Tuesday, 24 January 2012
Dear North Island,
I'm very sorry that I ever doubted you. You were awesome. I hope you'll have us back some time.
I have to admit that we didn't do quite as much mud-pool viewing as we probably should have given where we were but I guess we were pretty busy on the doing-stuff-activities rather than the looking-at-stuff things. We did do a quick (free) stop in a park in Rotorua to check out some boiling mud pools. Jon reckons it took him hours to recover from the burning tyre type smell though so we didn't go to the really touristy ones where there are geysers and pink pools and all that stuff. next time.
I can only comment on the riding based on my current ability and I have to say that I really wished I had more skills (and riding fitness ) so I could enjoy it more and worry less. The trails didn't have many obstacles as such (like logs or rocks to go over) but they were all about fast and sharp corners, drop-offs, steep pinches and lots of flow. The track surface generally beautifully smooth yet soft (if you fell) at the same time - 'Hero Dirt' apparently. I found that I was comfortable on the tracks rated 'easy' but on the intermediate ones I had the odd moment where I felt out of my depth so I couldn't hoon through them the first time round as I didn't know if was going to find myself at the top of a 1/2 metre drop off, or attempting an impossible corner or something.. - obviously as I rode a track for the second time I got more confidence but there were still tricky bits for me such as tight steep turns with tree-roots creating drop-offs right before them. There's no doubt that the scenery was great, and I only rode 1/3 or less of the trails I recon.
Jonno went out every day for as long as we let him (generally 2-3 hours) and he loved it. Paul declared it the best area ever after about 2 minutes of riding and each day they discovered new 'favourite' tracks. The only thing I recon they could improve on the tracks would be to do what Woodhill have done and create some linked routes so that if you are new to the area you can just follow one set of signs to get out for a great ride and not have to stop every few minutes to work out where the heck you are and what trail to take next.. Luckily though we did have 4 days of riding to get an idea of the lay of the land. There is lot of linking one trail to the next by 4wd tracks and logging roads which were often quite nice to ride on anyway. Next time though I might take advantage of the shuttle service to get out to the trails which were further away or more importantly, higher up, as I often spent the first 30 minutes of my rides slogging away just getting to where I wanted to start from and as I normally only had 2 hours or less to spend riding, whilst it was great for my fitness, it might have been more fun to spend more of that time on the single tracks.
Hopefully we'll get back to have more of a go some other time - it was great and I know I'm going to dream about the trails despite the scary bits.
There are many many ways to spend money in RotoVegas and Zorbing is one of them. Basically you get put inside a big plastic ball with some water, and then you roll down a hill on a straight or zig-zag course. Zali, Miley and Toby had a go all together and were grinning ear to ear afterwards. The run looked short (maybe 30 seconds?) from the sidelines, but Jon confirmed (after a ride with Jett) that it was totally awesome on the inside.
Now we've been here a few days I know for certain that we'd only ever stay here at Lake Okareka if we came back to the rotorua area. It does make the ride to the MTB trails 10-30 minutes longer depending on where you want to start but it's just so nice and opens up all sorts of other recreational possibilities including long swims (great to cool down with after a ride - photo below), horse riding and of course paddling as well as running on the walkway alongside the lake.. When I did a paddling lap of the lake (9-10km depending on how close you stay to the bank) I discovered some sea caves and arches on peninsulas on the other side of the lake which were fun to explore. I also discovered some free (or at least very cheap) quiet campervan sites with toilets and stuff. It's an ideal place to stay for a MTB holiday out of the hustle and smell of Rotorua itself..
Friday, 20 January 2012
Anyone who has been to Rotor-Vegas will know that the visit to the luge is practically compulsory! The last time I was here was in 1986 so I was shocked to discover that you have to wear helmets nowadays. Actually with the new tracks and signs it's now probably way more likely to comply with western safety standards but it's no less fun. With two chairlifts and 3 different runs, no queues and great views it was great! Zali had one go on her own (with her new cousin buddy Abi) but the rest of the time the kids rode with us.
