Sue Baxalle and family enjoy an adrenalin-packed weekend with a few hairy moments.

There's nothing like sitting at the edge of a 7m, near-vertical drop - so close that you can't even see what's below - with the knowledge that there is only one way out. And that's forwards.

But this was where I found myself, heart racing, with 15-year-old son Pierre in a Suzuki Jimny 4WD vehicle, atop the obstacle named "the luge", part of Off Road NZ's 4WD Bush Safari on the outskirts of Rotorua. Having just seen my husband and 13-year-old Martin drive over the edge did nothing to relieve the trepidation.

As a driver more accustomed to the safety of Auckland's well-maintained roads and motorway system, the idea of driving through 35ha of Rotorua bush, manoeuvring through muddy potholes, streams and steep inclines was less than appealing.

Once he had installed us into our vehicles and given us rudimentary instructions on the need to stay in low gear, our safari guide, Reece, set off to lead the way. On foot.

Advertisement

Reece talked us through the landscape all the way, through a walkie-talkie system, describing features of the bush and the obstacles to come.

After successfully conquering a few hairpin bends and the aforementioned potholes, my confidence was starting to mount. Then came the bridge under construction, which Reece informed us had suffered during recent bad weather, leaving just a log for drivers to carefully keep one set of wheels on. The "good news", he said, was that the stream was low and we could actually see the log. In high water, it would be obscured.

That slowly but surely accomplished, onwards it was up Moa Hill - watch out for nesting moa - and the Highway to Hell. The moment of truth, I thought, was the plunge into the "waterfall". which Reece kindly assured me was only a 3m plunge into a muddy, wet precipice.

I didn't think to check the colour of Pierre's knuckles, clenched on the door handle, but somehow that hurdle too was soon behind us. If I could navigate that, I could drive anywhere.

Which brings us back to the luge ... and my subsequent scream.

After that came a well-deserved picnic at Off Road's bush camp before director Ian Tew steered us towards the go-kart track.

The bad news for Martin was the age limit of 14, but the rest of us kitted up in racing suit, balaclava, gloves and helmet. The Raceline Karting track is the longest in New Zealand, at 1.2km (and the highest competition-rated track in Australasia).

It is owned by the Rotorua Kartsport International Development Trust, while site managers Off Road NZ own and operate the fleet of 20 390cc 4-stroke Sodi karts imported from France - the fastest in New Zealand.

Advertisement

For the next 10 minutes of tyre-screeching fun, we zoomed around the course. Watch out Greg Murphy, Pierre took top honours with a best time of 1m11.08 sec.

Back in Rotorua we retired to the Novotel where the adrenalin had a chance to settle with a soak in the geothermal mineral pools before we headed down to the Atlas restaurant and the buffet - a feast for growing teens.

Next morning, it was time for more action, this time not on wheels. We headed to Skyline Rotorua, where the gondola took us up the 900m cable system - offering panoramic views of the city and lake - to the luge (the three-wheeled variety, hurtling down concrete tracks). We had three-ride tickets each, enabling us to first take the beginners' scenic track, a 2km ride to get us used to the carts before the 1.7km intermediate track and the 1km advanced version. The verdict: we'll be back for more adrenalin fixes.

TRAVELLERS' TIPS
Novotel Rotorua Lakeside: Lake End, Tutanekai St, Rotorua. Ph (07) 346 3888.

Off Road NZ: 193 Amoore Rd, Mamaku, Rotorua. Ph (07) 332 5748.

Skyline Rotorua: Fairy Springs Rd, Rotorua. Ph. (07) 347 0027.