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With my bags spread across my bed as I rum­maged through draws to find my best threads for shred­ding the dirt, hit­ting the rapids and danc­ing the night away, I read­ied my­self for my trip to Quee…..RO­TORUA?!? In clas­sic car­toon fash­ion I had to dou­ble take as I thought my eyes were play­ing tricks on me. I mean, I had heard that Ro­torua was the only moun­tain bike des­ti­na­tion that Red Bull even rate in the Southern Hemi­sphere, and when it comes to things like that Red Bull just seem to know…. I know they have the “real luge” there too…. Throw in some peo­ple who poke their tongues out at you and I haven’t even men­tioned the Maori cul­ture yet…. But Ad­ven­ture?!? Now, more than any­thing, I’m cu­ri­ous.

Once an ex­clu­sive ex­pe­ri­ence for those who stand high on the pil­lars of so­cial hi­er­ar­chy, tak­ing to the skies re­ally is a beau­ti­ful way to travel. I never re­ally re­alised just how close Ro­torua was to ev­ery­thing, but from up high you get re­ally good per­spec­tive. I counted al­most 20 lakes in the re­gion as we started our fi­nal ap­proach as I took in the amaz­ing views of White Is­land and the Pa­cific Ocean. We cir­cled around the sur­pris­ingly cir­cu­lar Lake Ro­torua with Mokoia is­land stand­ing proudly in the mid­dle. I can’t take the credit for know­ing the name of the is­land, I was told this by my new friend and travel buddy Scotty, who had the plea­sure of my show­ered com­pany for this short flight from Auck­land.

I was more than sur­prised to see a bloody great big jet that had plonked it­self next to the main ter­mi­nal as I landed at what is now the Ro­torua In­ter­na­tional Air­port. In­ter­na­tional?!? Ro­torua?!? Am I in a clas­sic Star Trek movie, caught in an al­ter­nate re­al­ity? My new friend Scotty also tells me that Ro­torua now has sched­uled flights from Aus­tralia. Boy have things changed. Be­ing a wealth of knowl­edge I asked Scotty what the other plane next to that was. “We get those pri­vate planes all the time bro, all those rich ful­las and movie stars keep com­ing here. Ap­par­ently they reckon it’s a re­ally choice place to hang out”. My cu­rios­ity just turned to ex­cite­ment as I get the feel­ing

that I’m about to see Ro­torua as I’ve never seen it be­fore.

Step­ping in to the sun­shine as I dis­em­bark with the sun glis­ten­ing off the lake I look for­ward to meet­ing yet an­other new friend who can en­joy my su­perb lev­els of per­sonal hy­giene. I was given a brief de­scrip­tion of my host and he fit the bill per­fectly; “You’ll be meet­ing Jordy, good look­ing chap with blonde dreads and al­ways makes you smile”. They weren’t wrong. One of the loveli­est and most gen­uine peo­ple I’ve ever had the plea­sure of meet­ing, the Ro­torua born and bred lo­cal oozes per­son­al­ity and is in­stantly like­able, by both guys and ap­par­ently the ladies too. We col­lect my bags and head out­side, I see a few nice look­ing vans (this is al­ready promis­ing) and I ask which way. He points at the Range Rover. I thought Jordy was jok­ing but sure enough, we are riding with bling to­day.

As we cruise along, Jordy tells me sto­ries of his es­capades as a pri­vate guide spe­cial­is­ing in Ad­ven­ture and Cul­tural tourism. We talk about host­ing Roy­alty, Hollywood Roy­alty and all sorts of peo­ple who, let’s say, are prob­a­bly the other half that are so com­monly talked about. Jordy seems to have guided peo­ple from al­most ev­ery walk of life although now with Multi-Day Ad­ven­tures he seems to mostly take care of the “lux­ury” clien­tele.

“I love it, the peo­ple are cool and are here to have a good time. They love it here too be­cause the peo­ple are real and the ad­ven­ture is awe­some, we never get bored around here”, tells Jordy.

