2 July 2010:
On Friday, we had an “Adventure Day” where we had free time to do one of Rotorua’s many activities.I went white water rafting on the Kaituna (translates to fish food) River. We bundled up in fleece, thick wet suits, life vests, booties, and helmets to make the journey downstream and over the Tutea Falls, the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world. It was seven meters (about 21 feet), and the boat completely disappears under the water as you careen over the falls, along with the 12-15 tons of water that rush by each second. Luckily, we bobbed back up like a buoy and didn’t tip!
Afterward, a group of us went to the Polynesians spas on the edge of the lake where we got to enjoy seven naturally heated mineral water pools, the warmest of which was 41-42 degrees Celsius (or 106-108 degrees Fahrenheit).. isn’t that illegal in the U.S.?
That night we walked to town to celebrate one of the guy's birthdays and had fun at the Lava Bar, which we had visited a previous night when we ventured into town for dinner at a Mongolian buffet and to listen to live music.
3 July 2010:
Saturday, we got to go caving at Waitomo (about 2-3 hrs away)! I tackled St. Ben’s, which is a dry cave, full of spectacular rock formations. First, after donning verrry attractive jumpsuits and double checking our harnesses (don’t worry mom ;) ) we abseiled downward through a tiny shaft to reach the cave floor, then climbed through caverns full of amazing stalactites, stalagmites, and what they call “cave bacon,” “angels’ wings,” or “cave curtains,” that look like the latter: large curtains of solidified limestone that hang from the ceiling, until reaching the adventure’s namesake: St. Benedict’s cavern.
Fun fact: it takes 100 years for just ONE cubic centimeter of a stalactite or stalagmite to form!
There, we were instructed to switch off our headlamps and plunge into complete darkness. It is a very strange feeling. Without any light, no matter how hard they strain, your eyes simply cannot adjust to the darkness. I found myself closing my eyes because it felt more normal than the utter blackness. Then, flying through the darkness, not knowing when it will stop, we took the flying fox/zip line through the cavern! Three hours later, we emerged from the cave to bright sunlight. You know you are approaching the entrance, when you see huge grasshopper/cricket-type bugs (called wetas) littering the ceiling and walls. Ah!
For our final night, we just stayed at the hostel’s bar/lounge for some drinks and a karaoke contest. Our amazing coordinator (Cappy, a hilarious and nice Maori man) was struggling to get any takers on the whole singing thing, so when Taylor Swift’s “Love Story” came on, I decided to help him out. I think I got extra points for going first, but ended up tying for 1st with a pair who did Greese’s “Summer Nights” and won in a sing-off with Katy Perry’s “Wakin’ Up in Vegas.” Only bummer was that the $30 dollar bar tab I won was only good for that night, seeing as our bus left early the next morning, so I bought everyone a shout (round of drinks)!