Leif Pettersen's Travelogue

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Rotorua, New Zealand

Posted on February 5th, 2005

I had two down days back in Christchurch before catching my plane to Rotorua. I could have easily spent this time in yet another South Island mountain town, soaking up the sights and stillness, as opposed to the mild, unremitting chaos of Base Backpackers in Christchurch, “where the weirdos go to hang,” but I wanted to just lay low, do laundry, sleep in a comfortable bed for two nights and eat at the yummy, neighboring Indian restaurant.

All Base Backpackers hostels have a bar on site where game residents convene in the evening. I was lured to the bar on my first night by my Belfast roommate, mostly because I was sick of my book and I had no backed up writing duties for once. I ended up having a surprisingly good time. This was due entirely to a new diversion that I concocted more or less on the spot that could very well be the permanent answer to my loneliness issues. I call it “Extreme Cock Blocking” (ExCB). For the uninitiated, cock blocking is where one person, can be male or female, either intentionally or through blind incompetence, foils a guy’s efforts at seeking romance (read: casual sex) with a targeted female. A standard cock block can be executed after the hopeful male has put in anywhere from five minutes up to several months of effort to get with the desired female. Often the cock block is implement by a fellow, likeminded, malicious male who is also seeking romance with said female and wishes to bury the competition (i.e. [the subtle approach] “Boy, that Dave, what a character! Well, that’s an out-of-control meth habit for you!”; or the more aggressive “[cock blocker sidles in between guy and girl] Hey baby, wanna see my yacht?”), but occasionally the cock block is an inadvertent screw-up by a dimwitted, blabbermouth hanger-on (i.e. “Who Justin? Yeah, he’s a great guy! And just between you and me, I think it’s safe to say that he has the largest donkey scat porn collection I have ever seen.”). Needless to say a male who has been cock blocked is usually quite put out when all his diligent work has been thwarted, no matter the circumstances.

Extreme Cock Blocking, as I have engineered it, is when you foil the efforts of multiple hopeful guys going after the same target(s) simultaneously. I’m not going to antagonistically jump in between a guy and a girl, because that’s a good way to get kicked in the nuts from behind, but in instances where the girl(s) are alone and a bunch of guys are standing around, not engaging the girl(s) and not quite sure what to do, that’s fair game as far as I’m concerned. It’s very simple, really. All you have to do is locate the hottest, achingly sexy, yet intimidating girl or group of girls in the vicinity (there will inevitably be one to 10 guys standing around working up the courage to talk to them), join the girl(s) with a simple, yet effective introduction line and then parlay that into an evening of chatting and innocent flirting, keeping her/them entirely too occupied for any other guy(s) to make their own approach. My personal goal here, obviously, was not to score (I don’t kid myself for a second), but just the concept of having some company while happily watching a pack of carefully coifed, well-dressed, overly-cologned, aspiring young gigolos giving me the stink eye and slowly going insane with wretched envy was exceedingly satisfying.

The idea hit me after my Irish friend abandoned me to talk to a girl - of all things. I had already ingested a glass and a half of wine and was therefore at my peak of bravery, without being too booze stupid to utilize it effectively. I acted quickly on the impulse, doing a rapid 360 degree scan of the room, identifying two hot English girls that were standing together with a hovering semi-circle perimeter of guys trying to screw on the courage to speak to them and I made my move. I ducked through the barricade of expectant guys without spilling a drop of wine and launched right into one of my air-tight, attention-getting conversation starters (“Which one of you ladies wants to touch my machete scar?”). It was wonderful fun. I learned quickly that the English girls had been hitting the booze pretty hard since about dinner time and were deep in the “I love everybody!” stage of drunken antics, so it only took a few minutes before I was their greatest friend in the history of the universe. Cuddly pictures were taken, email addresses were exchanged and fun was had by all, except of course the smoldering group of irked and frustrated guys that I had Extreme Cock Blocked.

