Tag Archives: Rotorua


Day 17 – Rotorua, Rainbow Springs, In Transit

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Categories: Australia, In Transit, New Zealand, South Pacific, Trip 2014, Tags: , , ,

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Welcome, 2015.

Odd numbered years have always yielded surprises for us, and for the most part they’ve been good.  Toni and I met for the first time in an odd-numbered year and were also married in an odd-numbered year as well.  Damian was born in an odd-numbered year, we bought our first house in an odd-numbered year; we travelled Europe – twice – in odd-numbered years.  In short, odd-numbered years have been good to us.  Let’s hope this one is as well!

Welcome, 2015 via TV

Where we left off…  Rotorua, New Zealand.  The clock tolled midnight and I was lounging on a couch watching the celebrations unfold via a medium flat screen TV.  Toni and the boys were in the adjoining room asleep, although I did thoughtfully wake Toni to wish her a happy new year.  It was raining outside, and off in the distance there was the odd bark of a firework, but the rain seemed to cloak the celebrations.

When we woke, it was between 9:00am and 9:30am depending on whether you were Jake, Damian, Toni – or I.  We hadn’t really unpacked much and what was disturbed, Toni had set right last night.  In essence, all we needed to do was shower, eat food, drink coffee and then meet the motel owner outside the door and he thoughtfully packed our bags into their station wagon, ready for when we needed to go to the airport.

After a brief spell on the playground equipment, Toni, Jake, Damian and I crossed the road to the adjacent attraction – Rainbow Springs. 

Rainbow Springs

It’s sort of like a zoo or a wildlife reserve for native New Zealand animals (mostly threatened) as well as tropical birds.  Entry wasn’t exceptionally cheap at NZD $72 (2 adults, children free) but we were restricted to walking distance, so who could be choosy?

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So we paid the admission and entered.  There was the usual commotion about getting photos taken at the entry (I wish places would quit doing this) but once that was to one side, we started to explore the park.  It’s not huge, and there are some areas which are just.. empty.. but the cages and environs they do have are generally engaging.  There are two main parts, the first is a series of walkways around or indeed on top of natural springs which eventually run out to Lake Rotorua.  Rainbow Trout freely migrate upstream (hence the park’s name) and congregate in a pool of water called the Rainbow Pond.

Our first stop was actually a large walk in bird aviary although being close to midday, all the birds were roosting so there was little to do, aside from a bit of bird spotting.  We moved along, and realised we were not in an opportune location to be near the vaunted bird show (special mention of this show was made when we bought admission).  So we moved around to the first animal information session.

A fellow Aussie!

As we swung our way around the place, the first “interactive” things we did was an intro to – of all things – an Australian lizard (pictured).  Unfortunately, it was a case of look, don’t touch – which made it a bit less interactive than we’d hoped.  We did a loop, and found our way down to the New Zealand trout viewing place and learned a little about how they are protected by law in NZ.  It’s actually illegal to buy or sell trout, but it is legal to catch them.  An oddity.

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Moving along, we headed to the center of the park and Toni and Damian stood in line just before 11:15am while Jake and I did a recon mission around near the waterfall and beyond, with a statue of a Moa.  We backtracked and linked in with Toni and D, and made our way in for the 11:30am bird show.

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Waterfall / A statue of an extinct Moa

Tropical Bird Show

The show kicked off, and we were introduced to a number of different bird types, a couple were Australian including a Galah and a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo.  The birds performed various tricks, the highlight would be one of the Macaws which flew through no less than two hula hoops in a row.  I didn’t get too many useful photos, unfortunately.

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Our next destination was a ride called “Big Splash” which Damian just narrowly qualified to ride (by height).  It was sort of like a log ride which took you through a mixture of a long distant New Zealand (Maori villages) and dinosaurs.  Eventually the river winds to a building which contains an elevator which takes the boat along a run and then down the long drop into water – and we mostly got coated in it.

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Once we finished, we were forced to the kid’s playground (Jake wanted to go there first) so we killed some time as Jake climbed all the equipment.  Our last attraction for the day was the nocturnal house, which is home to Rainbow Springs’ family of native Kiwi birds.  The building housed a sort of museum, with lots of information about the birds, their endangered species status and so forth.  The enclosure part which contained the real deal was also inside.

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Now before I get to the enclosure itself, let me just say that shooting any animal in near darkness is pretty tough.  It took me a while to locate the bird itself, but mainly because I was looking for something the size of a mouse.  An actual Kiwi is probably closer to a chicken or a hen in size, but it’s also quite black and hard to see in low light.  That said, and understanding the difficulties of shooting in low light without a tripod, please accept these photos I took today:

A Kiwi I see?

I was totally amazed, especially at the second photo above, which was the last one I attempted inside the enclosure.  It was lit by low level red and blue lamps, hence the colouring (which is accurate).  I used a HDR post-exposure to punch up the highlights, but it’s not that different from the raw shots.

We stayed on site to have a brief lunch which meant that we were returning to the motel just around 1:20pm, in time for our inevitable departure to the Rotorua airport.

