17 April 2010 – Rotorua, NZ
Huge breakfast at this lovely B&B out in the middle of nowhere with fresh-squeezed kiwi juice, homemade bread & jams (passionfruit, kiwi, rhubarb & feijoa).
At Wai-oTapu Jean walked the short loop while BB & I went all the way around to the bright green pool & surprise waterfall at the end of the trail with a nice view of the valley. The champagne pool was the best, with its ochre-orange knobbly rim just under the surface all around the edge of the 212° blue-green clear pool. The steam moving across the surface allowed only occasional glimpses of it. This is the largest sulfur pool in the area & it was certainly impressive.
There were collapsed craters everywhere -- cavernous holes in the scorched ground with violent bubbling action echoing out of sight. There was a bright yellow sulfur cave, a large calcite plateau sloping down the hillside, a light blue oyster-shaped pool with a luminous yellow rim... The colors were unreal: bright red, bilious yellow, fluorescent green, deep burnt orange, even purple & blue splotches looking like spray-painted markers for a building site. Even the areas with no thermals were permeated by the rotten-egg smell, although the smell from the fumaroles was decidedly different from the sulfur pool odor. It doesn't really bother me, but I saw a few people holding their noses. Our B&B was far enough away from the thermals (we stayed in the neighboring town of Ngongotaha) that we couldn't smell it.
One of the things I clearly remember being amazed by back in 1989 is the mud pools, so I was anxious to see them again. They did not disappoint. Bubbling, boiling, plopping mud being flung skyward higher than you'd expect, sometimes in a big messy spatter, sometimes in a clean round blob that plops back into the muck & creates another series of rings in the artistic ever-changing design. Sometimes one spot would go crazy for a time, spewing up gobs of mud, then give one mighty blast that flings mud bits right up onto the boardwalk, causing observers to jump away. What a show. I could watch it for hours...
But we needed to get dressed warmly for our Tamaki Hangi Feast & Maori Heritage Experience. On the bus ride there, our driver, Mark, did an impressive monologue of what Kia Ora (hello) means in 58 languages. He did it very fast & with surprisingly good accents.
BB was chosen as the chief for our bus - one of four men to represent our "tribe" & accept the peace offering when challenged. The challenge was almost comical; Maori men rushed forward doing a kind of bird walk, with their tongues out, whites of the eyes showing, waving a spear or club while grunting & shouting to try to intimidate our chiefs. But our chiefs stood their ground (as instructed) with their hands in front of them; the leaf offered was accepted & we were invited into the village. At each house we learned something different about the Maori – home life, hunting strategies, food storage, games they played, etc.
Next we were ushered into the fare (house) for the entertainment. The music was drums & a guitar, & the tribe sang several songs & did Polynesian-style dances, including a haka. Both men & women wore hemp & feather clothing with lots of skins draped around. Women had tattoos on their chins, chest, backs & arms, while men had either half or whole-face tattoos, as well as tattoos over their entire legs in addition to back, chest & arm tattoos. They are amazingly intricate artwork, mostly only green in color. I later asked if the facial tattoos are real & was told they can't get jobs in other places with facial tattoos, so they paint them on with stencils. But the body tattoos are real.
After the show, we enjoyed the Hangi feast. Most of the food had been cooking in an earth oven for 3 hours. The lamb & kumara (sweet potato) had a nice smoky flavor. Desserts included 2 traditional dishes: pavlova & date pudding.
After dinner the four chiefs were called up to receive their gift of a tiki necklace while the bus drivers performed a song. Our bus driver was an enthusiastic singer & especially good at the Maori facial expressions; however we missed the international singalong on the return bus ride because we got our own van back to the B&B (we were farther from town). But we did get to ask our private driver lots of questions about the Maori culture, so that was a good tradeoff.