Round blue hot pools and the Mitai Maori Evening
Captain Cook Returns making waves.
During the night we awoke to the sound of bubbling, plopping mud in the nearby puddles. Inside the tent was warm and cosy from the heated ground we lay on and we were mighty comfortable. I wondered how far beneath was the thermal activity, hissing boiling and moving water and hot rocks. Just how connected to the centre of the earth were we?
The next day we spent in camp as the rain was nearly constant, denting the sides of our tent and steaming up the camper windows as we played card games and chatted. First thing Rob and I had showered and met in the hot pool room. The camp boasted two swimming pools and three hot tubs, all heated to a greater or lesser extent by pipes of water running through the nearby bubbling mud field, as was the hangi cooker pictured in the previous blog.
Our two round blue pools were daily emptied into the lake, cleaned and refilled with fresh geo thermal heated water with all its health giving properties. They were set in a wooden screened enclosure with lush green plants in pots all around. The atmosphere was magical, mystical even as we shared the same pool and obeyed the signs which asked us to be quiet.
A lady came in and submerged herself, insulated coffee mug in hand and briefly told us these were better than her own pool at home. How much time passed I don’t know, we just got out when we were ready knowing there was a loving family nearby whose company we needed.
I had been so looking forward to the evening ahead. Rob and I could easily have included the evening on our camping tour but we decided to save it until the family were with us. I hoped it would be the totally submersive Maori experience that we would all remember and I was not disappointed.
Run entirely by the Mitai Maori tribe, most of them related, and situated on their own land we were collected and delivered by coach to join around two hundred others from all over the world including a large contingent from Russia who entertained us with a powerful song from the Steppes.
The evening started with a tour of the site including the Hangi oven in which the meat and potato part of supper was cooking. Our compere was a Bill Nighy character with warmth and mannerisms so similar it was untrue. He spoke the fifteen languages needed to say hello to everyone and his habit of involving his audience and literally leaning towards them throughout made his contribution to the evening memorable. He really was good.
I have mentioned before the waka dug out canoes which were the traditional mode of water transport. We had seen numerous examples all over NZ sat in their cradles and inactive for most of the time. Well on this evening we saw how they looked as the tribesmen in full fighting attire with the chief in their midst paddled along their waka stream, eyes wide open and tongues outstretched. It was quite a spectacle marred only by being stuck behind a camera lens trying to get a good shot for much of the short time they were performing.
After the Haka greeting ceremony and cultural display of dance in one hall we dodged raindrops into the black and white draped dining hall where we tucked into the generous buffet and washed our supper down with Tohu wine from their own vineyard in the same Awatere river valley as Peter Yealand’s Seaview vineyard. The children were holding up fine and taking in everything around them including the numerous other children there.
I was happy. Like so many things one looks forward to, when it comes to it they are special for completely unexpected reasons and the professionalism of the compere was one of them. But it wasn’t over yet. Many folk started leaving and they may have had to but they missed our being divided into small groups and taken for a walk through the camp and seeing genuine old living huts, glow worms, the children’s first experience of them and pools of eels in the waka stream.
Ruby posed for me in front of one hut to show how grownups would have to bend to get into the huts and she had questions to ask of our guide who previously had been helping with dinner. Both children were interested and absorbed and I wondered if they would get the chance to tell their classes at school about what they had seen and learned.
Our tent was dry and warm inside and the mattress was warm from the thermal blanket in the ground in this naturally cosy campsite. It rained all night in camp and since the wind was strong too, we did not hear the bubbling mud in the nearby puddles as we had the night before, instead the lapping of the waves on the Lake shore drove us to install our earplugs as Cook passed over us heading south east. At least we would be heading south west and away from Cook, towards Taupo the next day.