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Published: December 10th 2009
Love a Duck
Glynn must be totally quackers to ride the duckboat!
When Glynn changed jobs a few months ago, he became eligible to join the hospital’s holiday homes scheme and rent out one of their three houses for just $50 a night (about 20 pounds). As Glynn hasn’t had a real holiday for a very long time, we were really looking forward to a long weekend away and chose Rotorua in the central North Island as our destination.
You may recall that we’ve been to Rotorua a couple of times before, once on our round the world trip and once with Margaret and Kevin, my aunt and uncle, when they came to stay last year. Both times, however, we were on a budget but this time we have been saving up our pennies so that we can do all the really cool stuff that Rotorua is famous for.
After work on Thursday night, we packed up the car and made the 3-hour journey south east. We arrived around 9.30pm, just in time to unload the car and hoof it to a takeaway around the corner. By 10pm, we were tucking in to some fish (for Glynn) and chips and trying to decide which activities to do the next day. So
No ride on a duckboat would be complete without some duck quacks! As Lauren Bacall might have said, you just put your lips together and quack!
Despite intending to have a lie-in on Friday morning, we found ourselves wide awake at 7.30am already. I guess that’s still classed as a lie-in when you’re usually up at 6am! After a leisurely breakfast, we walked about 20 minutes into town and were reminded on the way of the lovely sulphourous rotten egg smell that geothermal Rotorua is famous for. Once in the heart of the little city, we made our way straight to the tourist information centre to see about any attractions not covered in our Rough Guide which is now a little out of date since our visit to NZ in 2006. A leaflet for a duck boat tour caught Glynn’s eye which sounded like fun to me too so we booked ourselves on the 11.00 am tour. With an hour to kill, we wandered around the shops and were pleased to find a piercing store called Skingraft open that we’d been to before and duly picked up a few bits and pieces of metalware.
Back at the tourist information, we found the duck boat waiting for us along with 2 Chinese female tourists already on board who seemed very friendly and as
Let's see that duck quack in close up...
excited about the trip as us. Alas shortly after setting off, we picked up a group of around 10 retired Brits and Aussies from a big hotel, none of whom seemed particularly pleased to be riding along in a bright yellow boat on wheels. What were they expecting from a duck boat tour, I wonder?
For those of you who don’t know what a duck boat is, they were made at the tail-end of WW2 by the Americans who used them as combination land and water traversing vehicles. Apparently, of around 21,000 produced only about 900 survive in the world today. Our driver for the 90 minute tour was Grant who handed out plastic duck quacks (a bit like a whistle) to everyone on board and Glynn and I wasted no time annoying the newest group members by quacking our quacks and waving at everyone on the street as we passed. In fact, sometimes I quacked just to irritate these miserable people even more!
On the tour, we visited 3 lakes and got to ‘splash down’ in two of them, the Blue and Green Lakes, that were particularly pretty. Splashing down was made even more fun when our
Mix n Match
View from the duckboat across Lake Rotorua where Sulphur Bay's light blue cloudy waters mix with the dark blue lake waters. Very cool up close!
driver loaded up the theme tune to Mission Impossible as we transferred from land to lake. Brilliant! Out on the lake, we tried out our duck quacks on some real ducks but they just looked at us as if we were speaking a foreign language - goose maybe? Oh well!
Pleased to leave the grumpy folks behind at the end of the tour, we walked back to the house and picked up the car. Next stop: Gondola and Luge. Rotorua has its very own cable car which we have been to see before but were unimpressed with after having ridden probably the world’s best cable car in Langkawi, Malaysia. It was the only way up the little mountain to get to the Luge rides without walking a long uphill path in the heat. Riding the gondola was quite nice though as it moved very quietly and smoothly and afforded us some stunning views across Rotorua and the main lake.
We’d heard mixed reviews about the Luge from friends and colleagues so decided to play it safe and opted for a 3-ride ticket rather than the 5-ride option. On the way to the Luge departure point, we stopped and
Nice old building in the Government Gardens, right on the Late Rotorua waterfront.
watched as the SkySwing was released. Imagine a giant version of a regular park swing containing a couple of people, pull it all the way back and then release it so that it swings way out over the edge of the mountain and you’ll get the general idea. I was kind of glad we had decided against it as it didn't look nearly as exciting as I was expecting it to.
At the Luge, we popped on our helmets, jumped in a low black cart each and bombed off down the beginner slope. The route twisted and turned gently, providing a great first experience of the Luge as we hurtled downhill along a concrete track that was often so rough that my eyes seemed to judder in my head! Still, I absolutely loved it and so did Glynn.
Before we could go for our second ride, we had to take a ski-lift back up to the top. It was almost the antithesis of the adrenaline rush of the Luge run as the ski-lift slowly and silently glided us over the treetops like an open-air version of the gondola. We couldn’t wait to have another go at the Luge
Blue Lake Lady
Jude can't quite believe she's in a duck boat sailing across Rotorua's Blue Lake.
and this time chose the intermediate track which proved to be utterly thrilling with its tight bends and sudden drops designed to boost your speed. I found myself screaming with glee all the way down and began utterly regretting my decision to go with only a 3-ride ticket.
Back at the top again, Glynn and I agreed we wanted to have more than just our one remaining ride, so we asked at the ticket booth how much it would cost to add extra rides to our pass. The guy behind the counter was really friendly and offered to sell us a ‘special coupon’ offer ticket of buy 2 rides, get 2 free even though we didn't actually have a coupon for it. That meant we got 4 extra rides for less money than we would have paid for 3 :-)
After another go at the intermediate track, I was feeling confident enough to have a go at the advanced route. That’s something I wouldn’t normally have done but I was really having so much fun, I though why the hell not! The advanced route consisted of tighter bends that undulated much more than the intermediate course and which
Glynn tries out his duck quack in a new position and discovers that the Blue Lake really is very quacking blue indeed.
had us banking hard left and right. As enjoyable as it was, I found I had to go much slower in order to stay safely in my cart (at times, one side of my cart would lift off the ground completely like a stunt driver doing wheelies) and ultimately I found I liked the intermediate level better.
Thinking how cool it would be to capture the experience on video, Glynn rigged up his camera to his backpack. Thing is, the lens on the front of the camera looked just like a robotic eye, making the bag look like a cross between ET and Wall-E! We named it Bag-E!! We got some great footage of the Luge using Bag-E but I know I don’t need a video to remind me just how thrilling and fun it all was. I can definitely recommend it!!
By the time we were back at the car again, it was almost 5pm and we decided it was time to unwind. We drove about 30 minutes south of Rotorua to the Waikite Thermal Springs where we had read that you could rent a private thermal spa pool for 45 minutes for just $15 each. Soaking
Life on the Ocean Waves...
Is it a car? Is it a boat? No, it's a duckboat!
in the bath-temperature geothermal waters was heavenly and the views across the green valley were idyllic. Alas the time seemed to pass far too quickly but we were so lovely and relaxed by the time we headed home, it really was the perfect way to end a fabulous day.
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