Tim & Anja's New Zealand Adventure travel blog

Te Wananga Whakairo carving school

An apprentice carving at work

A Maori carving

Ngamokaikakoko mud pool

Pohutu geyser

A Maori weaver

Her tools (flax and shell)

Her final product (really a skirt)

Maori welcome before the cultural performance

Lawn bowling on the grounds in front of the Rotorua Museum

Enjoying ourselves at the Polynesian Spa

Using 4 hot pads to cook pasta

Craters of the moon thermal area

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Maori cultural performance- women dancing

Ah, the smell of rotten eggs. Or perhaps hot dogs. Maybe even the bottom of a box of cheerios. These are all the descriptions we came up with to describe what hit our olfactory senses while visiting Rotorua, also known as Rotten-rua (for obvious reasons) or Roto-vegas (because of all the crazy things to do like sky diving or bungy jumping, and even zorbing - yes we didn't know what it was either - apparently you roll inside a plastic ball as it goes down a hill).

Anyway, before we even got to Rotorua, we took the longer, let's call it more scenic route, to visit the Waitomo Caves. We heard it was a good time, but after a short tour we came away mildly disappointed. The cave was alright, just about like other caves we've seen, but the highlight for sure was seeing the glowworms!!! Yes, they glow in the dark, we actually rode a little boat underground in a cave and they were lit up in all their glory. The guide even waited until the end to share with us a special secret- they're not worms at all, they are maggots. They're actually the larval stage of an insect, which after metamorphosis, does not have a mouth and whose sole intention was to find a mate to lay hundreds of eggs. Fun fun!! We were not allowed to take photos, so you'll have to use your imagination, but try to picture a zillion tiny little blue dots on a black background, thousands of them all over, and when you shine a torch (a flashlight) on them, you see they actually dangle down a bit of clear, sticky mucous to catch food with (flying insects-including their own species- which apparently take days to eat).

Once in Roturua we made a plan to learn about two major things: all the geothermal activity going on under our feet, and a little about the Maori culture. Like the Bay of Islands, this area of the North Island (and very distinct from the South) has a much greater Maori influence. We visited the Te Pui village and got to check both things off our list. From the wood carving school (which young Maori men can attend for three years) to the weaving house (where we watched fronds of the flax plant turn into a skirt), the mudpools and geysers and the cultural performance, we hit it all. Part of the Maori performance included a welcome where a chief greets us and presents an offering. There is an exchange of song (no, we didn't do the singing), and then we are invited to their maere or meeting house. Once inside there is singing, storytelling or poetry (called poi), and dancing (including the war dance called the 'Haka' where the warriors protrude their tongues and show the whites of their eyes in order to intimidate their enemies). Typically following a performance like this one there would be the 'Hangi' which is the traditional dinner that is cooked underground for several hours where the geothermal activity provides the heat. We didn't actually experience this as we opted for an afternoon program instead of the more expensive evening program. We'll let the photos do most of the talking here.

We're trying to get better at cooking. We've found some campgrounds provide pots and pans for use, but not all so we finally bought some cheap cooking supplies. Our lovely gear from Mrs. Mosehauer is still wonderful, but we needed to upgrade just a little. We've found we prefer the grocery store called Pack n'Save to Woolworths or New World. They have these great salads pre-packaged, and generally seem more affordable.

We mostly do cereal for breakfast (muesli is big around here) and this morning since it was raining we ate under a shelter at our campground. After we finished, we got talking to this couple from Switzerland and just kept chatting for quite a while. It was cool because they started in the South and are going North, while we're doing the reverse, so we got to share fun stories and good suggestions as our travels continue. They were super nice, and even passed along their email and address in case we ever visit Switzerland. We also met a nice couple from England at our campground while sharing our picnic table. It's been fascinating to hear about other's travels (how long was your flight? Where are you going next? What has been your favorite part so far? How does this compare to....?) The couple we met from Switzerland were explaining how some of the scenic views from the South Island (i.e. Milford Sound) looked just like some views from home and thus they weren't as impressed... amazing how where you live and what you're used to can shape what else you want to see in the world- or what you don't want to see. We were even in a shop buying some local honey and the American guy standing next to us had his Red Sox hat on while I was wearing my red sox t-shirt. Small world!!

Oh, and another highlight was taking advantage of the mineral pools when we visited the Polynesian Spa in the evening and soaked in the hot water as long as we could take it. One large pool was 38 degrees (that's Celsius), another 39, 41 and 42. We tried all except the hottest. Our favorite was the pool overlooking the lake. We arrived a little before dark (we couldn't imagine sitting in a hot pool during the hot sunny day) and relaxed, read our book and enjoyed some peace and quiet. That is, until a large, loud tourist group came rolling through so we decided that was our cue to leave.

Now, we're relaxing our muscles for the big hike tomorrow. It's raining outside and we're so happy we decided to get a cabin instead of a tent site.

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