Our host John drove us out and we made it just in time before the check in cut-off time.  We checked our luggage and waited briefly to go through customs and security, doing a spot of shopping at the gate.  It was a very short wait, and then we were boarding.

The Return Flight

Well.  The flight itself, clocking in at around 3 hours and 20 minutes was quite perfect with no turbulence and textbook take-off and landing.  However, as a family we earned ourselves an unfortunate distinction out of all the passengers.  It started with Jake throwing up on himself and his seat.  There were no barf bags, so we could do little but watch in slow motion.  After a clean up and the replacement of his chair, things went smoothly.. until Damian woke up. Within minutes of being fully awake, D shat himself so badly that it flowed into the seat behind mine.

To cut a long and messy story short, we were selected to be quarantined upon landing.  This would require a bit of Q & A with Australian quarantine people upon landing, but something must have transpired because just before landing we were told that this was no longer required.  We were able to de-board with everybody else.  Strange.

Sydney International Airport 2.0

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Touchscreens/Last view of New Zealand

Back in the tackiest airport in the South Pacific.. Nothing says tacky like forcing recent arrivals to navigate through generic duty free shops before they can make it to customs.  Whoever is responsible for that should be taken out and shot.  Especially lining up chocolate, toys and LEGO on the main thoroughfare so that little kids can commence tantrums to get what they want (Jake did not do this, but it’s not hard to fathom it would happen) – it’s despicable.

We cleared customs and found our bags were pretty much first out on the conveyor (last on first off?).  There was an extended wait for the stroller which came through oversized luggage return.  Once we had it, it was through to quarantine where we declared wood products, select food and that we’d been near agricultural land/freshwater.  No problems, all clear.


I took Jake and left Toni and Damian at the public pickup location (a long walk from the terminal through a terrible carpark).  We took the train to the domestic airport and then caught the Blue Owl shuttle to the long stay carpark.  Luckily, I literally walked straight to our car – despite fears I’d be unable to remember the exact location.  Brought the car out, swung by and picked up Toni, D and our luggage and we took the M5 out of town, heading for Canberra.

We’ve just arrived and it’s 9:10pm.  First thing is home and rest! 

The trip (believe it or not) isn’t over… check back tomorrow to find out what happens next!

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Day 16 – In Transit, Rotorua, New Year’s Eve

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Categories: In Transit, New Zealand, South Pacific, Trip 2014, Tags: , , , , ,

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Today we began the day at 7am in the town of Wanaka, about an hour north of Queenstown on the South Island of New Zealand.  We will ring in 2015 from accommodation 5 minutes’ drive from the town centre in Rotorua on the North Island, New Zealand.  It’s been a hectic day.

In Transit

We initially woke up with time to spare, but then fell asleep again, and did not actually rise until about 7:45am.  Luckily we’d put most of our bags into the hire car the night before so even with less time than planned, we still managed to get everyone fed and/or bathed and into the car and out the door just a fraction after 8am – around 8:10am to be more exact.

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As predicted the previous day, we met the day with scattered showers and a storm (including thunder and lightning).  This is really NOT what you want in addition to trying to get south of Wanaka in a hurry.  The Crown Pass, mercifully, was not busy – we only encountered a tiny handful of other cars going in either direction – so we made excellent time across the range.  It was  a few minutes after 9am and we snuck into a petrol station just shy of the Queenstown airport.

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Friends Toni and Matt met us at the car hire return place and we handed off some food supplies to them and had a brief chat about how their holiday was progressing.  They kindly minded the boys while we attended to checking in and applying baggage labels to bags.  Once the bags were dropped, we bid them adieu and continued on through security to the waiting gate.

The connecting flight from Queenstown to Christchurch was for the most part uneventful, although it felt like the plane was caught up in the middle of this storm front which was slowly rolling over the South Island.  The landing in Christchurch was a bit bumpy, but we all survived and the boys were almost perfect little angels during the whole thing.  Poor (sick) D was stymied from an attempt at a well deserved morning nap though.

The wait in Christchurch was minimal owing to the fact we had to get from one side of the airport to the other.  We spent a little bit of time waiting but then the gates opened and we headed off to a smaller plane for the return flight to Rotorua.  This flight started off fine, but just outside Christchurch we hit some serious turbulence which sent the contents of my cup of tea flying into the bulkhead above and then onto the headrest of the chair in front of me.  Aside from that, the rest of the trip passed without incident.


We landed in good time and were met at the gate by our host from the Best Western.  Our luggage literally came off the carousel first, so we didn’t have to wait long before we were on our way once again, this time to accommodation on the western side of town.  We had a decent chat as we made our way, and starting making some plans for the rest of the day.  By the time we arrived we were all set to do some exploration, so once we had the room key, we changed nappies on both boys and then set about exploring.


We investigated the grounds of the motel first, Jake spent some time climbing on the playground equipment first, before we all headed out, and up – to the Rotorua Skyline.  The Skyline predates the one in Queenstown by more than a decade.  It is conveniently located just across from where we’re staying, so it was a logical choice as a destination.  Taking advantage of weather which had been forecast to be raining (which it was not!) we decided to go up and do some more luge.

