Monday 20th May 2013
Today was packed!
Rotorua Canopy Tour
We started the day being picked up by the Rotorua Canopy Tour minibus. The canopy tour was a relatively new addition to the line up of things to do in Rotorua but it wasn’t hard to see why it had been so well received. After we arrived at the head office we got briefed, kitted out and introduced to each other.
The canopy tour involves exploring a section of forest near Rotorua by six zipwires and three swing bridges. Whilst that might sound fairly sedate we needed all those ropes and harnesses because the zip wires range in length from 40 metres to 220 metres at heights of up to 22 metres off the ground! Think Go Ape, but better!
It was a great way to see the forest, literally swinging from tree to tree. But aside from providing the thrill the company behind the tour have a more serious intent with a conversation tour in the middle and a commitment to seeing the entire Dansey Road Scenic Reserve regenerated. This is also the reason they’ve been allowed to construct their (temporary) elevated walkway through the treetops, the Department of Conservation are incredibly powerful and you can only do things with New Zealand’s nature if they give you the green light.
Our guides explained to us about the pests that had been introduced by the various stages of migration to New Zealand and how they might be controlled.
In the beginning, the arrival of the Maori had brought rats, this was followed by the Pakeha bringing goats, dogs and other farm animals for different foods. These low level pests were followed by the introduction of rabbits for hunting. They quickly got out of hand so they thought they would introduce their natural predator, the stoat. But faced by the prospect of hunting nimble rabbits, or the amiable native wildlife (that had never had to contend with hunters before) they picked the amiable native wildlife.
However, although rats, dogs, goats, rabbits, stoats, ferrets and other small animals are a significant threat to New Zealand’s ecology the biggest damage is caused by the Possom. In Australia the animal is revered and protected; in New Zealand you’ll get congratulated if you can turn one into roadkill. They were first brought from Australia in 1837 to form the basis of a fur industry and although that initial attempt failed they were successfully introduced in 1858. Today the possom is found in 95% of all farmland, scrubland and bush! The possum population is estimated to be over 50 million and they eat and damage the forest at every point together consuming over 9,000 tonnes of vegetation a night!
In order to see this regeneration through to completion our guides showed us the different ways they have approached the problems of pests. The first phase of their activity involved 10 kilometres of trapping lines and over 500 humane, instant-kill traps – targeted at possums, rats and stoats. Over the next years they plan to increase this to a 500 hectare pest control area.
After we got back to the hostel we had just enough time to grab a quick sandwich before rushing off to the next activity of the day – white water rafting with Kaituna Kayaks. We’d both done rafting before (separately – Ben in Uganda, Christine in Canada) but we hadn’t ever done it in such a small group before (one of those low season bonuses meant only one other guy was booked on the trip, a Brit called Toby on his gap year).
After changing into wetsuits and a quick safety briefing we were off. The rapids on the Kaituna are mostly Grade II or III but it also includes the grade 5, seven metre Tutea Falls. This was the bit I was most nervous about (I was only 14 the last time I went white water rafting and my mum and dad came with us – so we couldn’t have done anything more than a grade 2 or 3 :)) and I was probably right to be.
As we were going down the falls the raft flipped and tossed us all out and I got pushed down underneath the falls by the water – it was very dark and I had no idea which way was up as the water flow spun me around a couple of times. Eventually the waterfall spat me out and I managed to catch my breath and we all got back in the raft (the tour operator taking pics of us as we went along said later he was a little concerned about me when I didn’t pop back up with the others…). These falls are apparently known for doing this, and it is known that the way the water surges about the bottom of the falls means that anyone who gets sucked down like I did will get spat out as the pool under the falls is so deep.
We finished up with a couple more rapids (only grade II this time), and some ‘surfing’.
The guys from Kaituna took a lot of photos, and we’ve put them on Flickr.
After such an exciting day we decided we needed a bit of chilling out. Instead of going to the obvious Polynesian Spa we were recommended by Chris at Crash Palace to head out of Rotorua and to the Waikite Valley Hot Pools, another area with geothermal, mineral hot pools. We arrived as the sun was setting and soaked in the outdoor hot pools as the moon and stars started to come out. It was a perfect way to end the day.
Distance travelled: 110km
Total distance travelled: 21,517km