© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Bossing a Rainy Day in Rotorua: Zorb & Waikite Valley Thermal Pools

© NZPocketGuide.com

289 Days on the Road

We love Rotorua for its bizarre little oddities. Take its geothermal activity with steam rising from all sorts of weird and wonderful geothermal features, for instance, or its strange activities like “Shweebing” that we tried a couple of days ago. Well, today we are probably doing the most bizarre activity yet: rolling down a hill in an inflatable hamster ball!

Hopefully, this is the last day of this huge rainy storm, but we figure Zorb will make a great rainy day activity as we’re going to get wet anyway! The inflatable and hollow Zorb balls are filled with shallow water to keep you at the bottom of the ball as you roll down the hill… More or less…

Choose your Zorb track!

Just a 5-10 minute drive our of Rotorua city centre, we arrive at a landscape of grassy hills. One of these hills has been deformed into giant ball-sized tracks. There is The Zig-Zag, two Fast Lanes which are long straight drops, and The Drop hidden from sight somewhere amongst the trees.

We check in, choose our first track, and get changed into our togs (that’s Kiwi for swimwear). One of staff puts us in the back of a 4×4 to take us and another group up the hill to the beginning of the tracks, where the wind and rain is a little bit on the nippy side when you’re stripped down to the bare minimum. One of the Zorb team is hosing some water into the Zorb ball, assuring us that it is hot water, although we are a bit suspicious of this… That seems way too good to be true!

Doubling up for the Fast Lane

Our first ride is going to be the Fast Lane, where multiple people can get in the Zorb ball!

“Dive in!” the Zorb staff say as he finishes filling the inside with water. We jump headfirst into a steamy ball of warm water. Yes! He wasn’t joking! Can we stay in this ball all day? It’s so comfortable.

Nonsense in the Zorb ball

He zips up the hole in the ball and shouts, “Are you ready?!” Hell yeah, we are! “3…2…1…” The ball starts to slowly move then soon enough, it picks up momentum and it’s chaos inside the ball! There’s so much splashing, we don’t know which way is up, and it’s a mess of limbs inside this ball. We slow down at the bottom where another Zorb staff opens the hole and we see the light once again. We have to get out of the ball feet first, the water coming along with us like it’s some sort of hideous rebirth. Then, we run to the hot spa pool where we get front-row seats to watching the rest of the groups roll down the hill.

Madness inside the Zorb ball!

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Is that really what it looks like from the outside?!

The perspective of watching Zorbing from the outside is so much different from what’s going on inside the ball. We watch balls come down the Fast Lane not seemingly going so fast, and the Zig-Zag Lane looks so tame from the outside. Yet, when the riders rebirth at the bottom of the hill and joining us in the spa pool, they are enthusing how crazy it was. We know! It did feel crazy, and we want to go again and again!

Freestylin’ on the Zig-Zag

We hit the Fast Lane a couple of more times, getting more used to the chaos and just enjoying the simple fun. Then we hot the Zig-Zag a couple of times. We have to ride in the ball by ourselves in this one, but this one has to be our favourite. We bounce from corner to corner, slowing down the momentum but allowing us to do some freestyling inside the ball, trying to stand up (and failing), riding on our stomach, on our knees, etc.

After we have been up and down the hill way too many times, we dry off and put our dry attire back on only to remember there was one more freakin’ track that we totally forgot about! Damn “The Drop” for being so hidden! Never mind, we are pretty satisfied with our Zorbing today, and are looking for a more unwinding rainy day activity to do now…

Now to relax at the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools

There are no lack of hot pools in and around Rotorua, whether it’s free natural springs or more luxurious hot pools complex. We hit the road to check out the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools which is an extremely affordable complex.

An eco-trail to the source

While taking the 25-minute journey from Rotorua to the Waikite Valley, Laura starts to feel like death – it’s just something English people get when they have travelled across the world to escape the rain only to find that the rain has caught up with them. It’s a sickening feeling. So when we arrive at the Waikite Valley pools, walking through an entrance of silica terraces feeding geothermal water into the hot pools, Laura gets straight back into her togs and wastes no time getting into the hot pools. Meanwhile, Robin checks out a 15-minute Eco-Trail leading to the source of the hot pools’ geothermal waters, Te Manaroa Spring. He follows the Otamakokore Stream coming from the source until arriving at a decked lookout over the largest single source of pure geothermal water in New Zealand! With wind is playing havoc with the steam, one moment you will see a pool bubbling with many resurgence points and surrounded by flax bushes, then the next, the view is totally obstructed by a steam.

Feeling revitalised

Robin takes the short walk back and joins Laura where she is definitely feeling revitalised in a rocky pool surrounded by native plants and overlooking a forested valley. The rain is softly pitter-pattering on our heads but right now, we really don’t care. If we did care, however, there is always the option to go in the Pergola Pool, but at around 39 degrees Celcius, its not a pool we can stand for too long. Nevertheless, the Waitkite Valley Thermal Pools has a lot of options.

There are six pools in the public area: two designed with natural settings with rocks and bush, a large swimming pool with a shallow area to lie down in, another swimming-pool-like bathing pool at a higher temperature, and two hot tubs overlooking the swimming pool. The latter turns out to be our favourite spot by the end of our visit, as the temperatures are at a comfortable 35 degrees, plus, the small tubs make it feel like your own private pool.

What it feels like to be dry again

Feeling pampered, we head back to Rotorua and the Planet Backpackers for showers and the feeling of dryness overcoming us once again. Join us tomorrow where we are going to be checking out New Zealand’s only birds of prey rehabilitation centre! Join us then!

Soaking in the minerals and the views in the Waikite Valley Thermal Pools

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