I help with Melbourne Perl Mongers.
I spend an awful lot of time talking about Perl, and have had my picture in the Australian newspapers with a camel. That's rather scary.
In February as part of my New Zealand adventure I made it to KiwiFoo (aka BaaCamp). The trip to KiwiFoo was an adventure in itself, with Jacinta and myself giving talks at Wellington Perl Mongers and Waikato LUG, and spending a short time in Rotorua (our "tourist day").
Rotorua was unfortunately heavily touristified, and I noticed a few of the locals calling it "RotorVegas". It wasn't hard to see why; there were lots of ways to separate the tourists from their cash, and many of the local attractions felt very artificial as a result. It didn't help that I knew the local geysers were so "reliable" due to an ample addition of soap powder at the times they're supposed to blow.
Somewhat repulsed by the highly commercial offerings, we went looking for some more authentic experiences off the beaten track. Some time walking around one of the geothermal areas revealed a brightly coloured steaming pool behind a "No Entry" sign. I wondered just how hot the water could be, and my scalded finger assured me it was almost at boiling point. Pipes from a nearby hotel snaked their way into the pool, obviously making use of the ample heat it provided.
After a much longer walk, Jacinta and myself found our way to the Redwoods, which made for an excellent few hours hiking. With sore feet, and a Conan the Detective drink bottle we discovered along the walk, we returned to the hotel.
Our hotel had the rather tacky name of "GeyserLand", but true to its name we had an excellent view of a mud pool and geyser directly outside our hotel window. The heat in Rotorua was oppressive; the air was humid, we were experiencing a "heat wave", and the local geothermal activity naturally added to both. The hotel room didn't have air conditioning, so staying in didn't appeal.
The hotel had a swimming pool for guests, which seemed attractive, but it didn't remain open particularly late. It also had "spout pools" which could be hired for a modest fee, but the hotel services guide contained no information about these might be. I figured they were some sort of geothermally heated bath.
Jacinta and I went to the desk to find out a little more and potentially hire a pool, and were told we couldn't hire one, because they were just about to close. "Oh no," I cried with my best pout, "We've travelled all the way from Australia, and this is our only night in Rotorua... I had so hoped to enjoy a thermal pool before I left."
A few minutes later we had access to a "spout pool", free of charge, because the hotel couldn't monitor our usage after they'd closed up reception for the night. Consequently, we also had access to the pool for as long as we wanted.
The pool ended up being the highlight of the entire day. Rather than a tiny thing that would only fit two people, this would have comfortably fit six unfriendly people, or almost twice that in friendly people. Hot water (presumably heated underground) falls from a spout into the pool, which would be waist-deep if you stood up, but which contains seats at just the right level to bring the water to neck height. It was clear that the water wasn't being recycled, it was just pumped in fresh 24 hours a day. I felt rather jealous of New Zealand's ample water supplies; in Melbourne it hadn't rained for two months, and water usage came with tight restrictions.
My dive computer (which I routinely wear instead of a wristwatch) told me the water was about 36'C, which made it lovely to relax in. If I ever return to the hotel, I'll be sure to bring a number of friends and a bottle of sake.
The next day we were off to Waikato (Cambridge and Hamilton) en route to Auckland and then Warkworth. We went and visited a local nature park (with an obligatory kiwi tour) and had a nice lunch in town. Everything looked pretty good until we got onto the bus, where I had discovered we'd booked our tickets for the wrong week. After a little pleading and cajoling with the bus driver and assurances that we wouldn't even be in the country the next week, we were allowed on anyway, despite our tickets being invalid.
Waikato was another adventure again, and one I hope to discuss in my next journal entry.