Location: Tauranga, New Zealand
Today was our first day in New Zealand; and we had a very busy and ambitious day ahead of us. We awoke this morning at o’dark thirty getting ready for the day ahead. We had a 9 hour excursion planned which departed the port at 6:45. Our tour guide and driver, Paul, was (of course) a kiwi.
About 30 minutes into the tour we passed through Kiwi Country, a region of the country known for growing kiwis. We learned that there are two main varieties of kiwi, green and gold. Most people know about green kiwis because they have a longer shelf life and lend themselves to being exported. The local favorite type of kiwi, including that of our kiwi tour guide, is the gold kiwi. It has a much shorter shelf life and tends to stay within the country. Along the road, we also saw Kiwi 360, a kiwi processing plant and kiwi museum. We didn’t stop there but instead made our way to Rotorua.
Rotorua is the lake district and summer tourist destination for the north island. It is also the region of the island know for its hot springs and geysers. Our first stop was just outside of Rotorua, at the Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. It is a park dedicated to featuring some of the more interesting hot springs, geysers, mud pools other colorful geologic oddities. It was very pretty and a great site to see. It featured some native New Zealand plants in the beginning, but quickly transitioned to a more hellish landscape. The smell of sulfur was heavy in the air.
At the end of our tour we saw a geyser go off. The Lady Knox Geyser erupts everyday at 10:15, with the help of a surfactant. Without the ‘help’ it would erupt every 24-72 hours on its own, but the unpredictability doesn’t make it a good tourist draw, so instead the park operators give it a hand.
Our next stop was the Te Puia New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. We were greeted with a concert at the meeting house with a welcoming ceremony and Haka dance demonstration from the Te Wahiao Maori. Afterwards we saw two kiwis (birds) in a dark house. It was our first time seeing the flightless nocturnal birds and it was pretty cool. The kiwis (birds) are the basis for why New Zealanders call themselves kiwis. We also found out that kiwi (fruits) are from China, and the name kiwi is just what westerners call it, and that its not related to the kiwi (bird).
Next we visited the mud pools and geysers within the Te Puia center. Here we saw a small geyser erupting on its own without assistance. They do have a geyser which erupts roughly every hour, but it didn’t go off while we were there. The sulfur smell was also prevalent here.
Our last stop within the center was the wood carving and weaving institute. However our time was limited and had to leave soon. Ryan bee-lined to the gift shop to pick up some wood carving for the Polynesian wood carvings wall back home. If not for the time limitations, Ryan could have spent all day at the center learning more about Moari culture.
Our last stop on the tour was the Rotorua Queen, a Mississippi River paddle boat which would take us for a tour journey around the lake. On board we had a buffet style lunch and saw a performance by other Te Wahaio Maori. The dances and songs we saw were identical to what we saw at the Te Puia center, the haka dance and a love song about the founding parents of the Wahaio people. Our excursion was really a compilation of 3 separate tours, so the overlap was excused. This demonstration however featured a lead singer whose singing ability was matched only by his chiseled body. After the initial presentation, they invited people up to learn the dances. Ryan learned to do the haka and had a lot of fun doing it. Rachel had fun taking pictures.
The riverboat captain was very friendly and greeted all of the passengers asking about special occasions. This is where all of our honeymoon word dropping for the day occurred. He was surprised and impressed that we chose New Zealand as a destination for our honeymoon.
After our cruise we made our way back to the ship. If we had more time we would have taken a quick ride to Mount Maunganui (The Mount) a tall mountain at the edge of the port and known for being near great beaches and surf. However we were pressed for time and had to make it back to the ship.
It was a packed day, but we had a lot of fun! Geology, culture and kiwis! What else could one ask for? Well maybe… Hobbits. Tomorrow we explore Middle Earth with a trip to the Shire!
Word Drops: 3
Pictures taken so far: 4618