– rotten eggs, the Haka and hairy feet
|Whakawerawera - not the most attractive back garden, and|
The journey to Rotorua (
|Our guide; fierce but prone to bursting|
Rotovegas sits on a site of major geo-thermal activity with geysers, steam vents everywhere and an abundance of naturally occurring hot pools; all adjacent to a huge lake, now heavily polluted sadly, that filled when the Rotorua caldera was formed. These sites have been pulling in tourists for around 130 years and today many hotels, motels and B&Bs jostle for the best positions by the thermal pools and the lake.
|Just letting off steam|
The local Te Arewa Maori have sensibly secured their ancestral homelands against encroachment or takeover and offer some of the best tours to these sites. We chose to visit the
which just happened to have the best view of the geysers. It also sat on a major
thermal hotspot with many bubbling mud pools, boiling mineral springs and
silica terraces. On first sight it seemed like an inhospitable and menacing
place to live; clouds of steam hung everywhere and seeped from holes and cracks
that seemed dangerously close to homes. Whakawerawera Thermal
|A cultural group performs a haka, part challenge part greeting|
At one point our guide persuaded the largest guy in our group to jump in the air. When he landed the ground vibrated under our feet. She then took great delight in pointing out that the crust where we were standing was probably no more than about 6 inches thick and that boiling mud or water lay in the hollow void underneath. Overlay this with all pervading whiff of rotten eggs and you'd be forgiven for thinking that you'd wandered into Dante's inferno.
|No comment necessary|
As we followed our guide around the village we soon learned that the Maori don't think this way all. It's true that many of the pools are dangerously hot, with surface temps of around 100c. It's also true that the area is prone to eruptions. However, there are many positives. The village has an inexhaustible supply of heat and hot water that's available 24/7. The Maori use it for bathing, for cooking and to earn livelihoods through tourism. The thermal hotspot also has spiritual significance for them.
|Apologies, I couldn't keep her off the stage.|
Once a drama queen........
After the tour we luckily coincided with a cultural performance, the highlight of which was a feisty Haka full of eye rolling, tongue flapping, thigh slapping and shouted Maori challenges - a bit like a PMQ session in the
parliament really. It was very exciting and amusing, especially when the group leader
got the audience on its feet to join in. The village also offered a 'hangi'.
This is a traditional feast cooked in the hot pools and in underground ovens.
This seemed OTT for lunch so we opted instead for corn on the cob, cooked in
the pools of course, and covered in butter.
|Hobbiton - a first glimpse|
After lunch we ambled about the village, bought a couple of Maori carvings and then spent half an hour in the company of Jason, the village's resident tattoo designer and masseur. He gave the term 'laid back' a whole new perspective. Many hours later he provided a design for Fo's next tattoo. I won't spoil the surprise but frogs and dragons figure prominently.
|She just never stops property hunting|
|I know, I swore I wouldn't do this.|
|Once in, she was almost impossible to winkle out|
|Outside Bag End no less.|
|Off to the pub, which the Hobbits sited on the edge of|
I found this a bit strange because Peter Jackson must have known he would go onto film The Hobbit eventually! Anyway, when it became time to rebuild Hobbiton for the second trilogy the owners of the land cannily asked the film-maker to make the construction permanent. Thus they inherited a little goldmine to which coach-loads of devoted tourists flock, us included, seemingly every 10 minutes.
|It used to be this size but then he became a Hobbit.|