Rugby, Rafting, and Redwoods in Rotorua

On Friday, we went to our very first rugby game!  Rugby is more than New Zealand’s most popular sport – it’s like a religion.  The real excitement will happen this fall (spring?) when the Rugby World Cup is held here in Auckland!  New Zealand’s national team is called the “All Blacks,” (to which the entire country is devoted) but we attended a “Blues” game, the Auckland team.  Colorful names, eh?

We got our tickets from Base Travel, a backpacker’s travel agency from which we got great deals on our day of surf lessons and bungy jumping.  The deal was for nz$25, you got a ticket, facepaint, round-trip transportation, and two free drink tickets.  Sounded good to us!  We were to show up at Base Travel’s bar at 5pm to collect our tickets, get facepainted, and just generally hyped before the shuttle took us to the stadium at 6:30pm.

On our walk to the bar, we were chatting about why in the wold we had to be there so early, and one guy turned around and told us that it’s because Base Travel wants us to drink their beer.  Oh, and the “two free drink tickets” were for their bar, after the game.

Wha wha??????

So we collected our tickets, gave our free drink tickets to a friend we ran into, and hit up Father Ted’s to drink away our sorrows enjoy a dignified pre-game brewski.

Alex announced that the last thing he wanted to do was to take the “free” bus with a bunch of “dumb American rugby sluts,” so we hoofed it down to Britomart (Auckland’s transportation center) to inquire about the best way to get to the stadium.  There was a super long line at the ticket booth, so for the sake of time, we just looked at some maps and schedules.

We thought we found where to catch a bus.  After hoofing it to the bus stop, we asked the first busdriver if he was going to the stadium.  He said no, but he saw some busses by the Sky Tower that were going.  Okkkk, so we waited for the next bus, and that driver informed us that he wasn’t going there because the roads were closed for the game.  Oh.  Interesting.

It’s 6:20pm at this point (the game starts at 7:35pm), so we dashed back to Base Travel bar to try and catch their shuttle as our last resort.  When we arrived, no one was there.  The bartender told us to go upstairs to the office and ask where to go.  After talking with a lazy, dumb, and profoundly unhelpful receptionist, we found out that their shuttle was leaving from Britomart in five minutes, so we’d better run.

On our way down, Alex further insisted that he would rather pay for a cab than arrive with those rugby sluts, so we didn’t rush.  We missed the bus, obviously, so we stopped into Britomart to wait in line and get a real answer on how to get to Eden Park Stadium.  Inside, we saw several signs and notices about the free train to the stadium, so we quickly confirmed the right rain with an employee and ran to the platform!

We were on!

The train quickly filled to bursting with manly men, families with young kids, and yes, a rugby slut or two, all decked out in their All-Blue-Best.

“Vacation Alex” is very friendly ;), so he started a conversation with two sixth graders and their Dad about the game.  Alex first asked about our seats and how much they would be worth (bad news, they were worth nz$10/15, crud) and how good the seats were.  The Dad said that the new stadium was built for the world cup, so there really aren’t bad seats.  His son chimed in, “well, except for Section V.”  Guess where we were!  Section V, indeed.  The young boys gave us really good information about the rules of the game and such.  They had very detailed, precise, and ready answers to all of our questions.  I was very impressed.  They catch the rugby bug young in this country!

The train ride took forever and but we arrived just as the players were entering the field.  It was extremely exciting with fireworks!

We eventually found our seats, which honestly were not bad, at all.  They were very close to one of the end zones (is that what they call it?), which I guess doesn’t provide the best view, but we were so close it didn’t matter!  It rained a bit on and off, but we had light beers to keep us happy!

The game was wicked fun.  I really got into cheering (with the crowd, since I had a hard time understanding what was happening lol) and when they scored the first goal, I was jumping and screaming!

In the end lost 😦  It was really close and the other team scored in the last few minutes, but the game was so much fun that I didn’t care.  The atmosphere was still really exciting!

We even snagged some discarded flags on the way out!  I’m going to hang it in my room 🙂

Once home, we did as much packing as we could muster and then hit the sack for our trip to Rotorua in the morning!

We caught a 8am bus to Rotorua, and I actually managed to get some work done before we arrived in town at around noon.  After checking into our hostel

(which was a really nice YHA, of course!) we hit up the Fat Dog for lunch, a cafe that sounded super cute in the Lonely Planet.

