On the other side of the world is one of the most charming and captivating holiday destinations in the world. Said to have been fished from the ocean depths by a mighty Maori warrior, New Zealand is a land of breathtaking landscapes, of bubbling hot springs and towering mountains, picturesque cities and rustic farms, and home to some of the most informally friendly and outdoorsy people anywhere.
Let’s Go Zorbing!
Ever since I first heard of Zorbing a few years ago, I’ve wanted to try it. For those of you who don’t know, Zorbing basically involves getting into a big plastic ball and rolling down a slope, first invented out in New Zealand (the same country which gave us that other crazy activity, bungee jumping). It’s wacky, it’s wild and it’s completely my kind of thing to do on a holiday! So when I finally made it out to New Zealand with a bunch of friends, of course we headed out to try both bungee-jumping and Zorbing.
We headed by car to the Agrodome Park, which was located about 10 minutes outside Rotorua and offered both much-anticipated activities, as well as quite a few other ‘extreme’ type activities. Surrounded by lush green fields, it was a pretty idyllic setting, except for the fellows bungee-jumping off a tall tower in the middle of it all and a few peculiar white ball things at the top of a nearby hill!
At this point, disaster struck and my story takes a horrifying turn. After an altogether overindulgent breakfast, we chose to try out the bungee-jumping first, which in itself was fantastic, no complaints. Unfortunately, my breakfast didn’t quite agree with all the activity and by the time we got around to the Zorbing, I was splendidly sick and for the sake of my stomach, had to sit it out. All I could do was watch my friends have all the fun, boo hoo!
My first impression of the Zorb balls were – wow, they’re big. It’s probably an awful cliché by now, but they looked decidedly like giant white hamster balls, with a small opening so the ‘zorbonauts’ could crawl in and airholes punched through the PVC material. Everyone decided to try the normal dry Zorb run first, which was about NZD 45 for the first ride and shortly afterwards, everyone was well and truly strapped into their harnesses in their Zorbs. Then it was a push, a shove and way they go! Look, look, it’s the human hamsters!
I had more than a twinge of envy as I watched my friends whooping and shrieking in the Zorbs! The balls went surprisingly fast down the hill, up to 50km per hour according to the website. Having one of the balls headed towards me reminded me of the Raiders of the Lost Ark movie, with the huge stone ball speeding towards Indiana Jones, except this time I was the intended victim and this ball had a screaming girl strapped inside it!
Having to sit on the sidelines while everyone was enjoying themselves was depressing and I was hoping one roll down the hill would be enough for everyone, but nope, no such luck – after the first adrenaline-filled tumble down the slopes, everyone rushed back up and bought a second ride. My feeble attempts to garner some pity for the poor fellow left out of all the fun had no effect whatsoever and in short order, everyone was at it again.
This time around, three fellows decided to try a Hydro Zig-Zag Zorb ride, which cost about NZD 29 each for 3 people to share one Zorb ball. This wet ride involved no harness, about 50 litres of water poured inside the ball and then a push-off down the Zig-Zag track for what sounded like a cross between a washing machine and a rollercoaster, from all the sloshing and yelling going on!
All too soon, everyone finished their rolls and had to tumble out of their Zorbs. One particularly addicted fellow had to be talked out of going for yet another round and only agreed to leave his Zorb when threatened with the loss of lunch, dinner and a ride back to the hotel. Everyone was chattering at the top of their voices about how thrilling the ride down was, the amazing feeling of getting sloshed around in the wet Zorb and how cool it was when they reached the top of the Zorb and were actually weightless – or felt like it – for a few seconds! I think my face must have been turning green with envy at this point! Fortunately, someone must have noticed and tactfully suggested we head back to town for some recuperative drinks.
Before driving off however, I promised myself that the next time I visit New Zealand, the very next time, I would definitely come back and do my own hamster ball impression. I would avoid all other distractions and I would not pass ‘Go’. Zorbing, here I come!
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