Where two next?

Antipodean travelogue through the eyes of two - one textile and one building lover. It'll be hard to differentiate the two!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rotorua (47) Days 16/17

We arrived early enough on Day 16 after flying from Christchurch and got a shuttle, to our hotel. NZ and Australia offer shuttle services from main transport hubs. A shuttle is basically a shared taxi, it takes a little longer to get to your destination but it is obviously cheaper. It is a pretty good system really but if there is a few of ye a taxi can work out just as cheap.

One of the first things that gets mentioned about Rotorua is the smell. As the area is full of thermal activity there is a very strong smell of sulphur where ever you go. This wouldn't be too bad if sulphur didn't smell like rotten eggs! Rotorua is nicknamed the "Sulphur City" and when you walk down the street the wind can change direction and suddenly you will get a really strong smell. The smell, though intense at times, was not unbearable and was better than I expected it to be. (Although I don't have a great sense of smell at any time!).

When I got my boarding card in Christchurch I wondered was the abbreviation for our destination a subtle hint to the smells we would encounter on our arrival. See pic below.

When we arrived at the hotel the first thing I noticed was that you couldn't open the windows in our room. I can only imagine that this is to try and control the smell. Or maybe with the air smelling as it does there is no demand for Rotorua's version of "fresh air!"

After we had settled in we headed off to Tourism Rotorua to book some excursions. The first thing we booked was a visit to Hell's Gate for the afternoon. We had planned on going to White Island the next day while taking in a traditional Hangi that night. (More on the Hangi in the next post). Our trip ending with a visit to Wai-O-Tapu thermal park before catching a flight back to Wellington that afternoon.

Hell's Gate or Tikitere to most Maori's gets it's English name from George Bernard Shaw who visited the place in 1934 and said of it "I wish I had never seen this place, it reminds me too vividly of the fate theologians have promised me"

We were picked up at Tourism Rotorua early in the afternoon.The plan for us was primarily to go to the Wai Ora Spa & Wellness Centre for the much talked about thermal mud baths. Our driver turned out to be a very interesting person and we learned more about Maori traditions and their perspective on New Zealand history than we have done in our entire time in NZ, before or since. Albeit a one sided view point!

David our driver, whose Maori name I forgot the minute he told it to me, explained that he was one of twelve children of Maori parents who were born and lived in Australia. He however was one of the lucky or chosen ones and was sent back to New Zealand to be raised by his grandparents. They would teach him the family genealogy so he could pass it onto his children when the time came. Aswel as being taught by his grandparents he also inherited the family's land which he held in trust to pass onto the next generation. This he said was the traditional way that Maori's passed their knowledge onto the next generation.

I asked him about the controversial Treaty of Waitangi and the difficulties surrounding it's interpretation. (Due to significant differences between the Māori and English language versions of the Treaty there is no consensus as to what rights the Treaty gives to which groups. We have also read the History of New Zealand by Micheal King and one gets the impression that the Treaty has nearly caused more problems than it has solved!)

In relation to the Treaty he said that a lot of Maori's feel very aggrieved by how the Treaty has been interpreted over the years and that further down the line their would be trouble! He explained that the current Maori population accounted for only 15% approx. of the total population, but that Maori birth rates were considerably higher than non Maori/ European New Zealander's. Ultimately this would eventually lead to a situation where the percentage, and therefore the lobbying force of the Maori's, would swing in their favour. He predicted that when this happened it would bring about some radical changes.

(As an aside, Sharon was talking to another gentleman of Maori decent at a party we were at on Saturday night and he suggested that everything I have just written is rubbish. So I hope you understand that the above is only one person's view point and, it would seem, not the general consensus within the Maori population!)

On a lighter note David encouraged us to try our hand at some Maori carving when we were at the thermal spa. Hell's gate being a thermal park etc. aswel as a spa. I must admit I was reluctant but after being coaxed by the girls we all went up and gave it a go. Here's a few pics of our carvings etc.

When you finish the carvings they varnish them for you as you are not allowed export them otherwise. Apparently they use rare indigenous and protected timbers recycled from furniture etc. The whole experience was a real treat and we all cherish the carvings we took away with us that day, even if they are no great shakes!

You can pick from a handful of symbols all of which have special significance to Maori's. I cannot remember exactly but the one directly above is about fertility and protection. Basically there is a baby frond protected by two larger fronds. So the metaphors it generates are quite expansive.

As mentioned in a previous post some time ago our original itinerary included a trip out to White Island (17) the following day. Due in no small part to the fact that Sharon's sister Annette, again as previously mentioned, read a Rough Guide and picked out all the things she would like to do. without consulting a map! Included on her wish list was 90 mile beach, which couldn't be further North of Wellington if you tried and was quickly crossed off the list!

We had originally planned on going to White Island on day two but by the time we got to Rotorua the energy levels had wained somewhat and we decided to take life a little easier and hang around Rotorua for the day. We did a recommended walk instead and took in some of the more local attractions. The first was the Kuirau Park which is a public i.e. free thermal park. The park erupted in 2003 covering the whole place in mud but it hasn't happened since. Here's some pics.

After that we headed towards Lake Rotorua (roto rua literally means second lake) to the Tamatekapua Meeting House and St. Faith's Anglican Church. Here's some more pics including some of traditional Maori carvings. A little bit better than our attempts it has to be said!

That evening it was off to a traditional Maori Hangi but given the length of this post I think we should leave it for another day! Hopefully I can conclude our travels up North in the next post.


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