Our sunrise view — we love home exchanges!
Our time near Rotorua has been structured around a combined attraction ticket called “Experience the Trilogy” — it gives us a discount on entry to three regional attractions. Each one has been terrific.
Having now spent almost three weeks in New Zealand and gaining a small understanding of the Maori history and culture, we began our Trilogy “Supercharged” events with a visit to Te Puia. As part of the visit to this cultural centre, built around the geothermal activity in the Rotorua area, we enjoyed a ceremonial welcoming, tour of the centre, a visit to the geyser and bubbling mud, as well as a “steambox” lunch.
Prior to meeting up with our tour guide we participated in the ceremonial welcoming – a chance to experience traditional ceremonial song and dance. There was also the chance to participate in the dance (as Genevieve did), and also for Jonah and I to participate in the Haka. The Haka is the traditional preparation for battle of the Maori to prepare themselves and to put fear in the minds of their adversary. Today it is used by the New Zealand All Blacks before each of their rugby matches – quite intimidating when done by those that know what they are doing.
Our tour guide was part of the tribe that lived in a town that occupied the area on which the cultural centre now sits. Her grandmother was the last member of her family to live in the village and was the local village midwife. It certainly made it fascinating to have our tour led by an individual that had a very personal connection to the area. As part of the tour we visited the wood carving and weaving schools located at the facility (we even wove a flower out of flax — clearly a talented bunch), learned that tattoos originated with Polynesian cultures and were completed using a shark tooth and mallet (in the olden days), and about the arrival of the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, followed by James Cook in 1849. While the Dutch did not return, the English did, hence the influence that they had on the island. Our Maori guide provided us with a great history lesson of the integration of the Maori and English cultures over the last 150 years.
Being in the Rotorua area but not in the city itself, has its advantages – specifically there is no sulphur smell from the geothermal activity where we are living. Our visit to the centre allowed us to visit an active geyser (where our lunch was cooked, underground), as well as the bubbling mud pool. The geyser erupts approximately 50% of the time – so your chances of seeing it in action are high (which is great). We managed to come upon it while it was erupting – perfect timing. It is impressive to see water heated and pressurized below the earth’s surface suddenly erupt and shoot up to 30m into the air. The bubbling mud has a temperature of 95C – not exactly a good temperature for a mud facial.
Our steambox lunch was packaged by us at the start of our tour and then cooked in a steam oven that is located on the property. Nothing more than a wooden box that is covered with sackcloth where naturally occurring steam is escaping from the surface and cooking our food. A nice way to experience one of the ways the Maori traditionally used the geothermal activity of the area. Steamed potatoes, veg, chicken and stuffing — cooked in an hour and a half underground while we were touring.
A highlight was chatting with another family on our tour. They have four teens, three of whom are adopted from 3 different countries, and have recently completed two years sailing from Florida to New Zealand. They made for interesting lunch conversation!