Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Day with dolphins around Mount Maunganui, Bay of Plenty

This morning, we got up early to join the Butler's 'swim with dolphins' trip in the Bay of Plenty. We saw a lot of blue penguins resting in the water and tuna fish breaking through the surface. But by 2pm, there had been no signs of dolphins. We were getting seriously worried.

Then out of the blue, we saw a dolphin surface right next to the bow of our sailing boat, Gemini Galaxsea. We got into the water in our wetsuits and snorkelling gear, ready to try and swim with them. However, they decided they had something better to do (i.e. mate or eat) and disappeared.

Twenty minutes later, a large pod of dolphins (about 20 in total) started following our vessel. We got into the water again, holding onto the swim bar at the back of the boat. Apparently, this way the dolphins are less likely to be scared away by our presence. It worked, and we watched them swim under and around us. It was fantastic! Once we left the water, the dolphins stayed with the boat for 15 minutes, so we had time to take lots of pictures and videos.

Read our Rotorua and Taupo posting.

Taupo and Rotorua

In our whistle-stop return tour of the North Island, we stopped at a little town called Taupo. It's home to New Zealand's biggest lake which drains into Huka Falls. They were not quite Niagara Falls, but pretty impressive.

We also watched Aratiatia Rapids fill up after the floodgates of the dam above were opened. It wasn't the tsunami we'd expected, but a steady filling up of rock pools. The highlight of the day was swimming in a local hot stream which was very relaxing.

That night we had to sleep in the back of the car as Andy broke a tent pole. Luckily, there were plenty of plumbing shops around. One piece of copper piping later, the broken pole was splinted and the tent is now ready for Australia.

The following day we visited Rotorua and the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Its star attraction is the Lady Knox Geyser which is set off at 10:15 every morning by applying soap (or 'surfactant' as the guide liked to use).

Jen's favourite was the sensational champagne pool with its bottle-green water and bright orange shelf.

Andy was greatly fascinated by the glooping, boiling mud pools just outside the park. We watched a large, female Dutch tourist beach herself on a fence as she tried to get close to one super-hot mud geyser. Some people have no sense of self-preservation...

Monday, 23 March 2009

Paraparaumu Beach and Mokai Gravity Canyon

Leaving behind the South Island, we made our way to Paraparaumu Beach, home to Jen's old boss Connie, her husband Rod and their daughter Mollie. We had a relaxing time, doing a bit of DIY and joining in the bubbles and trampolining fun with Mollie.

During a short walk on the beach, we saw an impressive thunderstorm – and then promptly got drenched by it. Oh well, perhaps we didn't have time for that quick pint after all. Thanks very much to Rod, Connie and Mollie for having us to stay.

Leaving on Sunday (Mother's Day), we made our way north to Taupo, stopping at Mokai Gravity Canyon on the way. An old bridge used to span the 80m deep canyon. Unfortunately it collapsed during the 1960's when a farmer drove his truck-full of sheep across it. A new bridge now spans the gorge.

Our friend Darren had told us about the flying fox so we decided to give it a try. It's about one kilometre long, drops 160 metres and reaches a speed of 160 kph. Here's the results.

Andy felt he didn't get enough of a rush from the flying fox so he thought that he might like to try a bungy jump. Additional activities were very reasonably priced so before he knew it, he found himself on the edge of the platform, heart racing, looking down at the drop below. The video starts off with the instructor asking Andy how he is doing -”awful”, comes the reply. Andy then says “I'm not sure I can do this...”