Picton & Rotorua

Trip Start Aug 15, 2008
Trip End Aug 14, 2009

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Saturday, April 4, 2009

4th April - Picton - Wellington

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

Rotorua is one of the main tourist areas of New Zealand & attracts thousands of visitors each summer. Luckily we were at the end of the high season & so missed the crowds. We stayed in one of the many (83) motels in the town, this one was in a prime position overlooking the lake & the Maori thermal village of Ohinemutu. I got chatting to the owner of the motel, John Whittington, & discovered that he came from Ryde on the Isle of Wight & not only that, he knew an old collage friend of mine, Brian Sharp. It's a small world, isn't it.

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.
The Maori village of Ohinemutu has a bubbling lake & many vents which fill the air with steam. It looks like a scene from a horror film, you expect to see ghouls staggering out of the mist at any moment. There is a small wooden church, St. Faith's, with a richly engraved interior. The churchyard is unusual as the graves are all above ground - if you dig into the ground you are likely to tap into a hot spring.

Just to the west of town is Kuirau Park, with grass, trees & kiddies play areas just like any other park, however, dotted around you will find boiling mud holes with simple, inadequate, fences protecting them. Barbara thought that if you wanted to dispose of a body, you could just dump it into the boiling mud - nobody will go looking for it !

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.

A few miles south-east of Rotorua, past the picturesque Blue & Green Lakes, is the buried village of Te Wairoa. Way back in the mid 1800s, this village was a thriving tourist town, accommodating European tourists before taking them to the local sights which they called the Eighth Wonder of the World, the Pink & White Quartz Terraces.
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 !
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holly08121 on

P Smith
Sounds absolutely amazing. Funny about the chap knowing Brian Sharp.

holly08121 on

P Smith
Sounds amazing. Fasinating about the boiling mud. Funny about the chap knowing Brian Sharp.

holly08121 on

P smith
Did that twice!

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