able to grab myself a Crocodile Pie! The taste is similar to chicken but with the texture of fish. I also picked up some homemade salt water taffy that was made in front of us.

We made our way to the Koala park. You can carry a koala and take a photo with one but for 16AUD I felt it wasn’t worth it and a little cheesy but I did however get some good shots myself of them! Did you know that there are different rules on touching koalas depending on what state in Australia you are in. In Cairns because it is so hot, the koalas are smaller in size thus the laws allow you to be able to handle a koala however if in Melbourne, you need to stay at least 10 meters away from a Koala because they are larger and their claws could kill you.  Koalas are so weird looking but cute nonetheless.

Nearby, we were able to go into the area where the wallabies and kangaroos were and we fed them. There was one kangaroo that was a little aggressive and grabbed me with their claws but no bloodshed but there there was one that was really gentle. The wallabies are my favourite because they are so tiny, cute and gentle. Andrew was actually really excited to goto Birdworld and I was greeted with a bird that said hello. Trying to train it to say Andrew didn’t quite work though.

We then headed back down on the skyrail to visit the stops along the way. We saw the Barron Falls where we walked through some rainforest and had some beautiful views. Second stop was Red Peak – the highest point on the Skyrail with some huge spiders and trees. There isn’t too much to do in the city so we called it a early night.


Jungle surfing is in Cape Tribulation which is about 2 hours away from here. We decided to skip renting a car to make the 2 hour trek there and back for a 2 hour activity. Bad decision. We ended up leaving our room at 9am-ish and made our way to DFO (direct factory outlet) which was a 20-30 min walk. Both Andrew and myself aren’t big shoppers but that place was very unexciting and didn’t have anything that we liked. We decided to come back to Central Cairns Mall and roamed separately.Didn’t end up buying anything besides a nice lychee gelato and watched bats flying over me around 3PM.

If we knew earlier that Cairns doesn’t have much to do, we would’ve taken a day from Cairns and spent it in Melbourne instead but you live and learn. Melbourne tomorrow!