12th September 2012
Today was going to be a day of Maori Culture and Geothermal Wonders after a day of Underground Caving Activities and scenic walks.
Leaving at the blessed hour of 9.30am, unlike the 7am start the previous day, we hit the road with a few nursing a few hangovers from tackling the 12 pint challenge last night. It was actually really funny, they did the 12 pint challenge only to discover that they needed a stamp card to claim the prize! Oops!
But time to dust away the cobwebs with a great walk at the Ruakuri Reserve where we got to see a Dam in action. It was totally a beautiful day, the sun was out and I was almost tempted to do a wee bungee jump off the bridge overlooking the Dam! This walk is well worth it showing you the abundance of limestone rock formations, caves, native forest and river systems in the area.
A good hour later, all invigorated from the fresh air, we piled on the bus and Dave drove us a short while later to Rotorua. This is no normal town. It’s a geyser town! It’s quite common to see steam coming out from under the storm drains, boiling mud pools and of course, the geysers around.
We were told one story that all the geothermal activity underneath built up to a crescendo that it blew a rock the size of a room out from under the mud pools and landed on top of the hospital nearby crashing trough the roof. It’s a danger town!
Before we arrived in this city of many names whether it is sulphur city, Roto-Vegas or Rotten-rua or even the Maori name of Whangapipiro meaning an evil smelling place, I got dropped off at the zorbing headquarters.
So what is zorbing? Well, this!
Basically, you are taken to top of a really high hill, put inside a huge inflatable plastic ball, added with some warm water, and closed up inside to be pushed down the hill. There are no harnesses or straps so you are basically rolling over backwards in time with the motion of the ball. Crazy? It was some crazy fun I tell you!
Dropped back at the hostel, I jumped into the Hot Pools. This was probably a great highlight as its the first time closest to a bath I’ve ever had! I’ve so missed my baths on my travels and had to make do with showers. But pure relaxation came swimming in the pools, steam swirling around your head as you float on your back in this cold day! Bliss! So where do this heat come from? The hot springs occurs when water, beginning as rainfall, seeps through the Earth’s crust and is heated by contact with hot rocks. Sometimes a geysers is formed when an underground pond of water is heated to boiling point and flashes into steam expelling the water above the flashing point.
I spent a long time in this pool!
After, I decided to shake the drudges of sleepiness from the hot pools by taking a walk through the government gardens where the mud pools were. I jumped for joy at this!
But I had to come back quickly to jump on the bus with Tamaki Tours to get a cultural experience with a Maori’s cultural Hangi (traditional Maori meal) and concert. Collected from my hostel, I was taken to a traditional Maori village set in the 1600s where I saw a traditional Maori challenge to my ‘chief,’ elected on the bus there, where the challenges determined if you are friend or foe. This is a very sacred experience and whatever you do…do not laugh! Laughing at their challenges is very disrespectful. I’m glad I wasn’t the chief then because I wouldn’t have been able to keep a straight face at the contorting faces and sticking out of tongues! Needless to say, we passed!
Entering the village, we were treated to demonstrations of waiata (songs), poi dances, weaponry displays and of course, the Haka! I thought a great highlight is definitely the concert in which they acted out stories of legend. It was very moving especially about lovers who couldn’t be together and the song brought my eyes to glisten.
And now, our stomachs rumbling, we were treated to the feast! The traditionally prepared Hangi (meals steamed in the ground on hot rocks) brings out fantastic flavours and the Kai (food) is very very very very very good! I had not one, not two but 3 helpings and my stomach felt massive, probably like a volcano waiting to explode!
Bidding goodbye, we were invited to take part in the Haka! Jumping to it, I tried out a few moves. It was a great cultural experience and with these words I leave you of the Haka, I couldn’t thank the Maori for bringing us into their lives.
Ka mate! Ka mate! Kia Ora! Kia Ora! Ka mate! Ka mate! Kia Ora! Kia Ora! Tenei Te tangata puhuru huru Nana nei I tiki maiWhakawhiti Te ra A upa.. Ne! Ka upa… Ne! A upane kaupane whiti Te ra!
I die! I die! I live! I live! I die! I die! I live! I live! This is the hairy manWho fetched the sun And caused it to shine again One upward step! Another upward step! An upward step, another… The sun shines!