Kia Ora..."Good Luck, Good Health (Now Get Out)"
Trip Start Oct 13, 2010
58Trip End Jun 20, 2011
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Checked out of our mini-cottage paradise today and heading south for a 3-hour drive to Rotorua. My friend Iain and cousin Paul (fellow Lord of the Rings geeks) would think it was pretty cool that we drove through the lush, rolling hill-filled town of Matamata, which was The Shire in the LOTR films. FYI…I will be highlighting other LOTR goodness throughout the NZ posts, as all the filming took place here.
Rotorua is one of the strongholds of Maori (NZ’s indigenous people) tradition and culture as well as a center of geothermal activity…steaming hot springs, explosive geysers, bubbling hot pools….and the persistent smell of rotten eggs….YUM!
Tonight’s the first night we’ll be sleeping in the campervan….oh the anticipation
October 23 - Day 6
Rough night’s sleep in the van…aside from obviously being cramped, getting up in the middle of the night when nature is calling is also an issue. Thank you God for making me flexible.
We booked a tour tonight to a Maori village…6:30 start so we hung out at the campground most of the afternoon. Had lunch and sat in the sun. Jill worked on her journal and me on the blog. Both feeling the need to exercise after being pretty slothful, I tortured Jill with a quick, 20-minute work-out on the grass…lunges, push-ups, curls, shoulder raises, sit-ups, burpees, and a few other exercises thrown in for good measure…we at least felt like we had earned dinner now
Off to Te Puia…the Maori village mentioned above. Was a pretty cool tour where we learned about Maori culture, language, weaving, woodcarvings, etc. while walking around the village. We were introduced to the Maori "warriors" when one of them came running out to meet us in full garb, yelling and twisting and turning his spear before making a peace offering of a leaf, which had to be picked up by our appointed "chief" (some old, Belgian dude). After this ceremonial greeting, we were invited into the marae (Maori meeting house), where they put on a traditional concert for us, including the famous haka dance (think rugby and the All Blacks). They might have coerced certain male members of the audience to join them onstage and I might have been one of them, but to date, this is all unconfirmed rumor and speculation.
After the short concert, we went for a walk (really a little train ride to shuffle around the lazy tourists) and saw this crazy, boiling pool of mud....bubbling away in front of us....the result of acid gases and steam under the earth's surface. Was a pretty surreal site. Just on the other side of the mud pool was the Pohutu geyser, which, right on cue, happened to be erupting right in front of us...also quite cool and Jill's fingers were snapping away on her new Canon camera (see below for the fruits of her labor)
After all the sights, we were invited inside another building for dinner. It was supposed to be a traditional hangi - a traditional Maori style of cooking using an underground pit - but really only the corn ended up being cooked in that style. This part of the evening was a bit disappointing, as it more of the feel of an awards banquet rather than a traditional meal. It also seemed as though they were rushing us to finish up and get out.
After another visit to the geyser to see it lit up at night time, we were ushered to the exits. Jill and I headed towards the back entrance (which was where we first entered as it was closest to our camp site). About halfway there, we heard a booming voice directed at us: "YOU'RE GOING THE WRONG WAY!!". We looked over...and it was our tour guide for the evening, who just 10 minutes earlier was smiling, courteous, and charming, and now obviously wanted us the heck outta there. We explained ourselves as to why we were headed in that direction, and after a few huffs and puffs, he settled down and asked us where we were from. When Jill replied "Canada", he told us that the natives from Canada sometimes come to NZ to find out how to "get rid of the white man". Awkward laughs all around and then we were on our way. All night long, we were welcomed with the Maori phrase Kia ora, which means "Hello" or "Good Luck" or "Good Heath". We joked that it must also mean..."Now Get the Hell Out!".
Walked home, got into our van and checked to see what the Yankees did. Found out that they lost and were knocked out by Texas....not a happy "camper" (yes I know....groaner). Answered a few emails to take my mind off it, then hit the sheets
October 24 - Day 7
Much better sleep last night in the van...must be better getting used to the small quarters. We decided to take advantage of the free thermal pools offered at our campsite, so we headed straight there after we woke up....sweet, sweet hot water....nice.
After showers and breakfast, we headed off to drive to Taupo. We stopped off at this cafe (tons of them all over in this country) and after much discussion, I finally conceded to Jill and we bought a spinach and feta muffin. Yes, I know....what was I thinking...and it tasted just about the same as you wuld expect it to....bleck. Jill enjoyed it and I decided that pouting about it was the best way to go.
Today we tackled the Huka Falls, which proved to be very popular with the tourists. Despite the crowds, the falls were very cool and picturesque. We decided to get away from the hordes and escaped on a 4-hour hike along the falls, through some cool, spooky forests, past fields of sheep, and arrived at the a dam and the Aratiatia Rapids...the dam was in action....again right on cue and was cool to see
Back to our van, where we lavishly dined on 2 fruit popsicles, a beer, and some pita chips...then the grocery store, gas, & check-in to our camp site for the night. Drove into town for a cheap meal at yet another irish pub (we promised ourselves this would be the last one for a long while), then back home for a dip in the hot spring pool before showers & sleep.
Tomorrow we drive to Wellington, which is the Capital of NZ and the furthest city south on the North island. Looking forward to a bit of city living...and also sleeping in a parking lot. More on that in the next post. Stay tuned (we're quite a bit behind on the posts but will try to catch up)...