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Day #3 – A Morning In Rotorua

After our fabulous day and evening yesterday learning about the Māori people we decided we’d take today to explore some other parts of this fabulous city. Our day started with a stroll through Kauri Park. This is a public park in the area. While there are many places where you are likely to see more visual and explosive views of the geothermal activity, this particular place is free of charge whereas most of these sites charge big dollars to just walk around and explore them. It does seem that everywhere you go in this country someone has their hand out waiting for you to drop some coin so today we decided to do at least one activity that was gratis!

The park is rather large and has lots of pathways leading you around ponds, bubbling pools, steam pits and hot mud ponds. These areas are all cordoned off to prevent visitors from getting too close to the super heated pools. Today the park is filled with visitors. Most of them are Asian. With Chinese New Year on the horizon we can only assume they are all on holiday here as there are literally busloads of Asian people all around. The kids are bounding about, laughing and running from pool to pool. Parents are busy taking photographs of their munchkins and Dan and Jack take the opportunity to have some fun getting in their pictures with them.

After walking through a great deal of the park we come back to the car park where they are having some sort of market. It’s almost over but we take a few minutes to walk through and see what they have to offer. Mostly it’s like a flea market or swap meet with several vendors selling secondhand clothes and others peddling their fresh vegetables or fair food. We pick up a couple of skewers of grilled pork and a few fresh avocados or as they are called here, “avos” and we finish our tour.

Our next stop is the Buried Village of Te Wairoa, New Zealand’s most visited archeological site. As per their website and information, Mt. Tawarera was an amazing place in its time.

“Before Mt Tarawera erupted in the early hours of June 10th, 1886, the Pink and White Terraces on the shores of Lake Rotomahana were considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, and attracted tourists from far and wide. The terraces had formed over approximately 500 years, as silica rich water flowed down the hillside from boiling geysers. The water cooled and crystallised into the terraces and pools, forming giant staircases or waterfalls.

Photo Courtesy of BuriedVillage.co.nz

The White Terrace was the larger formation, covering 3 hectares and descending 30 metres. The Pink Terrace was where people went to bathe on the lower levels because the temperature of the water was lukewarm.

When Mount Tarawera erupted on June 10th, 1886, Lake Rotomahana also erupted, destroying the terraces. and several other smaller villages. Photographs and paintings were all that was thought to have remained of these beautiful natural wonders. 

Just after midnight on June 10th, the people of Te Wairoa were woken by a sequence of smaller earthquakes, followed by a much larger one, and finally massive explosions. For more than four terrifying hours, rocks, ash and mud bombarded the peaceful village. These were hours of loss and total devastation.

With the loss of this beautiful natural wonder came a sobering reality. The Tarawera eruption changed the New Zealand landscape dramatically and resulted in the loss of around 150 lives. This was to become New Zealand’s greatest natural disaster. 

Yet, a hope of re-discovery exists. In February 2011 scientists announced that they had found what they believe to be part of the Pink Terraces, 60m under water in Lake Rotomahana.” *(1)

The museum was quite informative with lots of great exhibits and the park itself was rather beautiful. While the cost for entry at $35 NZD per adult might seem a bit steep, we really did enjoy our afternoon there and were glad we spent the money. The first part of the walk was a guided tour where the young man who had only been working there a short time provided us with some great history of the area. We toured some of the huts and saw tools and other items they’ve recovered in their excavation of the area.

It was almost like walking through “Little House On The Prairie” only with thatched roof huts instead of log cabins. The scenery was beautiful and we had an amazing day for it. The sun was out and it was warm enough to take off our jackets and enjoy the heat for a change. We saw beautiful flowers, interesting insects and even stopped to rest and dip our toes in the cool waters of the creek.

We walked along this delightful little creek that eventually ran into a large waterfall. At this juncture Jack, Mary and Jilly headed back to the Tea Room while Dan ventured on to see the big waterfall. The terrain was a bit muddy and steep for the rest of us but Dan was determined to get some photos of this beauty.

After a few hours here we decided it was time to get a bite to eat and then head to our next adventure…the 3D Trick Art Gallery. What fun we had exploring and playing at this great place.

Check back tomorrow to see some of the amazing pics we took there.

Cheers,

Jilly & Dan

*(1) www.BuriedVillage.co.nz


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Tamaki Māori Experience

After the amazing afternoon we had at the Ohinemutu Village learning about the indigenous people of this country we were all very excited to have a chance to be immersed in their culture and learn even more. Tonight we headed to the Tamaki Maori Village where we were treated to an evening of great food, fun, education and culture.