It’s a big state­ment so I’m in­ter­ested to see what our first ad­ven­ture is. It’s pretty late on a Satur­day af­ter­noon so I had as­sumed we’d just be get­ting ready for to­mor­row. In­stead we drive just 10mins away from the air­port to the Okere River. Ap­par­ently to­day we start at the top with some white­wa­ter raft­ing ac­tion. As Jordy ex­plains some­thing about safety, in typ­i­cal male fash­ion I pick up ev­ery third word or so. He doesn’t man­age to string a full sen­tence to­gether that re­ally perks my ears up. I’m not the most con­fi­dent around wa­ter but I do en­joy it. How­ever as Jordy so elo­quently de­scribes “Tutea Falls, the high­est com­mer­cially rafted water­fall in the world with a 7 me­tre ver­ti­cal drop”, I feel the pul­sa­tion of cer­tain mus­cles that can’t be de­scribed in this sort of pub­li­ca­tion. Yes, I’m ex­cited, and maybe a tad ner­vous. It turns out I’m bet­ter than I gave my­self credit for. I man­aged to get down the whole river with­out go­ing up­side down. This seems quite a feat for my first time raft­ing and when one in five rafts go up­side on the big falls I can only as­sume it’s my skill that keeps us up­right. I’m pretty sure that scream as we came down was Jordy’s, surely not mine.

As we fin­ish up the sun starts to tuck it­self in af­ter an­other won­der­ful day in par­adise. Jordy lives close by to the river and says we should stop in to his lo­cal for a drink be­fore head­ing to the ho­tel. Not one to be rude and turn down the of­fer of an ale, I oblige. Okere Falls Store is a hum­ble place that wouldn’t be known to many, but it is pop­u­lar with those in the know. We by­pass the very cool look­ing eco-store café that makes up the front half of the Store and con­tinue out back. We ar­rive to the most amaz­ing lit­tle beer gar­den I’ve ever seen in New Zealand. With a band play­ing right next to the out­door bar with two server­ies of some of Ger­manys and our very own finest brews, I may have just found my new favourite chill out spot. Jordy opts for a Ro­torua craft beer and “Beer of the Year” win­ning brew, Crouch­ers, while I de­cide to try an­other lo­cal brand to keep in theme, Vol­canic Hills Wine. We sit back, re­lax, lis­ten to mu­sic and even man­age to meet some very lovely, both so­cially and on the eye, lo­cals.

Jordy’s friends seem to be bred in to the Red Bull world. All lo­cal to Ro­torua and based here, one is a pro­fes­sional kayaker and was rated as one of the hottest ath­letes of the last Olympics. She is ac­com­pa­nied by an en­tourage of equally over achiev­ing friends; a 3 times world cham­pion ex­treme kayaker, a pro­fes­sional down­hill moun­tain biker, a 5 times world raft­ing cham­pion, 2 other Olympians and me. The worst part, they were all so nice.

Af­ter feel­ing hum­bled with­out even lift­ing a fin­ger, Jordy thinks it’s time for us to “make tracks” and get me to my accommodation to rest be­fore din­ner. I check in to the ho­tel, a bou­tique 5 star joint in the mid­dle of town, and am sur­prised at the de­sign. It is stun­ning and seems like the per­fect set­ting to later come back to and try a cock­tail or two in the bar. I re­lax in my room for a bit be­fore I wan­der down to meet Jordy. He’s in the bar chat­ting to yet an­other per­son. Is there any­one he doesn’t know?

The aptly named “Eat Streat” is a new fea­ture for the city. Just around the corner from a num­ber of ho­tels, this in­ner city en­ter­tain­ment area is bustling with peo­ple mer­rily eat­ing, drink­ing and en­joy­ing the live mu­sic. The cov­ered walk­way which lights up with stun­ning colours and links the two blocks of restau­rants, cafes and bars to­gether is a hive of ac­tiv­ity. I’m even told that the con­crete floor is heated in the win­ter time to make those June al­fresco din­ing nights com­fort­able. Jordy leads the way to a very pop­u­lar pub, Brew. It turns out this is the an­chor point for the ever in­creas­ingly grow­ing Crouch­ers Craft Beer brand. Judg­ing by the num­ber of overly happy peo­ple here, it must be good. We are joined by more of Jordy’s work mates; Broth­ers Tak and Tu who own a group of com­pa­nies in Ro­torua in­clud­ing Multi-Day Ad­ven­tures, the lovely Laura who also has a knack for this raft­ing and moun­tain bik­ing thing (she is one of the Multi-Day Ad­ven­ture guides), Melissa from OGO (ap­par­ently I’m meet­ing her later, to OGO of course), Adrian (all round nice guy and ap­par­ently a whizz at or­ga­niz­ing events) and Julie with her part­ner Joe (both work for Moun­tain Bike Ro­torua and are those sort of peo­ple who are in­stantly lik­able).

The next morn­ing I feel sur­pris­ingly good. A won­der­ful jog around the lake front area and a de­li­cious break­fast at one of the many cafes that now seem to fill the Ro­torua CBD, I’m ready for my next

ad­ven­ture, Moun­tain Bik­ing.

