Well, apologies everyone for this shamefully belated post. Over the past few weeks, the volcanic minefield of Rotorua has remained our base. Both Amy and I have managed to find part-time work in the city, while at the same time committing ourselves to a few chores around a campsite in exchange for free accommodation. The situation is ideal, giving us a comfortable base, an income and the opportunity to truly live and experience this part of the country. The fact we're actually living here rather than travelling through is probably while I've neglected this blog a little. When you live somewhere, no matter how fascinating they are, the novelty of it all doesn't jump out in quite the same way. Not to say that this place isn't incredible, but it is surprisingly easy to fall into a trap whereby you take things for granted when you're surrounded by amazing places and experiences each day.
So, allow me to recollect some of the things we've done here! Well, once we'd been rafting (see my previous blog entry), my thoughts immediately turned to the gnarled tracks of Redwoods mountain bike park. Probably the best mountain biking in the North Island can be had here, with hundreds of kilometres of trails woven between towering Sequoia trees planted at the beginning of the 20th century. Winding round the enormous girth of some vast trunks was just as impressive as the quality oft he tracks that coil into the forest. While some proved tricky, the majority of trails are pretty easy going, so make it good for people looking to push themselves, and taken at speed are great even for pros. Amy was comfortable enough riding many of the green and red trails, while I explored some of the more difficult routes - 'Rock Drop', 'Mad if You Don't' and 'Old Chevy' proving to be my favourites so far - but there are so many lines to take, it's unlikely I will manage to explore them all while I'm here. Needless to say, it has become a regular haunt of mine!
To avenge my insistence on taking her to Redwoods, Amy demanded that we try something she loves to do - horse riding. Rotorua is home to loads of trekking centres, and we eventually chose The Farmhouse, one of New Zealand's largest stables, situated just North of the city. My history with horses is limited, and came to a somewhat abrupt halt following a traumatic incident with a Shetland Pony when I was seven. I had ridden a horse once, for an hour, in the past fifteen years. So, when Amy told the guide that we were experienced and that she wanted to canter during the ride, I just smiled and laughed nervously. But when we got going, I quickly became more and more comfortable and confident. I was given a big cumbersome black mare, who seemed to eat anything at any opportunity she could, munching even as we plodded out on the trek. We were led through lush forest and expansive meadows and fields, bushland and tracks. The weather was pristine, and on the horizon we could see the formidable profile of Mt. Tarawera, a 3000ft dormant volcano rising from the lakes and rolling green hills. When our guide eventually asked if we would like to canter, I couldn't wait to give it a try. Our guide squeezed her heels into her horse's sides, and as her horse broke into a canter, Amy's and mine instinctively followed suit. I can honestly say that it was brilliant. My horse became surprisingly graceful, her long stride at speed was far more comfortable than at trot, and soon enough, I was willing my horse to go faster whenever I could. Amy knows I've caught the bug now, so I'm sure we'll be on horseback again before long.