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Steam rising from a geothermal lake in Rotorua, New Zealand

Taking the Leap in Rotorua - Rotten Eggs and Jelly Legs

By Jane McLellan

Last updated: 26th August 2011

This town in New Zealand is perhaps the smelliest place I have ever visited!  I spent the first few minutes holding my nose, trying, without success, to block out the rotten egg smell that swamps the place, but you’d be surprised how soon you get used to it. Rotorua is known as the Devil’s Playground due to the high levels of geothermal activity in the area, which is why it smells so odd. Its nickname is Sulphur City, for very valid reasons!

Bubbling mud pools, steaming lakes and spouting geysers surround this area. It’s really fantastic and such an unusual place.   The geothermal activity in Rotorua really interested me and I could not wait to visit the thermal area of Whakarewarewa, known (thankfully!) more simply as Whaka. The landscape is made up of spitting thermal springs and hot bubbling mud pools. I also saw the famous geyser called Pohutu that erupts at least once an hour, and sends an incredible rush of steam 30 metres high into the air.

Rotorua is home to a host of thrilling activities. I booked a white water rafting trip on the Kaituna River with grade five rapids and a seven-metre waterfall drop, only to then be told the next morning that it had been cancelled. I was gutted! Someone had opened the floodgates so the river was too dangerous to go down. I was really disappointed, but I decided to get my adrenaline fix elsewhere by doing a bungee swoop.  I’ll have to save the rapids for next time!

The bungee swoop takes place at the Agrodome. I went along with some travellers I met on the Magic Bus.  The three of us climbed into a specially designed harness, which looked like a big sleeping bag, but was a lot less comfortable. I linked arms with my new mates and clung on for my life. I’d only met these guys a few days before and there I was, getting very close to them and completely bricking it. We were slowly raised higher and higher into the sky and my heart was beating uncontrollably. At 40 metres, we were told to pull the ripcord. Before I knew it, we were freefalling, head towards the ground at 130 kilometres per hour, pulling 3 G’s on the way. I screamed out loud and then just burst into hysterical laughter. As the swing slowed down we swung back and forth and I took a moment to take in the gorgeous scenery. There we were, swinging like a human pendulum, with the beautiful mountain range and Lake Rotorua as the backdrop. When I finally got back down to solid ground, my legs had turned completely to jelly and I really thought I was about to collapse in a heap on the floor. It was an exhilarating, brilliant experience – and one not to be missed!

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