Te Puia, Huka Falls, and a geyser!
Waking up Wednesday morning was easy after bathing all night in the natural mineral pools! We all slept like babies the entire night and Knape even slept in late (and for the first time on the trip woke up after daylight)!
We began our day at the historic Rotorua bath house, now the Rotorua Museum of Art and History. The building was under construction and after 100 years is still not complete! Noah and Knape enjoyed breakfast there (I was unable to eat anything) and after a quick tour of the bowling and croquet lawns and Government Gardens we were off to experience true Māori culture at Te Puia. The Te Puia reserve sits on a hotbed of geothermal activity (with geysers) and includes Māori traditions, craft schools as well as a kiwi (the bird) house and other activities. We participated in a traditional Māori tribal greeting ceremony, the karanga (tourists = tribe 1 and Māori people = tribe 2). After their chief confronted our chief with the war challenge (well, sort of anyway!) we were welcomed into their marae (meeting house) where they greeted us with many songs and dances following by welcoming us onstage to participate with them and learn some of their culture. Knape was the first up (even though she could not sit up front where the men sit (ha!)) and she was taught how to swing these pompom-looking balls for the seductive poi dance. Afterwards Noah and I were invited onstage (along with the other men) and we learned how to be “ugly” Māoris with the haka (war challenge). The Māori people believe that beauty is on the inside and that your outside appearance should be humbled before the Creator; therefore, they chose to mark their faces and entire bodies with tribal marks. Even in death, when the images of leaders are carved the faces are not recognizable but are depicted through distinctive features that tell a story. Traditional storytelling is very important to their culture. Until just a few years ago they did not practice a written language; instead they used stories as ways to help their people remember what has happened, and to prepare their youth to be able to tell the stories of events that will come to pass. While somewhat touristy it was a unique experience and an inside look into the culture of the Māori people.
We enjoyed a quick lunch at a restaurant called Abracadabra, which also had the first free wifi of the whole trip! And off we went driving towards Lake Taupo, the largest lake in all of New Zealand. Our first stop on the drive was the Wairakei Terraces. This geothermal locale was once the site of a rather large activity area with geysers, hot springs, terraces and more. They were destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1886, and the people of New Zealand turned the area into one of the world’s first geothermal power plants in the 1950s (impressive in its own right). Wanting to correct some of the past mistakes, the Kiwi people have put back onto the land what was previously lost by creating a man-made shell for a new mineral terrace to naturally grow over time. They did this by creating a geyser (which uses real mineral water diverted from the power station) that sits on top of concrete and silica-sealed terrace structures. Real minerals deposits have begun to latch onto the structure to form a new terrace.
After our geothermal feature tour we ventured across the road for a water feature: Huka Falls. The falls were so majestic and the water was so beautifully blue that you almost wish you could freeze the falls in time to enjoy nature’s wonder! The water streams out of Lake Taupo down and forms the largest river in New Zealand, flowing all the way to Auckland and the coast. The water was pure and crisp; epic scenery for New Zealand!
We ended the night by enjoying a nice dinner overlooking Lake Taupo and enjoying the hot tub in our room while singing Christmas Carols… yes, you read that right, while singing Christmas Carols! It was, after all, the coldest day of our trip.
Also published on Medium.