Rotorua – 3/22/2019

This morning we got up early to bid farewell to Christchurch (and the south island) and head to Rotorua on the north island. We had breakfast at the airport and adopted a new friend.

I take full responsibility for suggesting all these early flights and excursions but Trish willing consented before we booked them. I think she’s regretting it now…

I did have time to *almost* win at a claw machine. I totally could have gotten that dinosaur with another $2 coin (or two).

Rotorua is a much smaller city than Queenstown or Christchurch so our plane was significantly smaller. In fact, it had propellers instead of jet engines!

Traveling between the north and south islands involves crossing Cook Straight. It’s amazing how quickly the terrain changes over a brief 1.5 hour flight!

Fortunately, we were able to check into B&B Abundance early so we were able to establish a home base and ditch our stuff.

Originally, we’d planned to go on a guided horse trek this afternoon. But since we were a little under the weather we’d hedged our bets and cancelled it in case we weren’t feeling up to it. Fortunately, we’re both much improved so we set off to the visitor center to get some recommendations and see what else might be available this afternoon.

The woman we spoke with at the i Site was extremely helpful and validated the activity we’d chosen out of the guidebook we’d perused was indeed phenomenal. We booked it (be in suspense!) and went to grab a late lunch near Eat Streat (where all the restaurants are).

We picked a small Japanese restaurant with lunch specials.

We had their tempura lunch box, which came with miso soup, ginger salad, tempura, and chicken teriyaki. It was delicious! The miso soup, in particular, was richly flavored and devoid of bland tofu chunks.

After lunch, Trish changed into contacts and we walked to a nearby hostel to get picked up for our afternoon activity…

We went zip lining in a redwood forest with Rotorua Canopy Tours.

But this was especially cool zip lining because it was through a virgin native forest, which means it’s never been cut down or logged. When Europeans arrived in New Zealand, such forests blanketed 85% of the north island. Today, only 15% of the north island is forested and only 5% remains untouched by man. This organization reinvests a percentage of its tourist-driven profits in conservation efforts, which have already had a huge impact on the health of the forest.

Matt and Hailey, our guides, drove us up into the forest. We disembarked and hiked about 30 minutes further up the ridgeline. It wasn’t too strenuous but I was more out of breath than I care to admit by the time we reached the start of the zip line track! Matt and Hailey stopped periodically to tell us about the native flora and fauna (and let us catch our breaths).

The silver fern is New Zealand’s most recognizable emblem (unlike their official flag, which can easily be confused with Australia’s). The Maori used to use it to navigate silently through the forest at night. The leader would break off fronds and flip them upside-down. The moonlight would reflect off the silver underside like a giant reflective arrow. After raiding their target, they would either flip the ferns back over (where the green topside just blended in) or point the “arrow” in another direction to confuse anyone trying to follow them and retaliate.

A large element of the conservation work involves getting rid of invasive pests, mainly possums, rats, and stoats, which have decimated native bird populations. 40% of New Zealand’s native birds have already gone extinct. All those vermin eat the birds or their eggs. Possums also consume a staggering quantity of foliage, often stripping trees beyond the point they can recover.

It’s sad that this conservation effort involves inventing more and more efficient ways to kill cute furry animals, but when they showed us a 5-year before and after picture of the forest the impact was stunning. Five years ago the forest would have been silent. They’ve gone from pest in 100% of the forest to just 15%.

We could also hear the difference all around us as birds chirped and sang. In fact, a friendly chap came to see us off before we embarked on our first zip line. Trish got to feed him a mealworm!

Note: It’s illegal to feed native birds in New Zealand, but they have a special permit in this conservation area.

Now! About zip lining. First, you are really high off the ground. You don’t often look down at the forest! At our highest point, we were about 200 feet off the ground.

Second, it’s AWESOME!

The longest zip line – 220 meters!

We also got to cross a swing bridge which, as you might have guessed, swings.

The photo op at the end of the video!

We had a blast! After we got a little more confident, we did things like going hands free, starting backwards, and even going upside down!

Look, Ma! No hands!

Our group at the end of the experience

Hailey dropped us off at Eat Streat where we perused our dinner options.

I’m all about a street dedicated to eating!

Trish was in the mood for pizza, so we chose an Italian restaurant, Papa Tazio.

It was okay. Our venison pizza (with peppers, caramelized onions, and a spicy sweet sauce) was good but the wine service was a bit like Monty Python’s Cheese Shop.

We skipped dessert and took a taxi back to the B&B. We showered off the sunscreen and got ready for bed.

I was working on my blog and Trish had just closed her eyes when we started to hear some yelling outside. The couple next door started to have a huge obscenity-laden fight. At first, it just seemed embarrassing for them but then it started to escalate and we heard some pretty significant shoving.

Long story short, that’s how I ended up placing my first emergency services call (it’s 111 in New Zealand if anyone’s wondering).

It wasn’t the most restful way to end the night, but the police sent someone to sort it out and it quickly quieted down. The next morning I found out the couple only recently moved in and he’s strongly suspected to have a drinking problem, which explains a lot.

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