It’s not a great night to be on the internet (this hostel is full, and it feels like everyone’s downloading the universe right now), but here’s Part 3 of the Rotorua adventures! No part 4, I promise.
My last day in Rotorua, Monday, turned out to be a good day to go sightseeing, since not many tourists are in the town during the week. However, it was also kind of a grey, rainy day. My plans for the day looked like this:
1) Figure out Rotorua’s public transportation system
2) Hopefully get on the right bus, and then off the bus at the stop I wanted
3) Spend the morning and part of the afternoon at Rotorua’s Skyline (big complex at the top of a hill)
4) Come back into town and explore/shop/relax before grabbing another bus to the airport
5) Get on the right bus to the airport and arrive at the airport without being super rushed
1 & 2 went mostly ok, the only thing which went awry was that I missed my stop, and ended up with a 15 minute walk back to the Skyline. Whoops. Oh well. The Skyline entry was pretty much empty, which was awesome– I was able to get a gondola right away.
The thing one doesn’t realize about the Skyline is that it’s actually higher up the hill than you think it is. The gondola goes up… and up… and up. But you get some great views, and you can also watch the resident lawn mowers at work:
I got to the top, and took a look around the complex. They had a canyon swing, a zipline, a luge area, a motion ride, a couple of restaurants, and even a Jelly Belly store! (of course, they also had a gift shop). I was eager to get my time in on the luge (I’d bought an entry package which gave me 3 rides), so I headed there first. Unfortunately it had started to rain by this point :(. The only thing you needed to luge, though, was a helmet, so that helped somewhat with the rain. The problem was that the luge cart-things themselves were out in the open, so they had puddles all over them… my jeans were pretty soaked by the end. But anyway, I got in one, and after doing a quick check to show that I understood the braking system (pull back on the handles to brake), I was sent down the “scenic route” (beginners’ trail). The trail meanders all the way down the hill, which one ends up taking at a surprising speed, even for a beginners’ run. No major incidents, and it was a lot of fun, so I immediately went back to the entry point.
This time, the guy pointed me down the advanced track. I don’t know if they watch the people on the beginner track to see how they do, but I guess he thought I’d be ok on the advanced. He may have had a few misgivings when I managed to sideswipe a parked luge cart on the way out… anyway, I got down most of the trail without issues, but I think I braked too hard at one point, and my luge came to a complete stop in the middle of the track. This is dangerous, since the guy behind you could come flying down and hit you, so I immediately got out and pulled the cart along by hand until the next area which was sloped downwards. I got back in, released the brakes, and thankfully it started sliding again. No one had come down behind me. Phew!
I did the intermediate track the next time around. And honestly, I thought it was harder than the advanced track! But still really fun. By this time though, I was pretty soaked (the rain hadn’t stopped), and I was glad of an opportunity to get indoors. I decided to check out the motion ride. I’ve done a lot of these since I was a kid, and have really liked most of them, so I was curious about this one. I was the only person in the ride (pretty cool), and although the motion aspect was cool (it was 3D too), it was really short and kind of cheesy… it was about scenery in the South Island, which would have been interesting, but the narration was trying too hard to be funny. Oh well.
After that, I checked out the Jelly Belly store (and of course bought some), and went to their cafe for lunch. The weather was getting worse and worse– there was fog, and rain. Not good for my flight later!
I made it back into town without missing my stop this time, and just wandered for a bit. I checked out some shops which hadn’t been open over the weekend, and then finally went to the library cafe to have a cup of tea and read.
After grabbing my bag from the motel I’d been staying at, I once again braved the bus system, and headed to the airport…
…and that night turned out to be very strange.
So firstly, my flight back to Wellington was in danger of getting cancelled, when I arrived. I wasn’t able to check in because of this, and the Air NZ people just said to wait for an announcement. An hour later, the flight was officially cancelled due to poor weather conditions (the incoming plane couldn’t even land, so it’s not like we had a plane sitting there), and Air NZ had arranged for a bus to take whoever was interested up to Tauranga (closest airport which did domestic commercial flights) and we could fly out from there. Apparently they hadn’t been hit by the same weather. The downside to this arrangement was that the only flight we could get out of Tauranga was to Auckland. So those of us who were trying to get to Wellington would need to go Rotorua -> Tauranga -> Auckland -> Wellington. I was ok with this, since it meant I’d be back in Wellington (if all went well) by midnight, and wouldn’t need to get another night in a Rotorua motel– important because I had to work the next day, and my laptops were in Wellington.
So we shipped out to Tauranga by bus. I actually had no idea how long that ride was going to take. It ended up taking about 90 minutes, in some pretty bad driving conditions, too. But we got there in one piece with our luggage, and then immediately had to check in. Luckily our plane was delayed a bit there as well, so we weren’t running. The flight was uneventful, as these things go.
Getting into Auckland was the most annoying part, because we had to exit the secure area and go through security. I’m not sure why some of their domestic flights are in different terminals (if they were in the same terminal, this wouldn’t have been an issue), but oh well. This flight was on-time, so we were running a bit for it since our previous flight had been late. Running through security is never pleasant. The upside was, this was a proper Air NZ flight (not a code-share), and we were on a pretty new Airbus A320 which was a really cool experience (transportation nerd here). It had touches like mood lighting and a redesigned seatback pocket system (and I love the proper Air NZ safety videos). They even had a trivia game playing on the screens! I should also mention that although they only served snacks and water since the flight was so short, their chips are easily the best chips I’ve had on a plane, ever.
The next adventure was at Wellington Airport. For some reason, there’s a massive taxi shortage at the Airport on Monday nights. I guess no one flies at that time, usually? I’d missed the last Airport bus by mere minutes, so a cab was my only option. I ended up waiting for nearly 15 minutes, and then cab-shared with the other hapless person who was also waiting for a cab, since they were on my way. Split my cab fare in half, too, which was nice! Got home at a little past 10pm, and promptly collapsed into bed. I like flying, but that was an adventure and a half!
To be perfectly fair, Air NZ did a great job of getting all of the stranded Rotorua passengers (who wanted to, anyway) out the door and on a plane going somewhere. Some people needed to make even more connections, so I don’t know how they did, but my detour could’ve definitely been a lot worse, all things considered. I could’ve ended up in Tauranga overnight, somehow :P. And hey, I got a ride on a really nice Airbus A320, to boot. So really, no complaints here.
And that ends the Rotorua trilogy! The next post will be about Nelson. I’ve been in Nelson for a little over a week now, and so far have been really enjoying it :). I’m going to go make arrangements for the weekend now, hopefully that works out the way I’d like!
See you guys again soon!