When I decided on New Zealand as the destination for my last trip, the obvious question I got from travelers in the know was “Are you going to jump off of something or our of a plane?”
I knew it wasn’t going to partake of either of those options, being about as far from an adrenaline junkie as possible. I also knew I couldn’t go to New Zealand and not do something invented by those uniquely adventurous Kiwis.
I had read about Zorbing (were you go down the hill in a human hamster ball), and it didn’t look as gut-clenching as jumping off of Auckland’s Skytower or Skydiving in Motueka. It looked like something for someone a little younger, sprier, and fitter than myself, but that, for me, qualified it as an adventure sport and became my way to have an answer to that previously mentioned, common question.
“No, I’m not going to Bungy-jump or sky-dive, but I am going Zorbing”, I would say, trying in vain to pull off a cocky aura I’ve seen in so many of my friends who do jump off things. This answer would, of course, require a detailed explanation of what zorbing was. I never gave the simple explanation of “It’s rolling down a hill in a large, plastic ball”, instead, I’d describe it at rolling down a mountain at breakneck speeds while being tossed around inside a vaguely dangerous, large gerbil ball.
So, when I finally made it to Rotorua in the center of the North Island, I headed straight for the Zorb headquarters just northwest of the city. The day was cold, and that figured to add a little more adventure to this pursuit. There are two kinds of Zorbing; Zorbit, where you are strapped into the ball like a cosmonaut, and Zydro, where water is put in the ball allowing you to slide around the bottom of the ball as it rolls. Zorbit has a weight-limit, so Zydro was my only choice. Again, with the sun already behind the mountains (it was late afternoon when I arrived) and the temperature in the upper 40s, the prospect of being wet wasn’t a great one.
After being weighed, paying, and signing an acknowledgment of the risks, I changed into the t-shirt, swimsuit, and socks I didn’t mind getting wet, and jumped on the truck which took me to the top of the hill. There were three course options, one that went straight down the hill, one called ‘the drop’ and the other that followed a more zig-zag path. I had intended to just do the straight down the hill one, but the enthusiastic worker at the top of the hill said, in typical Kiwi fashion, “You’re not going down the easy one, right? You want some adventure!” Not wanting to disappoint him, I played it off as I had intended to take the zig-zag one all along.
The experience itself, which lasts around a minute, was certainly unique, even fun, but not really on par with sky-diving or bungy-jumping. I was tossed to and fro in the ball, laughing the whole time at the absurdity of such the idea. For me, it was the perfect activity, nothing that terrified me too much, and gave me a good laugh and a fun story to bring home.
Since I was by myself, I was grateful for the option provided to buy pictures from the Zorb people for a small fee, otherwise, I wouldn’t have had any shots of my experience, only other people’s. I did take this short video of someone rolling down the straight track.
Zorbing was one of the best things to do in Rotorua.
The Zorbing experience has made it to the United States as well, with a course located right outside Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. It is certainly cheaper than bungy-jumping, sky-diving, and the Auckland Skytower jump, and is the perfect activity for someone who wants an adventurous Kiwi experience, without having to terrify themselves in the process.