Our very first stop in Rotorua was for OGO rides. This spot has “the longest runs in New Zealand (and probably the universe),” or so the sign and brochure say.
You might be wondering to yourself, “What’s an OGO?” Well, it’s a double-skinned inflatable sphere. Duh, right? You launch yourself into the centre sphere, they zip the entrance closed, and you ride down the hill. “Ride” is a bit of a misnomer – the sphere tosses you this way and that the whole way down, so it’s less of a ride and more of a mad, mobile contortion show. You can ride with 40 litres of water or dry; I opted for the water because why not?
Your second question may be, “How is this different from a Zorb?” The answer: branding. The two guys who invented this whole concept are Andrew Akers and Dwane van der Sluis, in New Zealand in 1994. The original sphere was branded as a Zorb, and they worked together on running the company that way for a long time. At some point, they went their separate ways, so Andrew and David Akers run the OGO operation today.
The experience of riding these things is hilarity in motion. But first you have to get yourself into the thing headfirst. Some people gracefully dove into the opening with barely a pause. I think it comes as no surprise to you that I was not one of those people. I initially had some anxiety that there would be a Winnie the Pooh situation – one half in and one half out – and made my companions promise not to write things on my rear end should this occur. The OGO guys are great though and assured me that only 9 out of 10 people get stuck. So I just went for it. After a bit of wriggling, you find yourself plopped into the centre sphere, which already has water inside. The water is cool in summer and warm in winter, so it was cool when I was there. I rode the first time down with LK, and we were both laughing so hard we couldn’t even talk.
Riding with someone else can be fraught with danger. That’s overstating it – you can scratch and punch each other accidentally but nothing too major. LK and I had none of these problems, though it was rather hard to keep oneself in order on the way down. Mostly I think I just tried to curl into some semblance of a ball the whole way to avoid accidentally hitting my friend.
There are two tracks: straight and sidewinder, and I rode both. The straight one is a shorter ride, but a little more dramatic. In the sidewinder, you occasionally have to push yourself off the side to keep going.
When you get to the bottom, the friendly OGO staff catches you and repositions the ball so you can slide out the opening feet-first. It’s a little undignified: the angle essentially births you onto the ground unless you put your feet down just so. I got better at it each time though never what you would call entirely graceful.
I took my phone with me in the OGO – carefully protected in a waterproof case. I asked the tour manager before doing so, and Soki replied, “YOLO.” Umm, thanks? I’m glad I did because the pictures are hilarious, but I’m also glad I read and followed the instructions on the waterproof case carefully. There was no chance of keeping the phone out of the water on the ride like I thought: everything in the sphere is soaked by the bottom of the hill. The more you know.
In conclusion, I highly recommend the OGO experience to anyone who likes fun.
Title quote: Lyrics from “Rawhide,” lyrics written by Ned Washington and composed by Dimitri Tiomkin, first recorded by Frankie Laine.