Thermal Animals on Luges in New Zealand

Started the day with a quick drive to the Waiotapu Geothermal Wonderland. A privately owned park covering quite a bit of land covered in thermal pools, a geyser and more. The park started out pretty tame, with some craters that formed due to thermal activity and water. The big body of water, Champagne Pool is wild as it releases so much steam it is difficult to see any water. The overflow area is full of a mix of colors due to sulfur, iron oxide and a dozen other minerals. The last pool of water was also wild, as it was neon green from an abundance of sulfur. Pics will be uploaded when I return. We hiked 3 kilometers around the park, but just missed the 10:15a geyser by ten minutes.

Next, we headed to the Paradise Valley Springs Wildlife Park. Part zoo, part petting zoo, this place was a blast. One of the big draws is their African lion pride with 2 males, 4 females and cubs (most of the time). We arrived in time for the 2:30 feeding and got to see meat tossed over the fence to the lions. During this time, not only did we watch the lions fight with each other when a chunk of meat was contested, but one of the male lions tried to attack me twice. The exhibit lets you get up close, with only a chain link fence (with electrified fence on the inside) between us. The first time, the lion came up to me, roared and swiped once. The second time, he sprinted a few feet from where he was waiting for meat, roared and swiped at me again, but this time touching the electrified fence. The zap made him back off and he left me alone. Apparently, he likes American meat more than the other spectators, including a bunch of juicy kids surrounding me.

After the feeding, we went to the lion cub area and got to pet a lion cub. Once the cub was in his cage (with a fence that allowed visitors to reach through), he promptly flipped on his back exposing his tummy and waited for the parade of rubbies. It was obvious he looked forward to feeding / petting time. The rest of the park offered mostly more domesticated animals, many of which we could feed. The Fallow Deer lined up and my hand full of treats became contested territory. The wild pigs enjoyed treats, the Wallabees ignored us, ducks, and trout were frenzied. The goats and alpaca were aggressive in getting treats, each eating out of my hand. At one point, a swan got outright pushy and snatched the bag of food from India’s hand, dragging it back into his pond. That scared the hell out of her, and the swan ate like a king for the day.

Next up, a trip up the Skyline gondola on Mount Ngongotaha, overlooking Rotorua. After a snack up top, we each did 5 trips down the luge. No, not the kind of luge you first think of, no ice or sleds involved. New Zealand style luge, apparently invented here, involves a four wheeled cart that you steer down a concrete track. Three tracks are available at this one; scenic (beginner), intermediate and advanced. You can get quite a speed going and the turns are sharp. During the run down the advanced course, I went into a turn too fast and couldn’t brake fast enough or make the curve. Ended up flipping on my side and scratching myself up good. I now have a set of war wounds to remember my luge runs. Oh, and I didn’t cry!

We grabbed food at Lovely India, where Blaise had buttered chicken for the first time. The Indian food here (based on the one restaurant) is much like America with a few small differences. Buttered chicken a tad sweeter (but really good), Naan a bit more greasy, no special green sauce served with papadum, etc.

Heading back to the hotel, we noticed a market down the road. As luck would have it, the Rotorua market is every Thursday night. Stopped to check it out, about half food and half crafts. Picked up a jar of Tamarillo jelly for Chelsea since she cooks so much and I don’t believe we have it in the US anywhere, as well as three bars of hand-made soap to better embrace my feminine side.

Finished the night at the hotel, cursing the hot weather, stifling humidity and heavy sulfur smell.


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