The ultimate beauty of this approach is that the normal nervousness and potential disaster of being shot down in public by two hotties is diffused by the fact that I don’t care. I’m not trying to get lucky, I’m just looking for good company. So, there’s nothing to stop me from approaching girls that would make normally bold men, myself usually included, wilt in fear and stammer like a mafia informer. The night was a huge success. We flirted, they posed for numerous photos, often simulating mild sex acts together for the camera and I retired alone of course, but in a good mood.

The next night was even better as I had done my homework. As I breezed through reception with my lunchtime kebab, I was witness to the arrival of two very, very beautiful German girls, both blond and well endowed and one of them was an amazon, over six feet tall. When I entered the bar that night, the girls were already there, sitting together drinking and chatting while several men stood conspicuously nearby, pretending to be engrossed in a re-run of a football (soccer) match on the bar TV. Without breaking stride, I deftly swooped in and hit it off with the girls right away when I explained that I was from Minnesota and one of them, by freak coincidence, had a Minnesota connection. There was no stopping us from there. Most of the gaggle of men standing around, after collecting their jaws off the floor, snarled and backed off one-by-one to find other girls to stand near and casually ignore, but a few stood their ground hoping to butt into the conversation, but I was being far too engaging and charming for that to happen. Let me reiterate that these girls were heart breaking. Even the guys in the mediocre cover band that was on stage at the time, were stealing glances at us. It was the ultimate ExCB triumph and it all accomplished worry-free because even a lonely geezer like myself knows that the chances of a 20 year old, six foot, blond, D-cup German personification of sex is not going to suddenly swoon over my 5’-9”, 34 year old, tired butt. Ultimately, I ended up leaving the Germans after only an hour or so. They were getting a head of steam to go out in the bushes and get stoned. I don’t smoke and there’s nothing less entertaining than conversing with stoned people when you’re not, I don’t care what they look like. Particularly when they are 20 years old and can barely hold an absorbing conversation with all their faculties intact. I did however, escort them all the way to the door to ensure that any lingering male candidates wouldn’t have any chance to nose in. I’m such a dick.

I had a plane to catch the next morning, so I was getting ready to call it a night when I unintentionally blundered into a second round of ExCB, featuring my Dutch roommate. She and I had only traded brief pleasantries when we met earlier in the day, but when she saw me in the bar, it was like I was an old friend she hadn’t seen in 10 years. She gave me a 30 second bear hug and a big, sloppy smooch on the cheek, then literally held onto me to keep me from walking out of the bar. The males victims in this case were my Irish roommate, who had apparently been buying the girl beer after beer, and a few of his Irish buddies who seemed keen to do a little cock blocking of their own given a window of opportunity. The Dutch girl was hammered and clearly had a lot to tell me, but I explained that I was going to the room to pack so that I could sneak out, quiet as a mouse in the morning to catch my plane. She eventually relented and let me go, giving me a 45 second hug and three more kisses before releasing me. In hindsight, I suppose in that instance I might have been able actually get some leg if I wanted it, but my Irish roommate was clearly getting agitated in the background and he knew where I slept, so… I was up and out to the airport bright and early the next morning.

I had been repeatedly warned by fellow travelers that Rotorua had a bit of a “smell.” The source of this odor was the countless hot mud springs in and around the city. Equally, everyone reported that, despite its potency, I would get used to the smell after a day or two. I had gotten so worked up over this notion that I swear I started to smell something odd even as the plane circled over the city, getting ready to land. The initial sniffs after leaving the plane were deceiving as we were out at the airport several kilometers from the springs, but by the time we pulled into the city, it was full on. The stink was a fusion of a healthy fart and a car burning oil. Depending on which way the wind was blowing, occasionally the smell would become pungent enough for my stomach to turn and recently ingested food to crawl halfway back up my esophagus. There was no way I was going to spend two nights in Rotorua with that olfactory assault.

Hot springs are all over the city. Some are little holes in the ground and others are full-on lakes.

