So Rotarua is like the Queenstown of the north in terms of outdoorsy things to do: jet boating, horseback riding, bungee jumping, luging, etc. It's nowhere close to Queenstown's beauty, though. Plus...it smells. Really. It's located near a volcano and the air is full of sulphur, aka rotten egg smelliness. Driving into the valley is cool; thermal steam rising from random spots in the ground and rivers. Then, if your vents are open, or you get out of the car the sulphur hits your nostrils and your nose hair curls up. Not even joking. I'd say that you get used to it, but you really don't. Lucky it's a pretty cool town with lots to see. Like the Maori Village (think Polynesian Cultural Center) where you tour a traditional Maori village, watch cultural performances and eat ethnic food. Here's Kenny at the entrance:
As a side note, after watching a Maori dance, one would expect them to have deep booming (slightly frightening voices), but then they speak and they're actually very quiet, slightly high pitched with a hint of a British accent. It's kind of disarming, actually.
After Rotarua, we drove an hour to Hamilton. On the way we passed through horse country. Cambridge and the surrounding area is where it's at as far as thoroughbred horses go (so I'm told). It was rainy, so we didn't get to ride any. Oh well.
Hamilton is a pretty big city; it has two universities...and a Temple! Before we left, I ruined the night of my stake president's 1st counselor the night before we left, begging him to renew my recommend. It didn't expire until December, but I thought it had to have a bar code to work. Anyway, he rearranged his schedule and shut his family up in a room of his house so I could be interviewed. He was so bummed (and I was pretty embarrassed) when he looked at my existing recommend and told me it would still work without the barcode. So thanks again President Stanford! (And I'm really really sorry...again.)
The temple is like a miniature LA Temple - inside and out. They were built a few years apart, so I guess that makes sense. the Temple is a ways outside the main city, on top of a hill with almost nothing around it except a small church college. It was cool driving to it, passing buildings and streets with names like David O. McKay Blvd.
We got there in time for the last session, which consisted almost entirely of Maoris. We got out as the sun was setting and the sky was a deep royal purple color. Amazing. The temple lights were on so it was hard to get a good picture of the sky without washing out the Temple, so first enjoy the temple, then imaging the sky from the second picture behind it. Inspiring.
It was perfect to spend our last night in New Zealand at the temple. After witnessing all that beauty and enjoying one another's company, it was wonderful to spend time in God's house and remember who created it all.