Day 8 - Thrills and spills
Another beautiful day in New Zealand. The skies were clear, but it was hard to ignore the fact that the temperatures were not climbing as high as they had on previous days. Rugged up, we headed off to visit the Skyline Rotorua Complex. Our first activity here was a fantastic ride in the gondolas. Through the windows we had the perfect view of Lake Rotorua, the city and some of the geothermal features that spotted the town below. At the top, we made our way out the doors only to be greeted by the sound of shrieking - a few panicked looks crossed our faces, but then, through the air, we spotted the cause of all of the commotion; the Sky Swing. Panic turned to excitement and before we knew it, half the group had queued for a ride. This three-seater swing was drawn up slowly to its highest point before the riders pulled on the release string, causing it to free fall and shoot out towards the lake. If the signage was correct, riders would reach 150 kms/hr in just two seconds! The girls who opted in had a great time, and those who opted out were very much entertained watching their team mates as they zoomed through the air, back and forwards in a pendulum motion, screaming all the way. The thrill seeking didn't end there though, because now it was time to luge!
Luge is perhaps the most popular activity at the Skyline Complex. Long, winding tracks weaved their way in and out of the forest spotted with little black carts following one another like little ants. We all started on the beginner tracks, but it was soon apparent that the girls were keen for more of a challenge. Some progressed logically, moving onto the intermediate tracks next, whilst our adrenaline junkies moved right on up the advanced tracks. It soon became evident who might be confident behind the wheel, and who we should be avoiding when they are wearing their L or P plates at home! Corners caught some by surprise, with a few girls toppling out of their carts, but they were quick to laugh, reset their carts and try to catch up with the other racers.
With such an intense morning, it was decided that our afternoon activity needed to be a little more subdued. With this in mind, it was off for a brief walk through the Redwood Forest. This park was developed during the depression in the 1930s with the intention of creating employment opportunities for locals and is still an active forestry region, though tracks have been designed to accommodate walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders. These giants towered over us as we wondered along the track, cutting out a lot of the sun light and causing the temperature to drop even further! This motivated a few of the girls to walk faster in an attempt to get warm. Our knowledgeable bus driver, Terry, had joined us for a stroll and was quick to call the girls over and show them a real silver fern. He also explained to us that the Maori people used to use them as track markers at night, breaking leaves off and turning them over on the path as they moved through the forests. Tribe members who were following would see the moon reflected on the fern and know which direction to go.
Our dinner tonight was incorporated into the Mitai Maori Village Experience. At the village, not only were we treated to an amazing hangi meal, but also a wonderful lesson about the history and culture of New Zealand's indigenous people. Members of the local tribe performed traditional songs and dances, a haka and demonstrated games that were once played by their ancestors. Throughout the night there were also opportunities to explore reconstructed villages while learning more about the Maori people's traditional way of life. It was the perfect way to end the day.