I booked a bed at “Wall Backpackers” only to learn later that it had been bought and was now in fact another Base Backpackers. Sigh. More drunken 20 year olds. This undesirable development might have been pacified by the opportunity to play another round of ExCB that night, but that was out of the question. Sometime during the flight a sore throat and a minor cough had developed and it was getting worse with every passing moment. Being sick in a hostel is the absolute pits, so I wasn’t going to take any chances by having even a moderate night out. I canceled my second night in Rotorua and whipped together plans to bus to Napier the very next day. Then I got myself prepped and headed out to Zorb.

Zorb is a genius New Zealand creation and I had been looking forward to Zorbing since my arrival in NZ four weeks earlier. A Zorb is a giant, 12 foot, puffy beach ball with a hollow, suspended core inside. The concept is, you shove anywhere from one to three humans into the core, zip the access hole closed and then roll the thing down a steep hill. The humans inside get the bouncy ride of their lives. You can Zorb two different ways; either have yourself strapped onto the interior wall and roll and bounce with the Zorb, or you can dump a few buckets of water in there (Hydro Zorb), and free-float around in there, basically stationary but sloshing around, as the ball rolls around you. Also, you have the choice of a straight roll downhill, usually meant for when there are two or three people in the Zorb, or the zigzag track which only allows for one rider, because if two or more people zigzagged together they would inadvertently kick the crap out of each other. At the behest of the girl behind the desk, I did the Hydro, Zigzag Zorb. It was nothing short of fabulous.

Straight Zorb

Zigzag Zorb

After a Zorb. Attention ladies! Remember to wear a bra or a bikini top under your Zorb clothes. These girls learned the hard way that Zorb-issue shirts become uncomfortably see-through when they get wet.

Having been pre-warned about the hydro option, I had arrived in my swimsuit, but Zorb provides Zorbing attire for unprepared people. Once my group was suited up, we were driven to the top of the hill and coached about how to effectively Zorb. Then the access hole was unzipped and I did the running Superman leap necessary to get oneself into the core. A moderate dumping of water was added and I was sealed in. To get the ball rolling, so to speak, you just start walking forward in the core, like in a hamster wheel. Once you get going, it’s completely out of your hands. The water and the inertia keeps you helplessly bouncing and sliding all over the inside of the ball. On the zigzag track, every time you hit a turn, you go flying up one side of the ball and are then tossed back into middle as the ball switches directions. It was uncontrolled, marvelous pandemonium. I screamed with delight, an impulse that I rarely have these days, as I was thrown around during the 30 seconds ride. The Zorb rolls so fast and you are being thrown around so much that there’s no seeing where you’re going or when the next curve is coming, so you are just blindly tossed around until the Zorb comes to a stop at the bottom. Finally someone unzips the access hole and you slide out, breathless. As I dried off I enthusiastically watch and photographed several other people Zorbing. It just never got old.

If you can stand the odor for extended periods of time, in all fairness, Rotorua has a plethora of activities (dry luge, jet boating, every type of spa imaginable, white water rafting, skydiving, etc) but as far as I was concerned, there was no topping the Zorb experience. I had originally had it in my head to return to the hostel and scale the adjacent, fabulously diverse climbing wall (hence the original name Wall Backpackers), but not only did I fail to find a willing climbing partner, but I knew it would just be a letdown after Zorbing. I had also intended, for the sake of accurate reporting, to hit one of the stinky spas, despite my general aversion for submerging my body in scalding, fart-stink water, and maybe get a massage, but my advancing sore throat re-appeared when my Zorb high faded, so I glumly resigned myself to a shower and an early dinner. Unfortunately, an early night was not possible at this hostel.

The Base Backpackers bars are usually situated in the building in such a way as to not disturb the sleeping floors, but with Rotorua being a converted Base, they had no control over the fact that the bar was one floor below the lower sleeping level, and in the case of my room, directly below my window. Even though there were only about six people in the bar, they had the music cranked to night club levels all night, including the seeming endless round of Karaoke that started at about 10:00. My roommates (a bunch of reserved English women) and I were very displeased. One of them announced her intentions to take Base management to task about the music volume first thing in the morning. I resorted to a prescription sleeping aid and managed to lose conscious sometimes after 12:30.

The next morning, with my nose pinched, I hustled onto the first bus to Napier.

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