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The view from the top was actually quite impressive, taking in most of Lake Rotorua.  You could even see where our previous accommodation was, across the water.


We paid for 7 luge rides, and we exercised them in the following order: Myself + Jake (Scenic/Luge #1), Toni + Jake (Scenic/Luge #1), Myself (intermediate/Luge #2), Myself (Advanced/Luge #2), Toni (Scenic/Luge #1), Myself + Jake (Intermediate/Luge #1)), Myself + Jake (Intermediate/Luge #1).

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As you might have noticed, there were two separate luge stations, the second one closed a bit early so I was unable to do the advanced track there a second time (it was awesome).  You weren’t allowed to do tandems down the advanced, so I did not do the advanced route at Luge #1.  The slowest part was the chairlift back to the top, but it did allow an opportunity for a few photos here and there.  Jake was utterly thrilled by the luge, and we decided to buy him a T-shirt to remember the day from.

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After an enjoyable afternoon up the hill, we started our return gondola ride just after 5:00pm with a group of tired, but happy campers.


Back at the motel (across the road), everyone including a very tired Damian, were still a little restless.  So we explored the motel grounds and, in particular, rounded the trout stream which runs across the property boundary.  Jake insisted on a return to the playground, where he met another little boy and they had fun on the sea saw. 


We chatted to his mother for a while as the kids played and then Toni turned up  with Damian.  We were there until about 6:20pm when we needed to go back to the room.  Dinner was booked for 6:30pm at the on site restaurant, which was excellent.  Our host kept Jake occupied whilst Toni and I managed to eat our mains.  We had an entree (each) of asparagus with fried haloumi, Toni had the lamb rack and I had salmon glazed miso. 


Once dinner had finished, we returned to the room where the boys were washed and eventually put to bed.  I went with them, and Toni not long after.  I stirred around 10:20pm and decided to write this entry.  We’re about 50 minutes away from midnight and the dawning of 2015.  Tomorrow we are in transit, yet again, back to Sydney – however we have more adventure planned.

Happy New Year

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Day 6 – In Transit, Queenstown [Part 1 of 2]

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Today we bid a “until next time” to Rotorua, we shall return.

On our last (consecutive) day in the town, the weather was very nice with the skies parting to provide a sunny send off.  A contrast to the previous four days, the sky was blue and the temperature perfect.  We awoke at 7am and as we had mostly packed everything the night before had little else to do.  We prepared the boys, had a makeshift breakfast and then drove the car to the airport.

Rotorua bids us farewell with beautiful weather

We were about half an hour early than strictly necessary, however the airport had a children’s play area which kept both boys entertained while we waited.  I had an average flat white whilst monitoring the play area.  We had to move some of our checked luggage around, but got it all sorted.

Damian at the wheel / Jake was excited to see the plane

Our plane south was a lot smaller than the Airbus A320 we’d had from Sydney to Rotorua, but it flew well.  We did not realise that it was going via Christchurch, as the ticketing did not indicate a stop over.  This added at least half an hour to the travel time, and although we departed around 9:15am we did not land in Christchurch until about an hour and a half later. 

Approximate route taken today (1/2) / Our first glimpse of the south island

On the landing at Christchurch, I had the novel idea of using my iPhone camera set to “Pano” mode, and just let the plane “move” the lens.  Here is the result:

Panorama of our descent into Christchurch

We used the stop over in Christchurch airport to do some nappy changes and then waited until the plane re-boarded.

Landing in Queenstown

Approximate route flown today (2/2)

The boys did remarkably well on both flights, however Damian was getting very tired and hadn’t had any sleep since being woken at 7am.  Jake and Damian handled the take offs and landings like professionals, with no screaming, crying or any of that kind of carrying on.  Brave boys!

Looking out the window

As we descended into Queenstown, the plane flew parallel to the sides of some seriously tall mountains.  It was a halting sight looking out the window to see the mountainside passing relatively close by.  The weather, unfortunately did not appear to be on our side here either, as there was a low cloud cover (the mountain tops were hidden) and it was raining on and off.

Although the ambient temperature was supposed to be 14 degrees, with the drizzle and blustering wind it felt much colder.

View from Queenstown Airport

We found the car hire place after we’d located our luggage, and waited while we completed paperwork and inspected the car.  It wasn’t a flash car, but it looks sturdy enough for our purposes for the time we’re on the south island.  Our next obvious destination was the Novotel, which is located right in the heart of Queenstown, on the corner of Earl street and Marine parade.

Our journey inbound from the airport

The journey was uneventful, and we were able to check in without any hassles.  The room we have at the Novotel isn’t too bad, although we are all in the one room together (the only time this will happen in NZ this year).  The view from the room is over Church street, which takes in most of “downtown” Queenstown, the mountain featuring the gondola (called Ben Lomond?) and most of the waterfront.

The view from our balcony

We’ve had a really big day (as I write this and bearing in mind we’re all sharing one room,  it’s almost 11pm), so I won’t be able to fit everything in to one article. 

Check back tomorrow to see what happened next in Queenstown in Part 2!

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