Alan Franklin/Lynne Gane
Thu 7 Apr 2016 10:35
22nd-23rd March 2016
The weather has been kind to us until now and its a shame that it was overcast with rain never far away for our visit to Roturo. Thermal wonder and spa, the land of geysers, sulphurous odours and steam vents, is at the northern line of thermal activity and faults lines stretching south to Lake Taupo. Driving through the town, a distinct but not overpowering smell of rotten eggs is everywhere, imagine living with that, all the time! The pretty town gardens have steam vents, in fact they crop up regularly. The town museum is housed in the old early 20th C mud baths, when bathing in the local mud, steam and thermal waters complete with a worrying acid content, was considered beneficial! The Maori considered this a treasured and sacred site and the museum has a very good exhibition on this.
The thermal parks like Waimangu, are the key attraction with geysers that blow like clockwork. The ground around the vents is anything from 20-50C, more for real hotspots, steam rises from the many vents and shafts, delicate ferns thrive in the constant steamy heat, many rare. The lakes and silica terraces, white, pink and rusty, form from the mineral content deposited by the water and steam, have created extraordinary landscapes before being blown away by the Mount Tarawera Eruption in 1886 that famously destroyed the Pink and White Terraces and also killed over 150 people. These terraces were amazingly large steps of flowing icing like silica, with basins large enough for bathing, popular with tourists until their destruction.
No visit to Rotorua is complete without the Maori cultural immersion! Although expensive it was a really good evening with constant entertainment, by the Maori team. From the chanting warriors paddling their war canoe, to a visit to the Hangi preparation, (photo 3) where, like Samoa, a log fire is used to heat the rocks on which the meat and kumara, (sweet potato) are cooked. Thankfully the taro roots are off the menu; these are solid and somewhat tasteless lumps of starch, but the kumara are lovely, soft and sweet, with a mild flavour. The feast was generous and delicious.
The stage show, again with our chosen chiefs to represent our 'tribe' were welcomed after the seemingly threatening dances with bulging eyes and thrust out tongues, the Maori peace token is thrown down and received by our 'chief', speeches of peace made and finally the touching of noses and foreheads, twice, to acknowledge our ancestors and for ourselves. This is a very formal and serious part of the culture. Followed by Maori singing, dancing, calling to gather in the village, warriors receive training in physical exercises to make them supple, quick and strong, and in the art of fighting as in photo 5. We learnt much about the highly traditional and social Maori culture where men were measured by their achievements. And not just in war, carvers, tattoo, negotiations. And finally a visit to see the glow worms, tiny points of light, another natural marvel. A fantastic evening.
More photos to follow of the thermal park.
All our best,
Lynne, Alan and Josh