Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Day 5 (Tuesday 6th May 2009) – Ba ba black sheep and Jack & Jill

No, we didn’t see any black sheep – not that I remember of. However we did get to see sheep up close. After lunch, we headed to a place called Agrodome about 10 km away from our motel.

On our way to the Agrodome, we passed vast open land and farms. On the hills in the distance, I thought I saw an airplane, a locomotive and some other structure that I couldn’t really make out but nonetheless out of place on the green hill. Much, much later, thanks to Ian Wright of Discovery Channel, I found out the place was sort of bed and breakfast. Visitors got to choose which kind of accommodation that they would like to sleep in.

We parked our car and headed to a small wooden building near by. As we entered, on stage, was a man demonstrating sheep shearing. In a blink (okay, I must admit, I was exaggerating), the man finished shearing a whole sheep. The sheep, now void of its warm wooly fur left only with pinkish skin, would eat more to build up a thick layer of fat underneath its pinkish skin.

Next we went next door to a wool-processing mill. The wool from the sheep was fed to a huge green machine. The machine’s wheels and handles moved in a quiet synchronized orchestra. At the other end of the machine, out came fine wool thread, ready to be weaved into some other items. According to the guide, the green machine has been chugging away in this great symphony since 103 years ago. The only difference was that the original steam engine had been replace with diesel-powered engine.

The guide then proceeded to sit on a small wooden chair. Opposite her stood a small curious wooden device. As she explained, her hands spin the spinning wheel. And out came fine wool threads. This must have been how “Sleeping Beauty” pricked her finger and fell into long slumber.

Next we went into a bigger building nearby. The door opened to a huge hall. Much bigger that the hall at the Maori meeting house. At the end of the hall was a huge stage. Before long, some staff member brought in one sheep after another and lined them along the walls on both sides of the stage. The sheep were of various breeds. I know ‘Aries’ is suppose to be a desert goat, but there was this one sheep that stood majestically with its twisted horn. The sheep looked very ‘Aries’.

Then a fast-talking guy went up the stage. Then out of nowhere, came a black dog. The well-trained dog herded the sheep up onto the stage. The host actually explained what is the specialty of each breed. Turns out that certain breeds were good for their meat, while others were for the milk. Sheep aren’t always bread for the wool.

Then, with the help of mechanical stage, up came a huge cow. The host invited a few audiences to volunteer up to the stage. To my amazement, one of my travel companion rose her hands and went up the stage. The host taught her how to milk the cow. Her first attempt wasn’t fruitful. As the host pointed out, she was supposed to grab (not just pinch) and pull the pink tits! Her second attempt gave a better result. She was even awarded a certificate for successfully milking the cow.

After the show was over, the audiences were ‘let loose’. We went through a door on our left. There was a duck pen, and next to it, a lamb (not the meat but the juvenile sheep). When we came, two ducks ‘escaped’ from their pen and a lady staff was ‘herding’ them back into the pen. Seeing how much hassle the ducks was, we decided to go into the lamb pen. With their snow-white wool, were cuter than the ducks.

After all the patting, we had to leave. We had a schedule to keep. We had three more things to do before the day ended. First on the list: Zorbing. For the uninitiated, imagine you are Jack & Jill and that familiar children rhyme. We didn’t break any crown; we roll down the hill inside huge plastic balls filled with air. But before that, we have to be ‘processed’.

We were weighted (weight limit was 100 kg per person), sign our life away on a piece of paper, and changed our clothes. Without my glasses, wearing my relatively thin swimming gear, I tip-toed bare-footed on the cold walk-way to an awaiting van. The temperature that day? It was probably 13 degree Celcius. Already in the van was a Caucasian couple. The lady was only wearing two-piece bikini! The van took us up the hill.

At the ‘launching pad’ was a lady ‘handler’. The lady filled the big plastic ball with water, and told me to jump through the small opening, head first (imagine ‘superman pose’), into the ball. I was really glad that the water was warm. The lady opened the wooden door. Then she told me to ‘walk’ the ball out of the paddock. The first step, as usual, was the hardest. But then the big ball just rolled and before I knew it, it picked up some speed. Though I love speed, I have ‘issues’ with heights. I sort of froze in the ball. As my travel mate said, every one screamed down the hill, except me. She was worried to see the ball I was in rolled quietly from the top of the hill until finally halting at the bottom of the hill.

She was relieved when she saw me coming out of the small opening and walked to the bench. I was glad I had my day bag on the bench and my trusty “kain batik” laid out on the bag. I immediately wrapped the clothes around my body. The little warmth it offered was very much welcomed by my drenched cold body. We changed into our dry clothes and quickly bundled ourselves into our small Daihatsu Sirion. AD was behind the wheel, and I was the back-seat navigator. After a somewhat a longer route, we finally reached Rainbow Spring Nature Park.

It was only around 6pm, but the sun was already out. As the name suggests, it’s a nature park. If you are not into roughing it out in the wild, this park is sort of your cheat-sheet to nature. They have well lit walk way and platforms that bring you to nature. There were a school of rainbow trouts, trees, birds and such. There were two species of birds that caught our attention.

The first bird was a kea named Jenny. It’s a bird from the parrot family. But this particular bird, according to the note written near the cage, has spent most of its life in a research lab. At first, Jenny was ‘shy’. She ignored our presence and made no response. However, when we walked away, she gave a cry, kind of calling us to come back. After awhile, the cheeky bird interacted with us, mimicking what sound like “hello”.

The second species was New Zealand icon – the kiwi. In the Kiwi Encounter section of the nature park, they have a few kiwi birds loose. The kiwis, being nocturnal creatures, were very active. I didn’t expect them to be able to dart as fast as they did. We were excited to see actual kiwis and not just some stuff fluffy thing imitating the bird!

After all the excitement in the cold, it was time for our final on the list. Destination: Polynesian Spa. Not willing to compromise our modesty, we took the private pool. On our way to our allocated room, we passed people in their swimming suits at the main hot pool over looking the Rotorua Lake. Opening the door, we saw our nifty pool. Above us, was the open sky. The natural hot spring was a refreshing finale for our day. Before we knew it, the light above the door turned red. Our time was up.

We returned to our motel. Soon after dinner, we were out.

Distance traveled: approx. 37 km