My aunt Kathy and I arrived in Auckland very early this morning on overnight flights traveling from opposite sides of the world. After going through customs and renting a car, we began our journey through New Zealand.
We first headed south out of Auckland and then began making our way east. As we exited the main highway the roads became unpopulated as they wound their way through the glorious hills. We passed through the town of Hobbiton although we were unable to visit the movie set as we did not have time. After driving for 3 hours Lake Rotorua finally came into our view.
Our first stop in the Rotorua area was the Skyline Gondola. We took the scenic gondola ride to the top of a small peak were we were treated to a great view of the valley below. We spend a short 20 minutes exploring before we took the gondola back down to our car.
Back on the roads, we drove 20 minutes to the town of Okere Falls where we pulled into a sketchy parking lot of the side of the road to begin our next adventure, white-water rafting.
After meeting our group and getting a quick safety briefing we loaded up and made our way to a nearby river. Here we hopped in our raft and began floating down stream. The journey started off calm but quickly escalated as we hit the rapids. We thought we were encountering some pretty intense rapids, but we were unaware what laid ahead. Our guide informed us we were approaching the first of two waterfalls. He taught us how to brace and once we were prepared, began paddling towards the drop. The first waterfall we went over was a measly … feet but the second was a monstrous … feet. I’m not sure we were entirely conscious of what we were doing at the time but the pictures we received showed us how crazy it was. It was an awesome experience that we will never forget.
We picked up a quick bite to eat at McDonalds and then made our way south to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This valley was a great representation of the geothermal activity in the area: hot springs, small geysers, bubbling lakes, and much more. We walked down the valley for about 3 miles before reaching Lake Rotomahana where we caught a shuttle bus back to the entrance.
By this time we were so exhausted that we decided to go to our hotel early, which was a good decision as we immediately fell asleep.