Saturday, March 10, 2007

Rotorua with Toddlers

So here's the view from the breakfast table at Te Ana ( not bad eh?

The night we arrived, our host had other arrangements and couldn't feed us. But she did direct us 20 minutes through the countryside to the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools. I had managed to forget to pack a swimsuit, but New Zealanders think of everything and it was possible to hire one. The hot springs complex also had a cafe with very kid-friendly meals (nachos, spaghetti, salads, soups, etc). We all had a marvellous time - the water was deliciously warm and as much a novelty for J and E as relaxing for D and J. We arrived by 6pm, swam until 8pm then had our dinner and went home very warm and very very zen.

A picture's worth a thousand words ...

By the next morning, the kids were right at home at Te Ana. They were a little confused about our hostess's name though and rechristened her "Feather" - a nickname that stuck and one that she fortunately liked! Feather is an old hand at the B&B thing and she produced outstanding cooked breakfasts. Anyone who knows my husband knows that he likes to get in on the cooking action too and so we teamed up one night to satisfy our urge for roast NZ lamb shanks.

Te Ana is no longer a farm stay - but the rural setting is beautiful and restful and we really enjoyed not being in Rotorua - akin to the high beam of the NZ juggernaut. We did get out and about and check out the famous volcanic sites. Rotorua is literally a hot bed of things volcanic. It was intriguing to drive along and spot whisps of steam rising up out of the very green, almost English countryside. The Wai-o-tapu Thermal Wonderland was a good choice for our volcanic experience - not too many people, pleasant walks and spectacular sights. We were amazed by the various mud pools and silica formations. In the centre of Rotorua, there is a park with mud pools in the middle of it. Houses built in the same area have tapped into hot springs and basically access free hot water! Everything is very amusing, but also slightly disconcerting. We visited the site of a village that had been buried in a volcanic eruption in the 1800s. Up until the time of the eruption, the silica terraces had been considered one of the great wonders of the world. The eruption wiped them from the face of the planet. Disconcerting? The thought that it could happen again.

Rotorua obviously has many tourist attractions - The Caterpillar Experience was not riveting as it did not involve actually driving the machines. Big J was keen to give the Agrodome a go - attracted by promises of sheep dogs performing, but the whole thing was geared and timed to busloads of Japanese tourists, so we gave it a miss. We took a gondola ride instead and were surprised to discover that little kids could be taken on the luge. A great time was had by all of us careering down the mountain. Big J couldn't stop laughing. Once at the bottom of the luge, the only back was by chair lift. Each parent was accompanied by a child. E may never get the grip marks off her arm, and Little J was simply told "if you move, I can't save you".

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