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Rotorua, New Zealand and Whakarewarewa Thermal Village

Arrival in Rotorua

I must admit that when I arrived by bus in Rotorua, I wasn’t particularly enchanted.  Besides stinking like sulfur due to all the geothermal activity, the downtown area looks a lot like a suburban downtown anywhere, without much charm.  To be fair to Rotorua, it rained a lot while I was there and that didn’t help my impression.

 

Bubbling pools on the edge of Lake Rotorua

Bubbling pools on the edge of Lake Rotorua

 

Walking around Rotorua

Rotorua, New Zealand

 

I went for a walk today and was rewarded at the end with some pretty spectacular scenery and the only village of native people in the world built atop an active geothermal field.

 

There is a trail near the shore of Lake Rotorua.  It features natural pools of hissing, belching, and fuming water and mud.  And as one can guess, not much grows around these places.  I followed the trail but never felt entirely comfortable – with bushes on each side of the trail and lots of rubbish around, it kind of seemed like the kind of place where men would be living or hiding in bushes.

 

I passed an area with thousands of seagulls and got dive-bombed by the most frightening birds I have ever encountered.  They were coming so close to my head that I was crouching in terror just like in the Hitchcock movie.  Happy to get out of there.

 

Eventually, the landscape turned from dead and brown to verdant and lush.  Much prettier!  I followed a river for quite a while.

 

A Surprise Discovery

About five kilometers in, I saw plumes of water vapor everywhere and happened upon Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, which is a Maori village and Maori stronghold, likely inhabited since 1325, built atop a geothermal field.  Just four kilometers beneath the village, lava flows and tectonic plates continue to shift.  Up on the surface, about 70 Maori people still live in this village.

 

Whakarewarewa Thermal Village

Old house, abandoned because of new pools – Whakarewarewa Thermal Village

 

Boy, did I get lucky!

 

The village has about 500 natural pools which vary in temperature.  The people use them for cooking, bathing, heating, and medicine. Pohutu Geyser, the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere can be seen from the village.

 

I felt it worth the $35NZ to pay for a tour because I wanted to learn more about the Maori culture.  The tour also included a dancing show.  It was interesting to see the similarities in dance and dress with what I have seen in Hawaii and on Easter Island.

 

This tea tree grows wild all throughout the area. When the leaves are mixed with the water from the geothermal pools and the liquid id allowed to cool, it apparently makes a potent kidney cleanser.

This tea tree grows wild all throughout the area. When the leaves are mixed with the water from the geothermal pools and the liquid is allowed to cool, it apparently makes a potent kidney cleanser.  It has many medicinal uses.

 

A natural pressure cooker where villagers people cook.

A natural pressure cooker where villagers cook.  Inside, corn and potatoes were cooking.  A rock is placed atop the lid to indicate cooking in progress – don’t touch!

 

Mauri Cemetery

Because it’s not possible to bury people in this geothermal area, graves are above ground. Vents are made around the graves so steam can escape and graves are not broken.

 

300 year old Mauri Meeting house in the village.

300 year old Mauri Meeting house in the village.  All important ceremonies, meetings and celebrations are held here.  The house has intricate wood carvings which is how stories were passed from one generation to the next.  The Mauri did not have a written language when the Europeans arrived.

 

More photos of Rotorua:

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