Kia Ora from New Zealand!

Kia Ora, family and friends, from Rotorua, New Zealand!

Sorry this is our first blog, but we’ve just been so busy with activities that we haven’t had time to write!

We are now in Rotorua, New Zealand’s cultural capital, after a day in Auckland.  After getting off the plane, we met our lovely tour guide, Wee Man. As you can probably imagine, he stands at a tiny 5 feet tall. Not to worry, he makes up for his small stature in extra personality and humor.  He was our first glimpse at how nice and warm Kiwi people truly are. He keeps us entertained on all drives and has been participating in all activities with us.

After a few “getting to know you” games in a scenic park, we had some time to explore the downtown core of Auckland. It just so happened to be the 4th of July. Suffice it to say that we greeted each American tourist in American gear/clothing with a welcoming “USA, USA!” chant.  We then had some time to shop around the city and find our very first souvenirs for our beloved family and friends (that’s you!!!).

We then made our way to Rotorua where we have been very active with sports activities. We first went white water rafting over the highest commercial drop in the world. We fell about 22 ft down a waterfall. Not‎ to worry, Mom and Dad, all of your precious cargo made it down safely and no trip members fell out the raft. Wahoo! Some trip members were brave enough to jump in the water, which was a chilly 50 degrees.  It was an unforgettable experience!

To relax our muscles after a long day of rafting, we went to the warm mud baths at Hell’s Gate. While the pools smell like stinky sulfur, we heard the mud was good for our skin and lathered it all over our faces and bodies. This made for a fabulous photo opportunity, and we appear to be more pimple-free than we were before we left.

The following morning, we went on a geothermal hike which involved scenic tours and pictures of geysers and even active volcanic formations. That afternoon, we played sports at the park including World Cup Soccer, basketball, ultimate frisbee, and football. Congratulations to Sammy and Ryan, our winning team in World Cup Soccer.

We also had a birthday on the trip! Our beloved Teddy turned a whopping 17 years old. He had a most amazing day filled with many fun activities. We went zorbing, which many trip members have reported to be the highlight of their trip so far.  For those of you who don’t know, zorbing involves rolling down a hill in a giant inflated rubber ball. The trip members enjoyed it so much that many of them went for second and third rounds. As if that wasn’t fun enough, we then went luging down a mountain.

In the evening, we had the opportunity to participate in a Maori cultural night. Maori people are the indigenous population of New Zealand. After watching a few ceremonial dances and songs, we were able to participate in them ourselves. Many of the boys were able to dance in the traditional Haka war dance. If you ask nicely, we can send you some videos of your boys dancing. Although you might have to bribe us as we think we might get YouTube famous with the footage! It was hilarious to watch the boys attempt to make intimidating faces and to dance in an unfamiliar fashion. Teddy the birthday boy was named our Chief for the evening and was a big participant in the festivities of the night. All in all, the experience was both informative and fun!

That’s all for now! We are headed to Blue Duck station tomorrow morning, a truly traditional and very authentic place, where we hope to see some more famous New Zealand sheep!

Backpack New Zealand in Rortura

-The Westcoast Blogger