“Kia Ora“! Welcome to Rotorua, the geothermal utopia of New Zealand.
Rotorua is a city on the southern shores of the great lake known as “Kahumatamomoe” in the Bay of Plenty region of New Zealand’s North Island. With an estimated population of 57,000, Rotorua is about three-hour drive southeast of the nation`s most populous city, Auckland with several nice towns and green villages along the way.
Rotorua is internationally famous for its geothermal activity – steaming bubbling mud pools, natural hot springs and shooting geysers.
The geothermal area is called `Whakarewarewa`, meaning a gathering place, with some 500 pools most of which are alkaline chloride hot springs, and at least 65 geysers, each with their own name. The largest and most spectacular of the currently active seven geysers is the world famous `Pohutu Geyser“, meaning big splash or explosion, which erupts an average once or twice each hour spurting hot water up to heights of 30 meters (100 feet). The geyser is a complex spring which discharges water in a cyclic manner.
Because of the hydrogen sulphide emissions of the hot thermal springs and large pools of boiling mud giving Rotorua a “rotten eggs“ smell, the city has the nickname Sulphur City.
Situated in Rotorua is `Te Puia` where we gained an insight and understanding of the traditional Maori culture and history through a guided tour of New Zealand`s Maori Arts and Crafts Institute, Pakirangi Village (a reconstructed Maori Village), and the Agrodome. Home to a third of New Zealand`s Maoris, Rotorua is the heartland of Maori culture. (The Maoris are the indigenous Polynesian people of the country.)
We began our journey at Te Puia in the spiritual realm and world of Maori cosmology through its main entrance feature `Te Heketanga a Rangi`, meaning `heavenly origins`, with twelve monumental contemporary carvings reaching skyward, each one representing a celestial guardian in Maori culture.
Young apprentices learn traditional artistic skills at the Maori Arts & Crafts Institute. Also here is the National Carving & Weaving School where we discovered the work and method of traditional Maori woodcarvers and weavers. The restored Maori Pakirangi Village dating back from the early 20th century represents the daily life environment in early aboriginal culture and we`re surprised to see some Maoris still cooking their food in natural steam ovens.
At the Agrodome we watched a demonstration of sheep-farming skills and viewed prized champion rams, live sheep shearing, cow milking, lamb feeding, and sheep
Our Rotorua journey ended at the Te Puia Maori traditional meetinghouse where we watched a performance of traditional dances and chants notably the `Haka` war dance with vigorous movements of foot-stamping, poking out the tongues and body slapping “Haere ra`, goodbye. Never go to New Zealand without visiting Rotorua!