It all started as we boarded a bus in town that took us to the Tamaki Maori Village. During the 20 minute drive our driver kept us well entertained as he prepared us for the evening to come. During the trip we were tasked with choosing a “Chief” for our tribe. It should come as no surprise that Dan was voted in for this job. I may or may not have had a little something to do with it as when we were getting on the bus I happened to casually mention to the driver that he should watch out for Dan…you know, being a retired law enforcement officer he is likely to be a bit unruly. The next thing you know Dan was dubbed Chief of the Takahan tribe.

Upon our arrival at the village our driver took a moment to teach Dan the proper way to greet the village Chief. In Māori tradition the greeting is to touch noses and foreheads while shaking hands and saying “Kia Ora”. As you’d expect, Dan followed his instructions to the letter.

We disembarked and headed into the entrance of the village where all of the other tribes were gathered. The six Chiefs were called to the front and given instructions as to what to do when the village warriors and the Village Chief arrived. The crowd was instructed that during the welcoming ceremony we were not to smile, laugh, talk or move about. Any of that would be considered disrespectful to the villagers and you could be asked to leave.

Before we knew it there were village men coming out doing their traditional war like dances while swinging sticks and making that well known face that includes sticking their tongue out and down. Then there was a distant chanting that grew louder and louder. Off the the right is a small stream and soon we saw a traditional waka, “war canoe”, come into view with several more village warriors.

They all came on shore and began their traditional dance. One of the warriors placed ferns on the ground in front of each of our Chiefs. This is a symbol of friendship and is to be taken very seriously. In fact the Chiefs were told that if at any time this peace offering were to touch the ground it would be seen as an act of war. At least that’s how it would have been back in the day.

The Chiefs were then asked, one at a time to come forward and take the fern. They had been instructed not to turn their back when they walked away and to remain very stoic. The whole gist of this big ceremony is for the villagers to intimidate their guests so you don’t want to look frightened, rather equally tough.

After the presenting of the fern the Tamaki Village Chief came out to greet the tribes. This is where the greeting of tapping foreheads and noses came into play. It appears a bit strange when you first see this but we’ve seen this happen all over New Zealand. It’s not just an ancient tradition, it’s one the Māori people still do today.

Next came the real fun, the Haka! A haka is a ceremonial war dance that is really pretty cool. The point again is to intimidate your opponents. To see one of the coolest hakas ever you should click here to watch the Māori All Blacks rugby team do theirs. It’s actually known as the best haka in the world.

After the haka we were invited into the village. Each tribe was instructed to go to a different station. At each station we were told about different aspects of Māori village life. One place spoke of their history, another of living conditions, one had women illustrating the use of the poi (pronounced poo ē), another station taught the men of the group how to do a haka. Each spot was a wonderful learning experience where they allowed us to participate. It was really very interesting.

As we reached the end of the village tour we were taken to the area where they had prepared the evening’s meal. The meal was prepared in the traditional way in an underground oven called and umu. They heat lava rocks and place them in the bottom of the pit. Then they lower the food down in large baskets. This included potatoes, Kumara (sweet potatoes), onions, carrots, chicken, lamb and beef. They cover the food up and allow it to cook for many hours. The result is very tasty, smoked meat and vegetables.

While they were moving the food into the fale (meeting house) we were treated to a wonderful dance performance by the villagers. They performed several dances and sang some of their traditional songs. It was definitely quite a treat and since Dan was on of the honorary Chiefs of the evening we got a front row seat for the performance. Yes, it pays to know someone high up.

From there it was off to the fale to have a wonderful dinner. The food was served buffet style and it very good. After dinner they had a going away ceremony for one of the village women. She had just taken a job with Disney World and would be leaving the following day. They performed a special haka just for her. It was very moving to watch as she teared up at the gesture.

After that it was time to get back on the bus for the ride back to town. Along the way Dan gave a speech to the tribe, we can 100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall and the bus driver regaled us with jokes and stories. He even drove around one round about three times just for fun!

We certainly enjoyed our evening greatly. To be honest, it was not a cheap evening out. It was $130 NZD per person. That’s approximately $90 USD. No, not an inexpensive evening but certainly one we will remember for a lifetime and that is what it was all about. We highly recommend this experience if you are ever in Rotorua. You won’t regret getting a chance to meet the amazing people of Tamaki!

We’ve one more day of exploring here in Rotorua so check back in a day or two for more of our adventures here.

Cheers,

Jilly & Dan

Click Here To Watch A Video of Our Tamaki Village Experience