Raglan - Surf Paradise
Trip Start Dec 20, 2008
42Trip End Sep 12, 2009
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The whole area between Taupo and Rotorua is known as the Thermal Valley because there is active thermal areas all over the place. Most of them are off the beaten tract and can be really dangerous with all the chemicals but there are lots that you can soak in.
On our way from Taupo to Rotorua we found a place that hasn't been touristed yet and was free to use. It was just a few minutes drive on a dirt road and then a short walk. It was a series of pools with little waterfalls inbetween. The water was so warm and relaxing... even with the little kids splashing around. The place was called Kerosene Creek and we realized why after.... our skin stunk like gasoline or chemicals after wards but it was well worth it.
Rotorua is one of the main cultural hubs of New Zealand. Its where a lot of ancient Maori villages where found and there is alot of history there. The city itself was built in the crater of a volcano that had erupted 20 000 years ago which explains all the thermal activity in the area. Even just walking around the city you can see big areas that are steaming and bubbling away and are all fenced off.
We went to a cultural Maori show one night and it was fantastic. It was on the site of an actual ancient Maori village, right on the river. We saw the warriors come down the river in their Waka (canoe), dressed up with all the facial and whole body tattoos, chanting in their language. It was pitch dark and they had fire torches so it really felt like it would have, back then. Then they had a reinactment of their fighting techniques and basic day to day life followed by a dancing performance. One of the "famous" dances of the Maori's is the Haka, which is the war dance. Every postcard or picture of maori you see i nthe store, they are always doing the Haka.
In the Haka they use many facial expressions to try and intimate the enemy... which is part of the reason why they have the facial tattoos as well. The dancers bulge out there eyes and stick out their tongue to try to look mean. They almost look kind of possessed so i guess it is successful in intimidating.
Some of the men have full facial tatoos that represent 4 different birds, the kiwi, the owl, the parrot and the bat... all having different meanings. They get the markings depending on their status in the tribe.
Women have facial markings as well but only on their chins and around their lips. Their tattoos represent the owl because they are the ones the watch over the family and the children.
Next we had the hangi, or the ground cooked meal. It was almost like a turkey dinner with all the trimmings except that it is almost all cooked in a hole in the ground. It was one of the best meals we have eaten in ages!!!!
So needless to say we were very impressed with the show. It was more natural and less touristy then we thought it would be which was a major bonus!
Today we are in Raglan, which is small surf town on the West Coast... kinda like Tofino in a way. We watched an amateur surf competition today and it was pretty impressive. We are going to stay here for a few days so hopefully we can get some surfing in ourselves!!