Zorbing is defined by the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as "a sport in which a participant is secured inside an inner capsule in a large, transparent ball which is then rolled along the ground or down hills". The large and small balls are separated by a layer of air that acts as a shock absorber and the participant enters the inner ball with around 40 litres of water that allows for sliding inside as the ball rolls.
Zorbing was invented in 1994 by Andrew Akers in Rotorua, New Zealand. And it happened to be what we decided to do on this lovely morning before heading to Huka Falls.
We didn't know what to expect when we looked at giant three meter plastic ball and the green slope running steeply down which was the track. We were taken to the top of the hill in a car, wearing swimming suits and now we were watching a guy pouring water into the ball via small opening which was also the way in and out. The slope looked steep. The ball looked insanely crazy. We were excited.
A minute later we slided into the zorb - surrounded by warm water and plastic, transparent ball we could see the slope in front of us. Then the guy released a security barrier and the ball started rolling down.
What happened after can only be described as euphoria - two people enclosed in a plastic ball rolling down the hill and laughing out loud as they slide around inside in splashes of water. It's such a fun experience - you're just like a child laughing uncontrollably for a minute or so as the ball speeds down and stops at the bottom of the hill. Then the plastic door is opened and you slide out with the stream of water... a little bit like a newborn? Hmmmm....
We did two runs - one fast straight down the hill and the second much longer slalom. Both were exhilarating and we loved it!
The next stop today was Wai-O-Tapu (Māori for "sacred waters"), an active geothermal area at the southern end of the Okataina Volcanic Centre, just north of the Reporoa caldera, in New Zealand's Taupo Volcanic Zone. Due to dramatic geothermal conditions beneath the earth, the area has many hot springs noted for their colourful appearance and strong smell. The area covers 18 square kilometres and has several walking tracks meandering between the pools of bubbling hot mud and water.
We walked almost the entire route and it was hard. The smell of sulphur is overwhelming and every time the wind changed its direction, we were enclosed in a cloud of hot steam from a nearby sulphur sinkhole or lake. Unless you had a strong stomach, this was tricky to handle.
The area is nonetheless beautiful in a strange and a bit eerie way. The landscape is dotted with collapsed sinkholes with bubbling hot ponds at the bottom. The colour and temperature vary - depending on chemical structure of the pond, yellow and green are sulphur, red have mostly iron and black are predominantly crude oil and graphite. The park is large and it takes around an hour to walk the entire long route. The heat pours from the sky and from the ground at the same time, and the thought of this soup of minerals literally boiling just meters underneath your feet makes you feel uneasy and overwhelmed at the same time.
After an hour or so we left towards Taupo, our stop for the night. It's a nice fishing town on the edge of Lake Taupo, the largest lake on the North Island. Before reaching the town, we wanted to check out the famous Huka Falls, a set of waterfalls on the Waikato River that drains Lake Taupo.
The waterfalls are impressive despite their unusual shape - they're not a typical cascade of water falling from a rocky outcrop into the distant bottom. Instead, they are a fierce current of turquoise rapids mixed with white foam forced into a narrow canyon. It's this squeezing of the huge amount of water between two walls of rock that turns it into a furious 50 meters of roaring chaos with a small concrete bridge crossing it in the middle and creating a great viewpoint. They make a tremendous display of raw power.
We didn't spend much time walking around as above and below the falls the river becomes nice and calm and the walking track doesn't offer much excitement. Instead we headed to another camping ground for the night. This time - we abandoned the favourite Top 10 for a local smaller ground.
It was a good choice and we cooked our dinner accompanied by some wild rabbits hopping happily around. Taupo wildlife at its best?