March 16th, 2007

bottlecap

Rotorua

We spent two nights in Rotorua. Rotorua is in an extremely volcanic area and there are a number of tourist sites that let you wander around and see mud pools bubbling away or small ponds with steam rising from them and strong colors from the sulphur and other minerals that are in the water. Much of the area around the town smells of rotten eggs. The one we went to was called Wai-o-tapu amusingly their website is named volcanoland.


We stayed in a very nice B&B (Te Ngae) that was out of town and odorless. The owners, Sandy and Anne, were very friendly and we chatted with them at cocktail hour and breakfast for quite a while. Sandy was into botany and had a small orchard with over 40 varieties of apples. Some of the trees had 4 or 5 kinds of apples grafted on them. He also had many other fruits and a nice vegetable and flower garden as well.

The other thing that Rotorua is known for is Maori villages. We went to one of the Cutural Experiences - Mitai (where the warriors and women chanted, danced, sung, and demonstrated some of their crafts. We watched them canoe up and down a narrow river and also saw a sacred spring and had an explanation of how they used some of the trees and plants for medical and other purposes. They taught us some Maori which of course we've forgotten by now. This included a hangi, a Maori feast. Having watched Whale Rider before we came we had a pretty good idea of what we were seeing.
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The Maoris were the first serious Polynesian settlers in New Zealand. By a treaty with the government their place in NZ society is somewhat protected and they have a few seats in parliament. They have intermarried and modernized; I'd suspect that without these show business enterprises they might lose even more of their origins to modernization. The warriors and women have many tattoos but now some of them are painted on so that they can carry on more easily.
Moi Jan04

Auckland and the Gannets

Now we are in Auckland. We are staying in a nice B&B in the outskirts of the city that is just off a lively street with lots of cafes, restaurants, and other stores.The B&B is called The Great Ponsonby; I recommend it - the only drawback is that wireless doesn't work in our room which is in a separate building (its a really nice room) - much of the construction is corrugated steel so I am sitting in the dining room at the moment. Downtown is about a half hour walk away. Auckland is situated in narrow portion of the North Island with a huge working harbors on one side and a wilder seacoast on the other side. It has many tall buildings downtown - I'm glad we elected to not stay in one of the huge hotels down there. We did go to the Sky Tower to the ~200 meter observation platform for a fantastic view of the city and its surroundings. In keeping with the bungy jumping / sky diving theme one of the things you can do is to jump off the side of the tower connected to a cable. It takes about 15 seconds to reach the bottom. I can't imagine even considering doing something so crazy but we did see some people doing it.

Today we drove to the Muriwai Gannet colony (we'd skipped going to one in Napier). This was easy to get to and there were lots of Gannets easily visible including some young ones who couldn't fly but were practicing flapping their wings.