16.04.2014 - 16.04.2014
Rotorua is a thermal hot spot. If you don't know what this means, basically imagine a town that smells like rotten egg, has warm water, and steam coming out of random streams. I'm sure our friendly geologist Debbie will have more to say about it, so stay tuned for comments below.
As the forecast for the rest of our time in New Zealand is rain, we are trying to be outside as much as possible when it is only misting or grey (not a torrential, sideways downpour like what is happening outside of the coffee shop currently). And so, yesterday when it was only slightly miserable, we decided to go to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, which has the "largest area of surface thermal activity of any hydrothermal system in the Taupo Volcanic Zone". Wow!
So, this means there's some pretty colours in the lakes and rocks, some boiling mud, a geyser that goes off every day at 10:15 (they actually control it with some kind of special soap, so don't get too excited about that one), and a lovely boiling egg smell to accompany your walk. My favorite were the Oyster Pool, Champagne Pool, and Artist's Palette (that sounds way more romantic than it actually smells).
We were lucky enough to get through our walk there before the rain re-started. Thus began the hunt for Meat Pies. Meat pies are apparently a delicacy in Australia and New Zealand, and although my mother may not be partial to them, Lani and I think they sound lovely. Meat, cheese, puff pastry- how could you really go wrong?! Unfortunately, up to this point, our closest encounter to the pie kind was the "Georgie Pie" from McDonalds- a Kiwi classic is back!
As we set about our drive through town, we kept a keen eye out for any bakeries that might have meat pies. We saw one bakery that we thought might do the trick. It turned out to be more of an industrial bakery, so it didn't do the trick for Lani. I tried a mini-meat pie, which was only 50 cents. Should I be concerned that something containing meat cost only 50 cents when a drip coffee is $3? So far, so good.
We continued our drive through Rotorua, past Lake Rotorua, Government Gardens and the Blue Baths, saw the fancy spas (which generously allow you to pay for the chance to soak in natural hot tubs, similar to the one we were in for free the night prior). Still not a meat pie to be found.
Once back in the "business district" of Rotorua (read: three or four fairly busy streets), we found the Lotus Bakery, which Lani felt would meet her need for an authentic meat pie. It was an interesting little place, full of plastic flowers and ripped up vinyl seating, but we did it! We found meat pies. Lani had a steak pie, while I had the Steak and Pepper, washed down with an authentic NZ Lemon & Paeroa. I can't quite describe this drink, except that it tastes a bit like a bitter Arnold Palmer. Pretty good, and it went nicely with my peppery pie.
After a quick dry-off back at the hostel, we headed for our evening programming, a visit to the Tamaki Maori Village. The Maori are the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, and Rotorua is a hub of Maori culture. Tamaki offers a "twilight tour" where they pick you up from your accommodations and transport you to the village, where you have a traditional Maori greeting ceremony, experiences in traditional arts, dance, and culture (including the Haka dance and the Poi dance), and then enjoy a hangi meal.
Here is Lani joining in on a Poi dance. She was pretty good- think I could rent her out to the Maori for performances? Might help pay for the rest of the trip...
The Maori traditionally have tattoos on their faces to tell a story of their life, work, and family. Apparently, they also have tattoos on their heinies, although I'm not sure who's reading that story?
Hangi meals are cooked in the ground, covered by Hangi sacks (a fancy term for old potato sacks) and then taken covered with volcanic ash. I think there's a fire too, but I'm no expert. All I know is that we got a pretty sweet feast out of it.
I'll do the run down for you:
Kumara (NZ sweet potato but actually yummier)
Mussels (I know I said I couldn't ever again but I had two. We all knew that wasn't going to last anyways)
And for dessert:
Pudding with cream and vanilla custard
Pavolva- a kind of custard/meringue thing that I really liked
Needless to say, that's where you gain your money back.
After dinner, we were encouraged to browse through the gift shop (as if I could move at that point!) and then got back on the bus. I know it sounds crazy, but the bus driver we had (Mark) MADE the whole night. On the drive to the village, he proceeded to translate Kia Ora into 61 languages (some of which were just English but with regional "variances") without missing a beat. For those of you unfamiliar with Kia Ora, it is a greeting that literally means "be well/healthy", but is used like "g'day/shalom/how's it/howdy/hey/how are ya/aloha/whasssssup". On the bus drive home, Mark sang the national anthems of all of our countries. When he was done with that, he sang "The Wheels on the Bus" and went up-and-down, swish swish swish (with the windshield wipers) and beep-beep-beep (with the horn) when the song called for it. While singing "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush", we went round and round and round and round the roundabout, which, he informed us, is highly illegal. It's also highly entertaining (though maybe less so after a Hangi binge feed).
When Mark dropped us off at the hostel, he came in with us. I asked if he knew Pete, and he said "Ya, Pete's my cuz! Do you know Pete?".
Kia Ora everyone!!
PS: My running shoes are still not dry from our little mountain climbing adventure. I'll keep you posted.