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By Mikey
Friday, 25th June 2004 08:05

Again we chose a hostel at random from a small list. Unlike our one in Hamilton though, this choice was better. We very quickly established the location of a supermarket but ended up not going there. Instead, we went to the local cinema to see Shrek 2. If you liked the first film, you'll love this one too. It's different to the first one but very good in its own right. So many little jokes aimed at the adult audience too and many of them quite subtle. Anyway, after that it seemed a bit late for cooking so we found a nice Thai restaurant instead.

The following day was rather wet and we initially set out to visit the Paradise Valley wildlife park but we decided when we got there that it was a bit too wet for that sort of thing. We headed back into Rotorua and found Rainbow Springs instead. The springs are a source of natural cold water that trout like to swim in. In addition to a wander around in the rain with an audio guide (Claire encouraged a Tui bird to peck at her hand), we also stopped in at the Kiwi Encounter. The Kiwi Encounter is the public face of an organisation dedicated to the protection of the Kiwi bird. Due to the introduction of dogs, cats, stoats and possums by us naughty Europeans, the Kiwi is becomming endangered. Barely 5% of young Kiwis reach 6 months old in the wild. They should live for about 40 years. The organisation tracks Kiwis in the wild and rears the chicks untils they are old enough to fend off most predators. We had an interesting guide around the facility from a lady originally from Bradford and even saw a Kiwi or two. They really are funny looking birds but strangely cute too. Of course Claire wants one!

The following day was much better from a weather point of view and so we headed straight for Paradise Valley. After watching the lions yawn for a while, we went round the rest of the park. We fed some fallow deer, Claire fed a merino sheep. We saw lots of big trout too. I can think of a few people who would have been itching to cast a line into the shallow pools and catch a few. There were some kune kune pigs soaking up the sunshine and some wallabies too. After we had lunch back at the car (Hotel California played on the radio), we popped back into the car to watch the lions being fed.

All that separates the lions from the people at Paradise Valley is a tall metal fence with an electric fence about an inch further inside. You could quite easily poke your fingers through the outer fence and feed the lions if you had a few spare fingers. It was fun being that close to them. When we returned after our lunch, the lions had changed from yawning lots to pacing backwards and forwards lots. They seemed to know that it was lunchtime for them too. A handler came out with a wheelbarrow full of beef and proceeded to throw it over the fence, much to the delight of the lions and the watching crowd. One poor chap had a huge chunk of beef rebound from the fence and land on his head much to everyone's amusement. Jeremy Beadle would have given me a few pounds if I had caught that on film I'm sure!

After the meat had gone, we drove off around Lake Rotorua to see Hell's Gate. George Bernard Shaw apparently wasn't too impressed by this collection of boiling sulphur cauldrons but I found them fun. Many of the small pools of grey liquid bubble away at about 100 degrees centigrade and the odd signs around the pools joke about the management sending you in to retrieve any litter you drop. An hour's walk took us around the sights which included one pool shaped like Australia, a smoking cliff face and a mud volcano that unfortunately wasn't performing for the cameras very well. Still, it was great fun. If we had wanted to, we could have wallowed in some thermally heated mud but we decided to head back to Rotorua and try out one of the thermal baths there.

We chose the Blue Baths for an early evening dip. It's actually a thermally heated swimming pool rather than a spa pool. The main pool was heated to 34 degrees and the smaller bathing pools were at 40 degrees. We had a good, long soak. Very tiring though.

Rotorua has been rather nice to stay in even though the town's not that attractive. Our hostel has been very good and there is lots more to do around here than we have done. Maybe on another trip.

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