And of course, it was!  (Honestly, before you travel ANYWHERE, buy the corresponding Lonely Planet!  It’s been our guiding light!)

I ordered a pumpkin, hummus, feta, sundried tomato, and roasted capsicum panini.

It came with a delicious beetroot spiral (beets are the only food I don’t like, but I love them when they are shredded!)  The panini was perfectly compact (don’t you love a clean sandwich!) and really really tasty.  I also got a soy flat white (basically a Kiwi version of a latte) for an extra boost of energy.

I was feeling more tired than I was expecting, which I was a bit worried about – I wanted to be alert and excited for the weekend ahead!  I usually can stay out late and have an exciting (early) next day with no problems…either I’m out of practice or I’m getting old!  I hope it’s the former!

We had originally planned to go Zorbing, a New Zealand-born activity where you sit inside a big rubber ball and roll down a hill.  But, Alex wasn’t that excited about it, so instead we found something we would all like: Te Puia.

Te Puia, a thermal national reserve and sacred Maori area with with gueysers, hot pools, and mudpools.

Everything smelled like sulfur which only added to the ambiance!  We saw one very large geyser, which erupted a couple of times, shooting out vapor, steam, and water.  Pretty exciting and a fascinating sight.

The mudpools were my favorite part.  They were really icky looking and made gross bubbling sounds, but it was just plain awesome.  (Note: Alex and Hannah both are really into photography, so while they busy themselves with taking artsy photos, I do what I do best: take scenic Facebook shots! I got several good ones, too ;))

The thermal springs looked like they would be a relaxing, natural hot tub, but apparently they are way way way to hot for that!  So I resisted jumping in 😉

We opted not to take a tour so that we could take out time to see what we wanted to see, but I felt like I could have learned more about the science, history, and Maori significance.  But I just reveled in the sights, and I was happy!

Another highlight was the Kiwi house.  These Kiwi habitats allow normal people to observe the nocturnal, endangered indigenous birds in real life!  We even saw TWO Kiwis!  One Kiwi bum and another one walking along!  They sort of look like really fat, hairy sandpipers with really long beaks.  Almost chickenlike!  They are adorable as anything and I’m thrilled I got to see the iconic bird in real life 🙂

After Te Puia, we headed back to the hostel to change out of our outdoorsy attire into something a little more pub-appropriate.  We hit up a historic pub we’d read about in the Lonely Planet called the Pig and Whistle for dinner and drinks.

We shared a garlic pizza, and I went with the vegetarian nachos for my meal!

I have been craving Mexican food like mad and was SUPER satisfied.  Who doesn’t love chips under heaps of cheese and beans, with guac on the side????  I also enjoyed the house beer, their very own “Swine Lager” which was really crisp.  I quite liked it!

We had eyed some good sweets at the Fat Dog, so we went back after the pub for dessert. Hannah and I shared a piece of carrot cake (with fresh whipped cream!) and a chocolate milkshake.

It felt good to eat and eat and eat (Alex is a bad influence lol), but I ended up with a tummy ache. 😦 We took a long walk along the lake front to try and settle our stomachs before passing out in the hostel before 10pm.

In the morning, we had plans to go white water rafting!  Honestly, I was terrified because this company, Kaituna Cascades, boasts the largest waterfall (6 METERS!) you can commercially raft…in the world.  Crikey.  I like to be strapped in when I do thrilling things, so I was super nervous of falling out and drowning.  A fair concern, right?  But, it’s pretty legendary, so basically, I had to do it.

The rafting people made me feel very comfortable, they explained everything really well.  They explained how to row and how to get down into the waterfalling position, and what to do if we capsized or you fell out.  Even more reassuring, there was a person kayaking along with us for safety, so I felt as comfortable as someone quivering with fear can be.

We got dressed in our gear, wet suit, shoes, and a fleece (for warmth) and then drove out to the river and got right to it!  Even though Alex constantly teased me about pushing me out, once I learned where to hold on and wedge your feet in for safety, I felt like it would be pretty easy to stay on.

The rapids were quite exciting!  I had fun, but I was also pretty scared.  I was happy that we had two guides, I felt doubly safe, and they both talked us through everything, which helped me remain calm.  They were also fun and funny, which kept me smiling!