Thursday, 19 January 2012
This is the main reason we've been lugging our bikes around for a week! I've ridden once here already but I was with Paul and Jon so they had to wait for me often enough without me taking photos as well. I'll write more about it later (after a few more rides) but feast your eyes on the trail map..
The map says NZ, but the place screams Sweden to me. We're staying by an idyllic little lake surrounded by forest (on one side anyway- the other is NZ farmland). The lake is long enough to get a good paddle in (especially in the slow-arse plastic fantastic I have access to) and it's also got waterlillies! - cool huh! The oldies in our group (mum, dad, his two brothers and their wives) are staying in a lakeside house - and as you can see it's really lakeside and comes equipped with kayaks and other toys. It's fantastic. I haven't done it justice with the photos - I'll add more when they come to hand.
We've arrived at the main point of our entire trip to NZ - the family reunion 5 day event in Lake Okareka, just outside of Rotorua (not close enough for it to be stinky luckily). The only official scheduled events are family dinners so the rest of the time we're here to catch up in smaller groups, let the kids hang out with different cousins for a change and to relax and have fun - which should be easy given this crew..
Rob has always wanted to go land sailing, so on our way to rotorua we stopped at a place and him and Jonno rented them for half an hour and went around an asphalt track (for the traditional experience Rob should really get together with Jon's brother in law Tim who hoons them around on a beach in SA in high winds ). A bit disappointingly the wind was a bit light so they alternated with some speed and no speed. Higher winds would have been fun. Nethertheless the bright colours of the sails make for good photos!
Today we punished the kids for having such a great time yesterday by forcing them to walk up Mt Maunganui (you can see in the photo how happy they were about that) which is a high hill overlooking the merged towns of Mt Maunganui, Tauranga and Paloma and the rest of the Bay of Plenty which is pretty amazing beach and bay wise. It does have a dirty great (and I mean HUGE) port shipping out wood and everything else from the many plantation pine areas around the place (oh and the stricken Rena is out to sea somewhere too but we can't see it).The beaches around here are amazing and they stretch for miles and miles - if I was a surfer who wanted space, I'd come to NZ for sure - also apparently no-one has ever been eaten by a shark in NZ so that would be a bonus. Mt Maunganui would probably be a fine place to live, but as a tourist destination the hustle and bustle was a bit of a shock to the system after our BCV..
Tuesday, 17 January 2012
The Fleming and McComb families all went to Waimarino Adventure Park today. It's a park on a river with lots of water based activities which might sound a bit dinky but I promise they weren't. After I had paddled for a few hours I watched the rest of them get up to various only-in-NZ(?) activities such as
Kayak Water-sliding - of course - why hasn't anyone else thought of putting a person in a kayak then sending them plummeting down a high straight waterside so they rocket into the water at a gadzillion miles an hour. Awesome! This photo is of Robin mid air..
Water sliding with a mat - straight into the river from height - thus you also hit it at a gadzillion miles per hour but without the protection of a kayak!..
Rock Climbing - that little speck high up there is Jett - Jon, with all his (zero) rock climbing experience, was belaying him..
The Blob. It's hard to describe it but imagine a giant inflatable pillow attached to the side of the river. Above one end on the bank there is a scaffold from which someone (the blobber) launches themselves onto the mat from 5 meters above. On the other end someone (the blobbee) sits, awaiting being launched up into the sky and out into the river when the jumper hits the other end of the pillow. It's hilarious. Especially when a big guy jumps, sending a little person well over twice as high as you can see Zali being bounced here. Or when they do a 'double blob' where two people jump at the same time and the sitter is launched towards the moon. They do actually have to wear helmets and life jackets for this one! Jon and Robin both got absolutely cannoned into the air in double-blob experiences..
They also had a rope swing. It was way high of course.. That's Jonno just letting go there..
There were of course some other more sedate activities available such as kayaking, paddle-boating, a little adventure course and there was a 5 metre high diving board into the river (of course). It was fun. Apparently they do after-school care programs - how cool would that be - we though it was exciting enough when Zali got to catch a fish during her after-school care but that seems positively sleep inducing compared to this!