Today would be our first travel day with the gang in tow. Since we would be flying from the North Island to the South Island we had a great job to do: eat all the food in the house. This, in Doug’s words, is due in part to Depression Era Lynn (not to be confused with International Lynn) who hates wasting food. Everyone did a good job on breakfast and the remaining food was packed away for a picnic lunch. Celery became peanut butter topped. Cheese was cubed. Eggs were boiled. It would be a feast!
We packed up our things and were out of the house by 9 a.m. heading back to Rotorua. As we reached the city, we dropped Phil at a bike shop where he would be renting a bike to enjoy for the next few hours. The rest of us continued on our way to the lakefront where we would be meeting our ::drumroll, please:: jet boat! Yes, Doug had signed four of us up for a 30 minute adrenaline, spinning, and cultural jet boat ride. Yes, you read that right. Culture would be involved (which is how we convinced Sue to join). Judy was not interested whatsoever, but intended to enjoy the park and read her book while we were being educated.
We were quite a bit early having arrived 45 minutes before we were due to depart. To kill time, we ambled down the lakefront walkway before discovering the existance of something called a mana ball, a human-size plastic ball that is inflated around you enabling you to walk on water like Jesus, but maybe with a little less poise. Doug immediately decided that he would like to give it a go and 5 minutes later found himself sitting on a dock watching plastic engulf him. In the 5 minutes he was given he was able to wear himself out by rolling around on the floor of the ball, running in place for brief periods of time, somersaulting, starfishing, and falling over himself (there was a lot of that last one). By the end of it his face was red likely due to exhaustion (or lack of oxygen) and he was dizzy, but satisfied that had done it. Huzzah!
Enough time had passed that we could now make our way to our jet boat. We quickly learned that it would just be our driver and us in the boat meant for 11 passengers. After donning our splashguards and life jackets then taking the mandatory pictures, all four of us were seated at the rear of the boat in a nice tight fit. More pictures were taken and we were off!
Our driver gave us fairly basic instructions: “Hold on tight (to the metal bar in front of you) and if I do this (holds hand in air and rotates it like a a rider at the rodeo) it means really hold on tight because we are going to go into a Hamilton Spin.” The spin is what we saw at Huka Falls a few days before and the reason why we were now here in this boat. It turns out that its an extreme way to stop a jet boat: a 270 degree spin after moving at top speed. Eeeeeek!
Off we went skipping over waves with our driver skidding left and right at sharp angles, water most definitely getting in our faces. The two of us equated the feeling to riding an old, rickety, roller coaster where you are continually squished against the person next to you. Every time we’d hit a wave, which was quite frequent due to the wind, we’d hear the aluminum bottom make a cracking noise which only added to the charm. At almost every stop we’d have a Hamilton Spin, which was most definitely soaking, if not exhilarating. Oh yeah, and there was some culture thrown in with a tour of the lake to various land points, an island, and Sulfur Bay (see the Fun Facts for details). After 30 minutes we were happy for it to be over, hoping that we would not be suffering from whiplash the following day, but glad to have done it!
We met up with Phil and Judy and set out our picnic lunch under a nearby tree to eat, before packing up the van and taking off for the airport. Here we learned that terrorism isn’t really a concern here because, like Australia, we didn’t need to show any ID and, unlike anywhere else in the world we have been post 2001, there was literally no security – No x-ray machine for you or your bags, no randomly selected hand swipes, no removal of shoes. I hope you stay this way, New Zealand, and no dickheads go and ruin it for you.
When it was time to board we were greeted by likely the smallest airplane either of us had ever been on. So small that the copilot was the one checking our seatbelts and we could see into the cockpit for the duration of the flight. The brief 30 minutes offered spectacular views of New Zealand’s mountains, lakes, and coastlines but the movement of the plane left, right, up, and down left Lynn’s hands quite sweaty.
We landed in Auckland where we did have to go through security (it seems someone has already ruined it…) and boarded our next flight to Queenstown. It was a fairly uneventful flight up until about 30 minutes before we were due to land. It is at this point we approached the beautiful mountains that surround the city of Queenstown and realized that we would be approaching the city through a valley between two majestic chains. Well, as happens in valleys, the wind was whipping through it causing our flight to rise, fall, rise, fall, veer left, veer right, rise, rise, fall, FALLLLLLL, etc. until we landed. To put it nicely, Doug stated upon arrival, “I didn’t know how quietly people throw up until this flight.” Luckily none of those people were with us, but my goodness that flight made our previous flight and the jet boat seem like child’s play. And, we are happy to know that we won’t be flying anywhere for another 15 days.
We picked up our newest rental car, Little John, a Toyota Prado, named appropriately to suit the large exterior but small interior. Most everyone had a bag on their laps for the 2 hour drive from Queenstown to Te Anau. The drive itself was just gorgeous along the lake and through the valleys of very large snow-capped mountains, but we may have not enjoyed it as much as we would have liked due to the cramped space and queasy stomachs.
We arrived at our hotel ready for some dinner which we enjoyed at its restaurant while rain started falling from the skies. Thankfully we didn’t need to walk through it. By this point it was time for bed so we could wake up for our day tomorrow in Milford Sound.
Daily Walking Mileage: 3.95
Number of Air New Zealand “How ever you say it, it all comes out the same way” bags used: 0
- The “Hamilton Spin” is named from the New Zealander Bill Hamilton, who invented the jet boat.
- Before the eruption of Mount Tarawera, the 8th Wonder of the World, the Pink and White Terraces, stood on the nearby hills of Rotorua. Now they lie at the bottom of Lake Rotorua.
- New Zealand has its own Romeo and Juliet story. There was one a Maori princess that lived with a tribe in Rotorua and a warrior who lived on Mokoia Island that sits in the middle of Lake Rotorua. They met eachother at a tribal meeting and immediately fell in love but could not wed due to their different statuses. They loved each other so much that the princess snuck out of her home one night and swam to the island to be with the warrior. She was caught and sent back to her tribe. The next night she did it again and was once again caught. Rather than have her continue to risk her life, the tribes agreed to let them marry. They did and eventually had 13 kids. Now their names Hinemoa and Tutanekai are the names of two streets in downtown Rotortua. The streets that surround these are named after their children.
- The sun set at 9:37 p.m. in Te Anau, the longest day of the year. We are glad to not be traveling on these roads after dark.