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Auckland to Rotorua, NZ
Thursday, December 14, 2000

North Is Vista
North Island Vista

Morning found us saying farewell to Jennie and Brett of the Chevron Chalet and beginning the drive toward Waitomo and its "glow worm" caves.  After a few hours of beautiful countryside, we arrived.  The attraction here is a medium sized limestone cave where the pupae stage of the glow worm makes its home on the roof of the cave, dangling sticky silk "fishing lines" and emitting a lightning bug-like glow to attract its prey.  The second phase of the cave tour was in pitch black in a boat and the glow worm display is really quite striking!


Glow Worm Cave
Glow Worm Cave

Flower
Flower

After another couple of hours driving, we located our lodging in Rotorua at about 5:00 p.m.  Rotorua Thermal Holiday Park is a campground that rents cozy, Nordic-style cabins.


Rotorura Gazebo
Rotorura Gazebo

The clerk managed to get us a last minute booking for the best "Hangi" in the area.  It is a display of Maori culture and feast.  Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand.  We had a great time.  Bill was selected "Chief" of the tribe of our bus to participate in the welcoming ceremonies.  The meal, cooked on hot rocks underground, was delicious.


Maori Welcome
Maori Welcome

Notes:
  • The countryside is absolutely lush and beautiful!
  • We passed thousands and thousands of fenced grazing fields, sheep and cattle, but few houses or outbuildings.  We're guessing that lots of acreage is required per head of livestock and that few barns are needed because livestock can usually remain outdoors.  There is little need to house cultivating equipment because most of the acreage is in pasture.

Rotorura, NZ
Friday, December 15, 2000

The morning found us at an internet café, avoiding the light drizzle falling on the area while checking our e-mail and sending the first installment of this travelogue.  Then, after a visit to a local gift shop, we drove to the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute and thermal area.


Hot Scenery
Hot Scenery

One of many active thermal areas in the Rotorua area, this one contains the only active geysers.  Everywhere, the earth was steaming or mud was cooking, boiling, bubbling or popping.  The fifty or so acre site was riddled with trails that revealed one feature after another ... fascinating!  After the trails, we spent some time learning how the Maori stripped the fibers out of the flax plant for textiles, rope and dancing skirts.  Then we entered the institute portion where selected people of Maori descent train in the traditional arts including carving jade and bone into jewelry and carving the wooden totem like boards that tell their history.


Prince Feather Geyser
Prince Feather Geyser

Finally, we visited the Government Gardens in downtown Rotorua.  Situated between the town center and Lake Rotorua, the site is home to the world's first mixed-sex thermally heated swimming pool and a huge, beautiful building that housed baths that were used to treat various ailments.  Both are now museums surrounded by beautiful gardens, bowling greens and a huge croquet court.  We took lots of flower pictures!


Rotorura Government Gardens
Rotorura Government Gardens

Then it was off to dinner at Siroccos, a Mediterranean-style bistro, and back to the campground for a soak in the hot plunge pools that seem to be part of every accommodation in Rotorua.  A perfect end to a long, delightful day!


Government Garden Rose
Government Garden Rose

Overall, the thermal areas and lakes of Rotorua are quite beautiful.  What impressed us the most, however, was the focus on teaching visitors about the Maori culture and heritage AND the passion and sincerity these native Kiwis have for their past and future.