Around the World (Again) Rotorua and Taupo
Rotorua and on to Taupo-03 Nov
We had been to the Maori Village of Whakarewarewa the afternoon before, but it was too late to do a guided tour and the last performance of traditional dancing and singing was finished so they said that it would be better to come the next morning and so get the whole shooting match. We arrived just as the first tour was starting, there wasn’t a lot on out tour (far too early for most) there were just 5 in our group, a young Japanese girl, 2 young lads from Chile and Linda and I, it was great the guide had all the time in the world and as Linda and being the only English speakers we got her whole hearted attention.
Unlike the larger (and more expensive) exhibition and showy set up run by the NZ government at Te Puia, this one is run by the villagers themselves and is the original, there has been some bitter recrimination about using the term guide, but it is I believe a bit of sour grapes on the part of the government as they have the geysers but the villages own the village, hot springs, cooking and bathing areas. But this is far too political for me, the last time I was here, you could wander wherever you wished now a fence cuts the community in two, such a pity.
Our guide gave us all of the facts about where and when the Maoris reached here I the 14th Century, they had come in their long canoe named Te Arawa from far off Hawaiki and had settled in the Bay of Plenty, they named themselves after the canoe that had brought them and so the tribe was called Te Arawa . they spread inland and reached Rotorua so called as it means second lake (this was the second lake that they had reached).
Our guide took us to the remains of some of the original sleeping huts in the village (no longer used) now the villagers live in more modern homes, with corrugated roofing, but even so many still don’t have cooking facilities or bathing facilities in their homes preferring to use the communal facilities.
We next went to the Tupuna whare (ancestral meeting house to you and I), but here it is explained far better than I can.
We then walked through the houses to the communal cooking place here we were shown the pressure cookers in operation, though they now use tin foil and tin foil dishes, instead of flax coverings and leaves (progress and it saves on washing up), this is the method of cooking is still carried out every day and it is not just for the tourists (though the corn on the cob with anchor butter is).
We then went to the communal hot water tubs, while there a young man came along to have his Sunday morning bath, our guide explained that this was all part of village life, they mostly bathe before the first visitors arrive or after the last visitors have left, but sometimes it is inevitable that during the day villagers will come down to bathe.
We then went to the a vantage point to watch the geysers do what they do best and send loads of sulphur smelling boiling hot water and steam into the air, until the adjacent hotels and the Rotorua town ship started tapping into the Geo-thermals, the geysers would spout much higher and more often than they do today, in fact some have now stooped all together and even the most famous are but a pale shadow of when I was last here in the 80s.
We then walked past the graves and monuments to famous village guides and personages, there the guide left us (we had been out for longer than normal and she had to dash, but said you are my family, if you wish come along this evening after 17:00 to my house and you welcome to participate in tea and cake, you know what she meant it, she was a wonderful woman.
We had a good hour to kill before the cultural performance was to start so we decided to follow one of the forest tracks, it was a beautiful morning. We walked through (on a board walk)the mud pools and hot springs along the forest paths full of bird song (it is spring and the birds are doing what all birds do in spring). It was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday morning.
We arrived back at the cultural centre, just as the other (late starters) guided tours came along. We had a very enjoyable 30 minutes of being entertained, with song and dance, which included the Haka, poi and stick (short and long) swinging, the dexterity was mesmerising. The singing was enchanting, I think Linda was quite taken by one of the Maori singers.
Linda strutting her stuff
We then went to the cooking pool and had a piece of corn on the cob, very tasty but in all reality no difference to any other piece of corn on the cob.
It was time to cross the bridge to the exit and the kids swimming and diving in the river, the origins of this being they dived for pennies that the tourists threw in the water.
This was a wonderful insight into the true Maori culture and I believe far better than the government sets out at the Te Puia, for all its glitter and show. We now had an hour’s drive to Lake Taupo for the next leg of our journey. Arriving at about 13:00, we took some photographs from the vantage point that looks across that lake, a spectacular view, Lake Taupo is much larger that Lake Rotorua as are the towns named after their lakes.