Yes that’s right this title can describe only one place in New Zealand – Rotorua, or as the locals like to call it Roto-vegas, in a very ironic way of course. This is a town that smells of rotten eggs all day every day, but people come because everywhere you look there are plumes of steam coming out of the ground from the thermal mud pools and streams.
Many of the streams have been commercialised, I think there may even be one with a grandstand around it so you can watch it bubble and spit. Thankfully we had some inside knowledge from my brothers Kiwi girlfriend and headed 100m past the main car park at Waikite hot pools, parked on the side of the road and climbed down the bank to a little stream. This is no ordinary stream though, it’s as hot as your bath, quite a bizarre feeling when you expect it to be freezing cold. We took Matilda down with us and as you may have started to gather she loves water and was suitably thrilled to splash her feet in this stream. So glad we didn’t pay someone $40 for a similar experience.
Rotorua is also home to Rainbow springs which is a nature park who have a big Kiwi conservation project. That’s the birds and not the people. The place is very well done and didn’t feel too much like a zoo even though effectively that’s what it is. We had fish food but decided that actually the baby ducks were cuter so we gave them the food instead. Besides when the trout are this bigthey’re clearly getting enough food already.
After being in the country for over 2 weeks it was interesting to learn about some of the wildlife that we had been seeing. The behind the scenes Kiwi experience was well worth the extra money, we got to see how they incubate the eggs and then hatch them. Then we got to go into a dark enclosure where they had 3 Kiwi’s, there is no way we would see one in the wild and with such an iconic bird it would have been strange to leave the country without seeing one.
Rotorua was our last night in the camper van, a slightly bittersweet feeling. As much as we were looking forward to being in a ‘proper’ bedroom again and not having to go outside in the freezing cold to use the bathroom we had really enjoyed our time in the van. It was the perfect size for the 3 of us, it was surprisingly comfortable to sleep in and also was the place we had spent the last 2 weeks relaxing in with Matilda. We’d loved the evenings just chilling out once Matilda was asleep reading, surfing the internet, drinking wine and snuggled under the duvet to keep warm. We’d woken to some spectacular views, watched many miles of scenery pass by the window, laughed until we cried, made grand plans for the next few years and had some moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life. I feel like I have really got to know Matilda in these past few weeks, I know what her different cries mean, I can make her laugh out loud, I’ve had my eyes and face poked and watched as she learned to sit. I’ve taken hundreds of photo’s and lots of videos to record those moments and memories for ever. This has been the best holiday. EVER. Me and my girls, who could ask for more?
Well we made it, as I type this we are tucked up in our camper van on a camp site in Hammer Springs, New Zealand. The flights over were actually pretty good, Matilda did really well and apart from the take off at Heathrow really didn’t cry much at all. Full marks go to both Heathrow and Singapore airlines for the special treatment they give to families. Heathrow have a separate line for families to go through security, much quicker and more relaxing. Then Singapore airlines pulled us out of the queue at the gate and took us straight to the front to have boarding passes checked before letting us board the plane before anyone else.
The stopover in Singapore for 11 hours was a god send, we checked into the terminal hotel and managed to convince Matilda to sleep for 6 hours. It was then just a mere 9 hour flight to Christchurch. So almost 22 hours of flying with no major incident and we were almost done. But Matilda had other ideas, queue some projectile vomiting all over me and the wall and the seat and the floor. A perfect end to the flight and made even more pleasant by not having a change of clothes. I spent the next 3 hours until we had our camper van stinking of baby sick.
What we also hadn’t reckoned on was queuing behind about 60 rugby fans to get our camper van. I tried playing the tired baby card to get priority treatment to no avail. They did have a barista in the office making free coffee though so I caught up with my days quota of flat whites. When we finally got our van we headed into Christchurch to have a look around and do some food shopping. Now you may think that England is expensive for food but you haven’t seen anything. we spent almost £100 on food that would have cost less than £60 in England. Not a good start to the holiday.
Driving around a city that has been wrecked by an earthquake is a very strange experience, the whole of the downtown is closed off still. I didn’t take any photo’s as it didn’t seem quite right, but I felt almost cheated that we didn’t get to see the city properly.
It was then on to the campsite for our first attempt at getting the beds set up and our stuff unpacked. In theory this van is designed for 4 adults but there is no way you would holiday in one with that many. It’s just about fine for the 3 of us, but even that is hard at times. Matilda has her own double bed in the roof and seems to have now adjusted to the time zone and is almost sleeping through the night as normal. That first night she was up about 4 times and we were awake from 4am with her. As a result all 3 of us crashed out by 6pm the first 2 nights.
Since then we have been down to Banks Peninsula, had a walk around the parks in Christchurch and then today driven to Kaikoura to look at the seals and tonight we’re in Hammer Springs, home to natural hot thermal pools which we shall be checking out in the morning. There has been some pretty scaring driving so far along mountain roads with sheer drops on the side and just a rickety wooden fence to stop us toppling over. The lady of the manor is a particular fan of this type of road judging by the shrieks of excitement coming from the seat next to me. We even did part of the journey today through the mountains with it snowing. It was at this point that I was glad we hadn’t hired a really big camper van.
It’s 8.30pm which means I’m ready to hit the sack and try and catch up with some more sleep, besides which there isn’t much to do when you’re in a campervan with a 5 month old baby who is sleeping! But here’s a few photo’s from the last couple of days to keep you going, will post more later in the week.