Friday, May 27, 2016

We Visited Rotorua on 20 and 21 May 2016

One thing good about New Zealand is they have maintained Maori names for their cities, rivers, lakes, volcanoes and other things in a very big way. Rotorua from Maori: Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe, "The second great lake of Kahumatamomoe") is a city on the southern shores of Lake Rotorua, in the Bay of Plenty region of NZ’s North Island. Rotorua has an estimated permanent population of 56,800, making it the country's 10th largest city. 

Rotorua is a major destination for both domestic and international tourists; the tourism industry is by far the largest industry in the district. It is known for its geothermal activity, and features geysers and hot mud pools. Plenty of lakes and rich forests flourish in the area. The pungent smell of sulfur from the geothermal valley engulfs the entire town. The moment one gets down from the car the smell becomes evident.

More importantly there is a large population of Maoris in Rotorua. They have lived here ever since, taking full advantage of the geothermal activity in the valley for heating and cooking.
A Maori warrior
Another interesting aspect of their culture is the process of naming. The names were chosen to describe landscape features, or to celebrate stories, people and events. Often places were named after ancestors or body parts, to emphasize tribal or personal claims to land.

“Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhen­uakitanatahu ”   is the Maori name for a hill near Hawkes Bay. This is reputed to be the longest name of any place in the world. It means ‘the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as land eater, played his flute to his loved one’.

It took us almost 4 hours to cover the 232 Km from Hahei to Rotorua, with halts in between to freshen up. As expected the landscape is fascinating – meadows all through with various kinds of trees adding to the overall beauty. The villages and small towns enroute are extremely well laid out, neat and clean. Each house looks better than the other. We stayed at the ‘Jet Park Hotel’ in the centre of town. The city itself is green and peaceful with trees and lovely houses. Each bungalow has a well maintained lawn.
Lovely Houses
We spent a very interesting afternoon at the ‘Agrodome’, a sheep farm. They demonstrated sheep shearing and dogs shepherding sheep according to the rancher’s directions.  We got to see and feed a variety of Sheep, Deer, Emu and Ostrich. 
Brahmin the Bull

Jai feeding a Emu

Jai feeding an Antelope

Kiwi Tree

A stern looking Yak

Early next morning we visited ‘Te Puia’ to explore The World-Famous Pohutu Geyser, Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley and the Kiwi House. The eruptions can be seen from far and the magnitude of the geyser becomes evident as one goes closer. It erupts to a height of 100 ft twenty times a day. A patient wait is really worth it. Next to it is a smaller geyser named ‘Prince of Wales’ erupting to a modest height of 30 ft. Side by side there are a number of boiling mud pots and fissures. The visit offered a very interesting and unique experience.
The World-Famous Pohutu Geyser from a distance

At the entrance

Kia Ora - Welcome

Our Maori guide

Naveen in a Maori House

Jais turn to photo op

Mud Baths

Pohutu from close

A break

At the Geothermal Park
Naveen with a Maori girl
A Maori girl showing flax work
Thereafter we lazed around Lake Rotorua for some time before heading off to Redwoods area to see these mighty trees. Lake Rotorua is the second largest lake in the North Island with a surface area of 80 km sq. Interestingly NZ is a country dotted with innumerable number of lakes.41 major, 229 medium and 3820 small lakes.
Lake Rotorua
We were extremely lucky to see 5 out of the 7 most outstanding lakes of NZ. Most of their big lakes are Calderas of extinct volcanoes. A caldera is a large cauldron-like volcanic crater caused by the collapse of an emptied magna chamber, which can extend several tens of kilometers. 

Just five minutes from downtown Rotorua, a beautiful forest awaits you. Known to locals as ‘The Redwoods’, the 5600 hectares ‘Whakarewarewa’ forest is a perfect playground for walkers, hikers, horse riders and mountain bikers with magnificent stands of towering native and exotic trees. The biggest attraction are the Redwood trees - Native to the North West coast of America, given to a Maori chief by a German botanist. The largest Redwood in Whakarewarewa is approximately 72 metres tall and 169 centimetres in diameter. These majestic trees may not have the girth of their cousins the Californian Red Woods, but are pretty impressive themselves. 
Jai near the Redwood

A Redwood
A comparison

This was followed by a lovely lunch at an Indian hotel for a change.

We spent the evening in a Maori village “Mitai”. We were treated to a wonderful Maori cultural extravaganza and a delectable dinner with some Maori dishes – stone cooked succulent lamb, chicken, potatoes and much more  We were called ’The tribe of the Four Winds’, meaning four different directions of the world. He said that we (the visitors) were also called ‘sacred feet’ as from the moment our feet touched their sacred land, there was a deep connect between them and us. A beautiful thought. There were 14 different nationalities attending the show. The Maori MC was quite humorous and held our attention as he welcomed each nationality with a few words in their own tongue. 
A Maori Village Scene

A Maori couple in a sing and dance sequence

We went and watched the war waging tribals come in their canoe the famous ‘Waka’ – rowing with great fervor and thundering war cry. All the warriors paint their face and body with tattoos to portray a fierce exterior. What followed was a great experience watching Maoris showcase their dance and music from a stage village. Their dances reflect the fierce gestures of the warriors while attacking the enemy and so on. The evening ended with the Chief making a speech about ‘our sacred feet’.
A Maori Chief
Tattoos play a very significant role in Maori culture. They have a form of body art, known as moko but more commonly referred to as Maori tattooing. The art form was brought to the Maori from Polynesia and is considered highly sacred. Maori tattoo traditionally does not involve the use of needles; rather the Maori used knives and chisels made from shark teeth, sharpened bone or sharp stones. The inks that were used by Maori were made from all natural products. The focal point of Maori tattooing was generally the face. Only people of rank or status were allowed to have, and could afford to have, tattoos.

Today tattooing is a big time business with many tourists wanting to be tattooed.

The night ended with a bush walk to watch glow worms and a tryst with their holy spring.

The visit to Rotorua was truly a bag full of amazing experiences.

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