Picton & Rotorua
Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
90Trip End Aug 14, 2009
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We were booked on the ferry to north Island so we battled our way through hundreds of racing cyclists (there are loads of pedallists in NZ) to Picton where we took the ferry through the fjords (or were they Sounds) across to Wellington. The boat trip was (again) very picturesque, weaving its way past the many islands of the Queen Charlotte Sound.
We wanted to spend more time in Rotorua so we skipped Wellington pressed on inland.
North Island is more built up than South Island looking more like England, except there are very few two-story houses, nearly all bungalows with tin roofs. There was also much more traffic on the roads.
5th April - Rotorua
Rororua is surrounded by hot gysers & the whole town is heated by underground geothermal springs. The town is nicknamed "Suphur City" because of the bad-egg whiff of Hydrogen Sulphide drifting up from beneath the earth's crust - a handy cover for those suffering from flatulence.
Just out of town is the Maori village of Te Whaka, in a geothermal valley where Maoris have been living for 700 years (actually it's full name is Te Whakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao - the gathering place of the war parties of Wahiao). Maoris still live in the valley & keep the history & culture alive. They are justly proud of their heritage.
The tourist area has an exhibitions of Maori life & culture with demonstrations of Maori dancing in the traditional Meeting Place House where proud Maoris perform action songs, traditional stick games & the famous war dance, the Haka (made famous by the All Blacks rugby team).
Before we went in, the Maori guide warned us against laughing at the dancers - she didn't have to worry - the men were built like All Black fullbacks, not the sort you would want to mess with.
The village also had carving & weaving schools where the traditional crafts are taught by master craftsmen.
Guided walks take you to the Pohutu Geyser, which spouts boiling water 90ft into the air (if you wait long enough) & to various boiling mud pools. The guide warned us against falling into one of these mud holes as the only thing they could do for you, they said, would be to name the hole after you.
The mud pools are composed of Kaolin which is used as a beauty treatment, so if you did fall into one of these mud holes & die, you you would die with a beautiful complexion.
Then in 1886 Mount Tarawera erupted, covering the whole village with 2m of ash & mud & killing 150 inhabitants. In the late 1930s the site was excavated revealing the original village whares (houses) & the hotel.
We were shown around the site by a very entertaining Maori who was a decendant of the original village priest (who obviously didn't take his vow of celebacy too seriously) & whose father is the current Maori Chief. He explained about the Maori way of life today & in the past. Did you know that Maoris, after battle, used to eat their enemies - they don't do it now, although they are thinking of re-introducing for traffic offences.
8th April - Auckland
Our last night in New Zealand was spent in the splendour of the 5 Star Stamford Hotel (another special cut-price deal) with a bed the size of an aircraft carrier & every mod-con.
For our last meal we ate at Viaduct Harbour in a smart restaurant which was built like a huge tent. The trouble was it was peeing with rain, so inside it sounded like the Battle of the Somme. As we were flying the next day we thought we shouldn't drink. Huh! we ended up drinking the leftover wine in the hotel, having 2 bottles of wine with the meal & finishing up with liqueurs.
So the next day we said goodbye to New Zealand & goodbye to Margaret & Michael whose company was, as ever, "wunderful" & without whose help, I wouldn't have put on 10 lb in weight !