The interesting smell that’s suddenly coming through the windows on the bus confirms that we’ve arrived in Rotorua. (They weren’t messing about giving it the nickname Sulphur City, bloody hell). We take a deep breath, get off the bus, and speed walk to our hostel, which turns out to have a cheap bar, hot tub, and free food. *cries*
After we’ve checked in, we go to our room to dump our bags when something strange happens. We walk in, say hello to everyone, and half the room responds in a very strong Northern accent. At first I wonder if I’ve just imagined it, but further conversation confirms that despite being on the other side of the world the majority of our roommates are actually from the North of England. We start to have a big group chat, and our regional accents do that thing where they get stronger when you meet someone from your hometown. The two American girls leave the room, and I wonder if it’s because they can’t understand what we’re saying anymore. Either that or they’re not interested in hearing about Dave’s travel agent in Stockport.
(The Northern theme continues when I spot this in a random local shop – what are the chances?! God, I miss tea.)
The next morning we’re up early for our first activity of the day, parasailing on the lake. We’re both feeling quite groggy and tired, but it turns out the best alarm clock in the whole world is being launched up into the air over a huge body of water in a harness that took a questionable amount of time to put on. We fly across the lake for about 30 minutes before being brought back down to water, where we have to leap onto a high speed jet that will take us back to land. (I thought I was either going to die or become a viral internet video during that bit.)
Later that day we go on a group trip to a Maori Village experience, where you get to experience life in a Maori Village. We head to the starting point to get picked up and the bus driver gives us some ground rules on the way, such as what to do/what not to do in the village, as well as some key phrases to use when we’re there. When we arrive, the Maori people hold us a welcoming ceremony, which involves a lot of traditional dancing and chanting. (During the ceremony you aren’t allowed to smile because it can look offensive, so just to be safe I go the other way and frown so consistently throughout the whole thing that it probably looks like I’m having a horrible time.) Afterwards they take us through different sections of the village where we play games, eat food, and watch a traditional dance performance. (It was so fun and probably one of my highlights of New Zealand, and I’m not just saying that because there was a buffet included.)
The next day we go to Hobbiton, the movie set from The Lord of the Rings – a film which I now realise I should definitely have watched again before coming here. Our tour guide shows us around the set, telling us loads of trivia and behind the scenes stuff along the way, before we finish with a pint in the Green Dragon (AKA Frodo’s local).
After that we go to our final activity in Rotorua, horse riding. We get to the riding centre, join our group, and are told to stand in a line so that we can be matched up with a horse. Naturally, I get given the most fidgety, agitated, and confused-looking one I’ve ever seen in my life. While the rest of the group are sitting calmly on their horses that are waiting patiently in the paddock to be led out by the tour leader, mine is sporadically wandering off in random directions and generally looking quite confused about what’s going on. A bit like me in any other situation. We eventually get going and ride uphill until we get to the top and can see an amazing 360 degree view of Rotorua and beyond. I gaze at the view for a while completely in awe, until the horse directly in front of me marks the occasion by suddenly doing a massive shit.
After that we pick up our bags, hop on a bus to Auckland, and spend the night in a strange and windowless hostel room before flying to Thailand the next day to start our Asian leg of the trip.