With my brother gone and five days left one our world tour we decided to make our way to Rotorua, New Zealand's Maori cultural heartland and home of Zorb. To get there we decided to try our hand, or shall I say thumb, at hitch-hiking. It was very easy get rides and we never waited for more than 20 minutes. Everyone who picked us up was so nice and the last driver into Rotorua drove to us to doorstep of our couchsurfing hosts.
Kylie and Maureen, our amazing hosts showed us a great time. Firstly, these girls have a fully functioning "pub" in their garage! They showed us around town and took us on road trips to lakes and beaches but the best part was when we went to "Hot and Cold". This is a magical place where two rivers, one naturally hot and one cold meet. You have to swim around to find the ideal temperature between the two rivers. It was very cool!...and hot. The best time to swim is at night, apparently as not to see the sliminess of the water. People bring candles which give this natural wonder a romantic touch. We loved it so much that we went there a second time!
We never made it to the Zorb but we did have one last chance to go white water rafting. We went down the Kaituna River and its class 5 rapids. The craziest part was when we went over Tutea Falls, the world's highest commercially rafted waterfall, a whopping seven meters. It doesn't sound like much until you go over the edge!
Considering Rotorua is Maori country, we had to get a little but of Maori culture in. We visited the Mitai Village where we experienced a full night of Maori culture. We were greeted by Maori warriors who performed their various haka, a Maori traditional dance and yes, they use a lot of tongue. We were provided with explanations of traditions, rituals and the meaning behind the tattoos. We then got to partake in a traditional hangi meal that is cooked in the ground. At the end of the night we saw our first glow worms in their natural habitat, although I probably wouldn't have noticed them if they weren't pointed out to me.
With one day left of our fantasy life, we hitched back to Auckland. That's it, January 11th we sat on the plane and made our way back to reality. We flew Auckland to Los Angeles to Las Vegas to Minneapolis and finally Winnipeg. The return was bitterweet. On one hand I was so sad that our travels were ending (and I was coming back to Winnipeg in the dead of winter). On the other hand, we get to start our real life and live out life's wondrous adventures. I have to admit, the tears were falling as the luggage came off the carousel but as soon as I saw our friends and family greeting us, the biggest grin spread across my face.
It actually felt good to be back!