Wednesday, 12 April 2017

A cancelled balloon and seaplane flight, vulcanos in Rotorua and a 'hell' party

ALLIE: DAY 58: Friday the 13th of April
Friday the 13th! No ballooning and no sea-plane, but a walk around Rotorua

Another morning missed! It’s howling a gale and thick rain clouds hang over the area. No chance for anything ballooning-wise today. So later in the morning Phil and I drive down to Rotorua, the hot spa and volcano city of NZ. 
sulfur springs

The main reason for our visit there is getting a flight in a special sea plane called the ‘otter’. Phil is raving about that aircraft ever since he spotted one in Cairns. But the Australian one was not operating at that time. Determined to get his flight in here we talk to the booking office about their flight schedule for today knowing that there are bookings for 12.00, 2.00 and 3.00pm. But it’s Friday the 13th!

Anglican church in Rotorua
ALL flights are cancelled today due to strong (30knots) winds which are supposed to be the strongest for a year. Long faces decorate our appearances. What a shame and pain. Tomorrow we won’t have a car and Sunday may be the only day we could possibly get some ballooning in. How to reorganize the whole thing?

We try to distract our grim thoughts and wander around the town. There is a lovely old Anglican Church with lots of traditional Maori carvings inside. 

We walk through the park and find ourselves submerged in sulphurous gases. Fascinating how everywhere in this city you see the earth bubbling and steaming. The lake shore is full of ‘coffee pots’ (murky bubbling brown pools) and milky looking geothermal waters. 

But don’t come too close: we see quite a few birds who didn’t realize how potentially dangerous all this could be.

Zorbing: whatever turns you on!
Rotorua could be a lovely town but seems to be a bit spoilt by Disney world attractions and all the usual adrenalin seekers. 

We only want to quickly find out what ‘zorbing‘ actually is. I can tell you: greeeaat fun! (at least the tons of kids seem to think that). You are put into a plastic ball full with cold water and then you roll down a 50m hill being wobbled and bubbled around in your plastic cave. Finally you exit shivering of cold (and possibly excitement?).

Two news when we come back to the Hotel and both actually good: We just missed the street parade and may go straight down to the party! So we get a cab and drive down to the University grounds. 

the hell party
The theme of the party is “Hell” (some balloonists are obviously taking this really serious and are dressed up in pink clothes and funny hair does). 

We are offered slices of ‘hell pizza’ (thus the name of the pizza provider) but alas only one free glass of drinks. Not enough to endure the terrible music of the band which consists of an indescribable fat couple.

PHIL: Day 58/13 April

Again no flying as the weather is even wilder so we set out to Rotorua with a twofold purpose. Allie has never seen the volcanic activity that is so widespread in the area and I have noticed that a lumbering and ancient de Havilland Otter floatplane is offering rides from lake Rotorua..
hot springs
The volcanic vents, mudpools and sulfurous air are impressive and much less overrun by the tat of mass tourism than the town and all the peripheral ‘adventure’ activities which have piggy-backed on the original attraction of the vulcanism. 

The governor's residence and park
Streets  are neat but every other building is a backpacker lodge and postcard and souvenir shops outnumber some of the remaining outstanding historic buildings such as St. F…(?) Maori/Anglican church and the former thermal bath-house, both built in the early 1900s.The church in particular blends Polynesian decorative style with colonial European elegance.

The seaplane expedition is less successful. Three possible flights are cancelled due to rough water and a 30kt wind and I vow to return for another try before we leave NZ, though logistics will be tough given our need to be in Auckland early on Monday. Meanwhile the venerable Otter bobs tantalisingly on its moorings a couple of hundred metres from the shoreline.

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