Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rotorua, New Zealand

15th Feb

The day after my skydive, which seems like a lifetime ago now, I headed to Rotorua which is where they have all the hot springs and geysers. Its also one of the top places for Maori culture.

On my way there I did a couple of detours. The first was to Huka falls just outside of Taupo. This is where the Waikato river, which drains lake Taupo, is funneled through a narrow gorge to create incredibly powerful rapids and falls. This one river system is able to supply 15% of the total power of New Zealand.

Bridge over troubled water?

Last and biggest falls

Some guff about the falls

It was not the most spectacular waterfalls I have seen on my trip (Iguazo falls are still to come!) but I certainly would not have liked to fall into the water none the less!

My next detour was about another 7 miles up the road - the Craters of the Moon. This is the most recently active (only started bubbling up in the 1950's) of the many thermal parks around the volcanic area of Rotorua. The park consisted of a mostly elevated walkway around hot springs, thermal vents and a couple of bubbling mudpools.

To be honest I was slightly disappointed. Most of the vents were small and looked like someone was blowing cigarette smoke out of holes in the ground. The walkways did not allow you to get close to the larger vents. A sensible precaution given that the vents shift position from time to time. Given my luck it was definitely sensible - I could just see me peering into one of the vents and ending up getting a superheated steam facial!

Open air sauna

Large steam vent

Very quick video of mudpool which I gave up on because I've seen more bubbles when I farted in a bath of dirty water!

My last stop before Rotorua was another set of thermal springs except these ones were meant to be a lot more impressive and included a geyser. However when I found out the price of the entrance and the fact that the geyser was not due to erupt until 10am the following morning I decided to give it a miss. I could always come back the next day - which unfortunately I did not do (another thing to come back and see). I did take photos of some of the carvings outside of the park.

Looks like he's having trouble - a bit of constipation perhaps?

Judging from where the cobweb is this one is constipated AND getting no action!

I drove on into town and after some extensive searching I found the hostel I had booked into - the Funky Green Voyager which had a nice laid back feel to it. The manager (whose name I forget) was very helpful in finding me things to do around Rotorua. As I was in the heart of Maori culture I decided to book myself onto a traditional Maori Hangi banquet and show at the Mitai (pronounced like the cocktail - so it must be good!) Maori centre that night.

At 8pm a bus picked myself and 5 other people from the hostel up and took us to the centre. There were loads of people there - at least 100 all in a large marquis. After some Maori greetings from the host (and a couple of well earned beers) it was time for the banquet. For a traditional hangi meal all the food is cooked underground in a large pit. We were all taken out to see the food being uncovered before being served:

Uncovering the food for the Hangi meal

The meal was great with Beef, lamb and Chicken with loads of potatoes and lots of salad. I had not eaten that well for several days!

After the meal we were all lead down to the local sacred stream to see some Maoris paddle up in a war canoe (called a waka)

Statue on way to river:

I always wondered what happened to Beavis!

Oxford boat crew relaxing on their day off?

Then it was back up to a large theatre for the main performance of the night. It was here in front of a backdrop of a traditional Maori village that the Maori men and women performed a selecton of songs and dances culminating in their tribes own Haka.

'Oh bugger I just followed through'

Tapanga two heads was the star of the show!

Finally, to end off the night we went back down to the river to be shown glowworms and the sacred spring of the tribe. Water companies have offered millions to the tribe to get their hands on the water that bubbles out from this spring as its some of the purest in the world. I just liked the big eels that swam around it.

Although at times some of this show seemed to be a bit tacky it was still good to see and quite enjoyable. They also were able to make light of some parts of their traditions (eg the fact that instead of disfiguring their faces with tattoos they used paint instead for these ceremonies) while keeping faithful to their ways.

However, they didn't know how to make a Mai Tai cocktail!

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