2nd June was a public holiday in New Zealand, in honour of the
Queen’s birthday (we knew the royal family was good for something). Because of
this we had a long weekend, so of course we flew off to explore another area of
the country – Rotorua. Our flight from Wellington was cancelled, so we were
over two hours late getting there, flying in a sweet little two-engined
propeller plane with absolutely no security nonsense before boarding. We stayed
at the Ibis Hotel, which as well as giving us a good deal had an extremely
cheap happy hour at the bar, of which we took full advantage.
is famed for thermal activities, and we visited two of these: Te Puia and
Hell’s Gate. Between them they boast boiling pools, geysers, mud volcanoes and
all the usual features of a geothermal area – although as connoisseurs of such
things we believe that Yellowstone in the USA is superior. We also had a
session at the Polynesian Spa, booking a private pool for half an hour. The
pool had walls but no roof, so we lay in hot geothermal water (39º C) while
soft drizzle fell on us – but it was very relaxing.
Saturday night we booked a Maori evening, and were ferried out to Tamaki Maori
Village. The first thing was the welcoming ceremony, with a succession of Maori
warriors performing threatening ritual dances. Then we strolled through a
recreated Maori village. It was quite atmospheric in the night, with fires
burning and people demonstrating their traditional way of life, though
obviously created for the tourist trade. Next there was a Maori concert,
followed by a buffet meal.
Sunday we took a water taxi across Lake Tarawera, under the looming bulk of
Mount Tarawera which erupted in 1886 causing massive devastation. We were
dropped at Hotwater Beach on the far side of the lake, and left there while the
boatman went to pick up another family. We paddled on the shore, where the
water was warm – bizarre to be doing this while wearing winter clothes! – and
it got hotter if you went down into the sand. Further along it was hotter
still, as Sandie discovered when she burned her feet. Later we went round the
Buried Village of Te Wairoa, covered by the 1886 eruption. It is billed as “New
Zealand’s Pompeii”, but this is manifest hype. It was interesting to see, and
there is a quite impressive waterfall nearby.
saw more waterfalls and rapids on Monday, when we went to Okere Falls and
watched whitewater rafting lunatics risking their necks shooting down wild
water. In Rotorua, on the lake shore, we visited St Faith’s Anglican Church
which is decorated throughout in the Maori style with elaborate carvings and
local symbols. Sadly, no photography is allowed inside. We also explored the
lakeside and Government Gardens, and noted all the places where steam just
rises from the ground or there are thermal areas right next to the ordinary
business of the town.
Monday evening we ended up sitting in the airport by the lake, watching the
sunset with a drink in hand and waiting for our little plane to take us back to
Wellington. Altogether an interesting long weekend – thanks, Lizzie!
Tuesday evening, however, Ian was back at the airport, flying up to Hamilton – a
town in the North Island not that far from Rotorua. He went up with his boss from
the Ministry so that on Wednesday they could visit a school that was trialling one
of the international studies, and in the afternoon consult with a professor at the
university there. So the last few days have involved him in a fair bit of shuttling
back and forth up the North Island in little aeroplanes.