The sun was warming our backs as sheep quietly grazed on the sloping pastures and clouds floated along the blindingly blue sky. We watched from the viewing platform at the bottom and listened to the muffled screams of the others in my program. And there they came, two at a time, rocketing down the slicked grass, both trapped within a giant, inflated ball. At the end, they would slop out of the zorb, wet from the water also inside and thoroughly dazed.
Only a few of us in the BU program, including myself, had decided not to go zorbing, electing instead to enjoy the weather and watch the rest throw themselves into a human hamster ball. I had fun trying to guess from a distance who was in which ball and attempting to capture some of their faces as they were reborn into the world. Welcome (back) to New Zealand!
It was our last trip together and probably the last time some of us would see each other before the group splinters during the last few weeks of the program. Our program directors wanted to make it count, and zorbing was just the prologue.
The setting: Rotorua, Maori for “second lake” as it was the second lake a major Maori chief discovered. We glimpsed it when we came into town, sparking in the sunshine as people gathered for the weekend market. But we were only released into town for lunch, before we had to rush back to the bus to head to our accommodation on another lake.
Blue Lake sat quietly away from the town center; it’s clear, blue waters situated in between hills of New Zealand bush and Californian pines. Blue Lake is one of the dozen or so lakes in the Rotorua area, but one of the few with a holiday park gracing its banks.
Being Labor Day weekend, the park was full of families, campers, and mountain bikers. A handful waved hello as we trudged up to our lodging with our luggage. We soon split up into our cliques to fill four cabins, our social networks having already been formed. It occurred to me then I wouldn’t miss most of these people. We’d say hello to each other on the street once back in America, but we’d be like the strangers in the holiday park, connected by a (past) location but not much else.
The day was still young, so our guide (the man behind our tour of Auckland and the Bay of Islands) gathered some of us for a quick walk/hike around the lake. We splintered once again as we moved through the rustling pines and palms, Yvonne ending up with me in the back, taking pictures.
We all ate our group dinner of grilled sausages and tossed salad back at the holiday park, naturally sitting according to cabin. We munched and talked in the growing, unseasonable chill. Most were exhausted, so after desert of ice cream and afghan cookies, people quickly settled back into their cabins for the night.
I ended up with Yvonne on the lake’s beach, instead. Wrapped in blankets and watching the millions of stars and faintly the glowing Milky Way glimmer above us, we talked about random things until we could no longer feel our toes. We knew then, that it was time to call it a night.