Sunday, February 13, 2011

Rotorua - What Fun!

We picked Maya and Kai up after school on Friday in our new but old car with four bikes on the back and headed south to Rotorua. Our local friends cautioned us about Rotorua, calling it "Roto-Vegas" since it is one of the most touristy places in the North Island. But, heck, we're tourists and we wanted to see what all the hype was about. I'd say it was well worth it.

My favorite was seeing the infamous Kiwi bird who used to be all over New Zealand until the rabbits, stoats, possoms and dogs came along. The poor flightless bird couldn't protect itself or its large eggs so its population declined quickly nearly to extinction. Now, there are a number of organizations, like Kiwi Encounter, that are working to save the Kiwi bird.

The Kiwi bird is pretty funny and so unusual. First and foremost, the female lays the huge egg (actually she has two ovaries and lays two eggs, but often not at the same time), and the male is in charge of taking care of the egg.

Other funny attributes of the Kiwi bird is that they're more like mammals than birds. Their nostrils are situated at the end of their long beak; they have whiskers like a cat; they have tiny wings, but they can't fly; their feathers are more like fur and they have bone marrow just like humans. They're nocturnal, so we visited the Kiwi Encounter first in the morning to see the baby Kiwis and then at night to watch some of the adults in action.

One Kiwi bird named Forest put on a great show at our night visit - she bounced and pounced looking for food and moved her long beak in a comical way. Kiwi birds like to eat Meal Worms which supposedly taste like peanut butter. Yum!

Maya and Kai's favorite activity in Rotorua was the exhilarating luge ride where they drove their own three wheeled cart and zoomed down the concrete track.

This particular luge was designed and manufactured right in Rotorua and the slogan, "Once is Never Enough," seemed appropriate since the kids asked as soon as we got off the Gondola - we took a gondola up to the luge - when we're planning to go back to Rotorua.

Tim says he liked the mountain biking the best and indeed it was world-class and spectacular amidst the silver ferns and Redwood trees. The trails were well marked and most were one way.

After all this activity, we soaked in the thermal hot pools and then like most working people had to make our way back to the big city Sunday night. But before heading back, we stopped for the second time at one of the best ice cream stores in New Zealand, a place called Lady Jane's Ice Cream Parlour.

Photos of Kiwi Bird courtesy of Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs

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