The drive to Rotorua was pleasant enough. Traffic was light and the scenery was green and softly rolling, if somewhat obsucred by low clouds and occasional rain. The highlight of the day was the visit to the Glow-worm caves in Waitomo. Unfortunately, there's no reasonable way to capture an image (besides the fact that cameras aren't allowed). It's an experience somewhat akin to floating down a river at night looking up at the stars in the sky, but the stars are greenish blue, a little bigger than real stars, and have a sense of depth - you can tell they're at varying distances. Sudden noises cause the glow-worms to turn out their light, so the journey is silent except for the gentle lapping of water against the sides of the boat. It was something I had heard about since I was a little kid, and to see it in person was really special.
Rotorua city itself is still trying to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up. There seems to be plenty of commercial possibilities, but we arrived at ten minutes past 5pm and the entire town was closed. I suppose it's possible we were on the early end of tourist season, but there seemed to be plenty of people out and about. We window-shopped several square blocks of interesting shops, but didn't spend a dime. Just as well, I suppose - we spent more than enough elsewhere...
Besides the town, there are cultural and geothermal opportunities in abundance. Te Puia combines a Maori arts school with the Whakarewarewa geothermal valley.
Tamaki was a "cultural emersion" experience. Our tour group 'elected' a chief, and we met with the local tribe. After our peace offering was accepted we were invited into the village. We observed the villagers engaging in daily tasks and recreation. Then we entered the large meeting hall for an exhibition of dance and song. Finally, we moved to the dining hall and participated in a traditional Hangi feast. All the food was prepared in the traditional manner - wrapped in leaves, buried in the ground surrounded by heated rocks and steamed for hours. The entire event took place after dark so photography was a challenge.
- Traveling to Rotorua
- Te Puia Maori Arts School and Whakarewarewa geothermal valley
- Tamaki Maori cultural experience
- Sunrise on Lake Rotorua
On to Queenstown...