Where two next?

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

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Rotorua (47) Day 17/18

Day 17 ended with a traditional Maori hangi in the Tamaki Maori Village. A hangi is a Māori word for a method of cooking in an outdoor pit oven. The night starts with a pick up from your hotel by a bus. The bus, metaphorically becomes a waka (canoe) as you take the 15 minute trip out to the marea (open space associated with their meeting house) or in our case a Maori village. Before you arrive at the village you have to elect a chief to represent the waka. Maori ancestors arrived by waka to New Zealand and each tribe is therefore metaphorically a descendant of a particular waka.

When you arrive at the village a te powhiri (welcoming ritual) is followed. As part of the powhiri the hosts complete a taki or wero, depending on the marae, which is a traditional Maori challenge used to establish the visitor's intent. At the end of the ceremony the hosts best warrior lays down a rautapu, a symbolic offering of peace usually in the form of a leaf, for one of the chiefs to pick up. Care should be taken to pick up the leaf with your right hand though, as picking it up with your left leaves your right hand free for combat and can be interpreted as an aggressive act!

The Maori's take this ceremony seriously and it is used to mark the start of various events. I remember watching it on TV being performed in Auckland at the opening ceremony for the NZ tennis open. On more than one occasion someone has not observed the correct protocol and had the warriors weapon broken over their head for their troubles! Which can bring it's own share of controversy!

You are not even meant to smile at the warrior during the performance as it is seen to be disrespectful. A friend of ours, Roy, was elected as a chief when he did it, and he says that it is actually really scary! On the upside though you do get a traditional Maori carving at the end for taking part. You also get to do a traditional hongi with some of the Maori's. A hongi should not be confused with a hangi as the former is a way of greeting another person by pressing noses. Care should be taken on the amount of pressing also as two presses is the norm with three interpreted as a marriage proposal. At least that was the case for this particular iwi (tribe).

Here's a pic of one of the four warriors that came out to greet us. The camera flash wasn't strong enough but you get the idea.

Here's a pic of the village itself which is set within a forest. Facial tattoos were very common among Maori at one time. The women used to only tattoo their chin and lip though while the men had tattoos on their entire face and sometimes on parts of their bodies also. The original tattoos would created using bone chisels, a mallet and blue pigment. The tattoos in the following pics are not real.

The next pic is of one of the Maori warriors completing their tribes haka. Each iwi having it's own version of the haka.

The next day we went to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park. Prior to entering the park you are brought to the largest thermal mud pool in NZ followed by the Lady Knox Geyser. The geyser is primed to go off at the same time everyday by putting a bar of soap into it. After the soap goes in it takes about ten minutes to erupt. Here's some pics.

After the geyser it's back into the bus and onto the park. All the buses arrive at the park at the exact same time as they all are coming from the Lady Knox geyser. Our guide gave us a tip and told us to do the first part of the tour backwards to avoid the large crowds. It was a great idea and meant we had a bit more space. Here comes the pics.

The pic above is of the Champagne Pools, the parks most popular attraction. The park has more colours in it that any other thermal park we have been to and the guide book suggests that it is the best in NZ.

The next pic is of the Devil's Ink Pots which gets it's name from the black colour of its craters.

Here's one of us at the end of the tour peering into one of the craters. You can see the shadow of the three of us.

We got lunch later that day in a restaurant/ bar which boasted that nothing on the menu was deep fat fried. After traveling for almost three weeks this was particularly appealing. After we were fed and watered we ordered a shuttle back to the airport. Here's the two girls in the departure lounge and a silhouette of our plane.

So now that we have been to most of the major thermal parks in NZ which do we think are the best? Well for my money the Orakei Korako Thermal Park and the Tokaanu Thermal Baths , both near Lake Taupo, are the best we have experienced. Orakei Park is similar to Wai-O-Tapu but the setting for me is more spectacular. The mud baths were a bit of an anti climax in my opinion and I would therefore pick the Tokannu Thermal Baths as they are probably the hottest you will find in NZ. The heat is almost unbearable!

Rotorua, as the guide book warns is very commercial and I would have hated to experience it during the busy high season. I personally found the whole experience a little disappointing as we seem to have had similar or even better experiences around Lake Taupo without all the hype! I even thought the hangi was disappointing although everyone went to great effort. It just didn't ring true for me, but to be fair it is a representation of how the Maori's lived years ago so it is "theatre" in many respects.

Maybe we have been lucky in our choices of "thermal destinations" before now, but for what ever reason I can't say that I found Rotorua to be "hot stuff!"


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