Then, the climax of the trip: the 6-meter waterfall!  There was no turning back, so I had no choice but to try and enjoy it!

See?!?!? We almost flipped over!!!!!

The best part was looking back at the waterfall. I felt pretty hardcore!  And relieved to be alive, lol.   I felt pretty invincible after the waterfall, though, and I even jumped in at one point!  Everyone else was going for a swim, and I wanted no regrets.

Everyone was being really nice and comforting about how scared I was, until we got to the last stretch for some particularly exciting rapids.  Basically, I got peer pressured into sitting in the front.  I knew they were right when they coaxed, “come on, you can do it,” and I’m so glad I did.  Look how much fun I was having after the initial insecurity!

(Thanks, Alex, for buying the photo package and sharing!)

When we were talking about rafting a few days previous, I was debating taking my money to a spa instead while they did wild and crazy things on the river, but I’m so glad I went with them.  I’ll never forget it!

We had originally planned to go rafting midday, but since it got rescheduled to the morning, we had the entire afternoon free.  We ended up going to the Redwood forest.  Yep, New Zealand even has a Redwood forest!

The redwoods were brought to New Zealand for timber by the settlers. You know how the really tall ones in California are hundreds and hundreds of years old?

Yeah, well, these bad boys are just over 100 years old.  Something about the rich volcanic soil in New Zealand makes them grow quite rapidly.

I had an ice cream bar to curb my hunger until lunchtime!  We took a beautiful, leisurely walk and marveled at the sheer size, stunning beauty, and young age of the trees.

After our walk, we went to a rustic but quality place nearby called “The Office” for lunch.

I had quite a delicious meal of a warm ricotta and spinach roll, plus a tasty broccoli and cashew salad.

We got back into town and had some time to kill before our bus, so we went back to the Pig and Whistle for a (half) pint and even some curly Pig Tail chips for the novelty of it 😉

We completely vegged out while watching the muted New Zealand sports network – all about the Netball (sort of like girl’s basketball) finals and a rugby game!  A typical afternoon in a New Zealand pub.

Our bus ride home was swell as well!  They even played a movie! It’s called the World’s Fastest Indian, and I highly recommend it (add it to your queue, Mom and Dad!)  Starring Anthony Hopkins, it is about an old Kiwi man, Burt Munro, who travels to America to set the land-speed world record on his old motorcycle.  It’s really inspirational and funny – so cute to see a Kiwi man in America as he drives on the wrong side of the world and gets chased by snakes (New Zealand has no snakes).  He also makes friends with a tranny and when she informs him that she is a really a man, he says, “I thought there was something strange about you, but you’re still a sweetheart!”  It was great entertainment.  And a great, relaxing way to end the fun weekend 🙂

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5 Comments

Filed under Life, New Zealand, Travel

5 responses to “Rugby, Rafting, and Redwoods in Rotorua

  1. Pingback: Rugby, Rafting, and Redwoods in Rotorua | Namaste Everyday | Today Headlines

  2. Miranda

    Looks like you had a great time in Rotorua! I know it well from taking all my foreign visitors there 🙂 I can’t believe you went white-water rafting in MAY! Brave much – actually I am just a princess and I wouldn’t want to do it while the water was cold, ha. If you are planning a trip back to Waitomo you should go black water rafting!!! I have always wanted to do that but I’m scared of eels – we used to live by a river and had this little bay we cleared of weeds and swam in, and our neighbour was swimming with us one day and got bitten on the ankle. That is not a logical fear I know. And my grandparents have a beach house in the Marlborough Sounds (just out of Picton) and they have these indestructible eels that live under the boat house and you can’t swim near it. I’m disgusted just writing about this…

    And your first rugby game! Did you love it?? I grew up on a solid diet of rugby – my dad was obsessed – and it is not as big here in Australia as it is in NZ. I miss it 😦 Luckily I have some friends who like it as much as me, but the team based in Perth is shit and it’s not worth the $$ to go to the games. There is nothing quite like a well-played game of rugby 🙂

    PS: I only write this cause you have written about it in the past, but your skin is looking great in these pictures! I used to suffer terribly from acne too, so I feel your pain.

  3. I love this post! Your words and pictures tell a great story. To me, it sounds like a wonderful vacation. I especially like the rafting photos–so colorful. You sound like a really fun person.

    🙂 Marion

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