This re­ally is a bike mad place and it’s no wonder. Once Ro­torua’s best kept se­cret, I’ve just seen why this is con­sid­ered the mecca of moun­tain bik­ing. The trails are su­perb and there are just so many of them, 140kms of pur­pose built riding tracks, and only 5 min­utes driv­ing from the CBD. I’m fall­ing in love with this place.

I’m pretty pumped af­ter­wards so we keep the buzz go­ing and make our way to see Melissa from OGO. It’s glob­ing time… So much fun you gig­gle like a lit­tle school girl, just fan­tas­tic. Jordy has some­thing spe­cial lined up af­ter­wards too. All of a sud­den, as I sit in the hot tub at the OGO site watch­ing oth­ers roll their way down the hill dis­tant thump­ing of the twirling ro­tor blades of a he­li­copter get ever in­creas­ingly louder. “Time to go my matey” says Jordy as Danielle touches down. She’ll be fly­ing us to­day and I’m quite ex­cited. It isn’t my first time in a he­li­copter but I still love that feel­ing of tak­ing off and hav­ing the ground dis­ap­pear un­der­neath you as you climb to hover ef­fort­lessly in the air. We are on our way to White Is­land.

We travel in tan­dem with an­other one of the Vol­canic Air tours as we make our way out to the is­land. The ac­tive vol­cano is other worldy and gives me vi­sions of Neil Arm­strong tak­ing those first few steps. I may have ut­tered the cliché as I stepped out of the he­li­copter too. We ex­plore the hiss­ing rocks and bright beau­ti­ful colours that make up the land­scape and I’m in awe of the fact that I’m stand­ing on one of mother na­tures most epic cre­ations. Very cool stuff.

The day isn’t fin­ished though as we land at Lake Ro­toiti, just 15 min­utes from Ro­torua, and meet our next hosts and all round nice guys, the team from Pure Cruise. It’s an im­pres­sive sight land­ing on the lake edge next to a 52 foot lux­ury cata­ma­ran. Jordy has taken the lib­erty of invit­ing a few of the folks I met in the beer gar­den yes­ter­day to join us for a won­der­ful sail­ing on the lake, and it couldn’t be any more per­fect. Matt, the owner and skip­per of Pure Cruise, in­vites me on board and in­tro­duces his lovely first

mate, Louise. She of­fers a glass of bub­bles, I say yes. She of­fers a bean bag to sit on the bow (I’m ad­padt­ing to my en­vi­ron­ment but for those who don’t know, this is the front), I say ok. She then of­fers canape’s, how can I say no. Yup, life is tough.

We cruise on the lake shar­ing sto­ries of past lives, tak­ing turns at the helm as we ex­plore the beau­ti­ful sur­round­ings. We soon ar­rive at Manupirua Hot Spings, a trib­ally owned nat­u­ral geother­mal hot pool only ac­ces­si­ble by boat. That’s right, no driv­ing in or walk­ing ac­cess, just those who make the jour­ney from one side of the lake to the other. This place is magic, lake edge ther­mal pools where you can ei­ther sit and re­lax or make the plunge of the end of the wharf in to the lake be­fore head­ing back to the pools to warm up. Yup, life is tough.

Even­tu­ally tear­ing our­selves away from the re­lax­ing ther­mal springs we hop back aboard our boat and en­joy a de­li­cious gourmet BBQ din­ner be­fore dis­em­bark­ing and head­ing back to the ho­tel to chill. One last day in Ve­gas to go.

It is Ro­torua af­ter all and it would be rude to not go and luge. Jordy along with some of his work mates and I make our way up the hill be­fore my early af­ter­noon flight. As I sit in the gon­dola, laz­ing our way up the side of Mt Ngongo­taha, I look out and re­alise that there’s a rea­son I loved this place as a kid. Now as an adult, it seems like Ro­torua has grown up with me, and that there is in fact a more ma­ture side to it that still cap­tures that essence of fun and ad­ven­ture I re­mem­ber as a kid vis­it­ing this place. Even the luge has changed, in a good way, and I feel like I’m in a place that can cap­ture anybody who vis­its. I’ve dived a lit­tle deeper in to Ro­torua and it re­ally has de­liv­ered. I’m not just talk­ing about the amaz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties ei­ther. Don’t get me wrong, that re­ally is the best moun­tain bik­ing in New Zealand, by far, and the most fun raft­ing trip I’ve ever done any­where in the world. More than that though, this place is real. Real peo­ple, real per­son­al­i­ties and real ex­pe­ri­ences. Ro­torua, I heart you.

Kaituna Falls

Luge Sky­line

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