Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Zealand 2010: Rotorua (Monday, February 15)

Written in the room in Rotorua, at 11:20 pm on Tuesday, February 16

After breakfast, we went into Rotorua to do some local sightseeing.  First thing, we stopped at the Visitor’s Center and booked the evening at one of the three local Māori cultural experiences.  Mom chose Te Pō, mostly because it includes visiting a local geyser.

In the gift shop, I tried on some flip-flops — I forgot sandals at home — but they didn’t fit comfortably.  I also checked out scarves, since a friend asked for one; they are part wool, part possum fur.  (The New Zealand “possum” is not the same as the American “opossum”.  It is an import from Australia, intended for fur farming, and far cuter than the American ones, but apparently quite the nasty pest in New Zealand.)  I also saw another one of the “anal leakage” stuffed kiwis.

We then went to Government Gardens and the Rotorua Museum of Art and History, which was originally a famous bath house (as in mineral baths, pumped in from local hot springs).  They had exhibits on the baths, on the Māori battalion in World War II, on Māori carvings and architecture, and one on couture from two former Miss New Zealands hailing from Rotorua (mostly on Linda Ritchie).  The building is being expanded, so a couple exhibit halls were unavailable.

Toward the end, we decided to sit through the 20-minute film presentation on the geothermal history of Rotorua.  It had a little Māori legend and then the lead-up to the 1886 Mt. Tarawera eruption, at which point the theater seats all started to rumble and quake.  Very memorable (and I was starting to fade off, so it was good!).

We stopped for groceries – including hokey pokey ice cream (butter brickle, I think) and golden kiwifruit (since the green ones they had weren’t even from New Zealand) – and hurried back to the resort, only to find the bus to Te Pō (which is done at Te Puia) waiting for us.  We quickly put the groceries away and got on the bus.  Over the next hour, they stopped at several other hotels and took us to Te Puia for the evening entertainment.

They started by demonstrating the approach to a Māori site, with several half-clad “warriors” doing some ritual activities.  Inside, we were treated to some Māori songs and dances, and they taught some of the women the “poi dance” (twirling a weight on a string) and some of the men the “haka” (how to be Māori mean, fierce, and ugly – crouching, slapping thighs, and sticking out the tongue).  After that, we had a large dinner, including shrimp, mussels, and oysters; roast pork, chicken, lamb, kumara (sweet potato), and pumpkin; and several dessert options (including one I later realized was the New Zealand dessert Pavlova).  (Urp.  I ate too much.)

After dinner, we rode a tram to the Prince of Wales Feathers and Pohutu geysers (the former is named because it has three feathery spurts, like the crest of the Price), which erupts 2-3 times an hour.  They referred to the site as the only two “living” geysers in the Southern Hemisphere, but I don’t know what they mean by that.  (I’m told there may be some exaggeration in the stuff we were told there; this might turn out to be some of it.)

Then came the long bus ride back, with us the last ones off.

Māori language has proven to be interesting.  It obviously sets of lots of “Hawai’ian” triggers in the head, but also a lot of “Japanese” seems to come through.  Too much Japanese, as I often stress the wrong syllables of the words.  (I also turn the double vowels into European-style dipthongs.)

Updated on March 12, 2010
Added links.
Added travel map.
Updated on April 1, 2010
Changed travel map to a live one.
Updated on June 3, 2010

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