Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hotsprings and Mitai in Rotorua.

Rotorua is a really interesting town in the Bay of Plenty region. There's a lot of geothermal activity, so the entire town is full of open hotsprings. I saw signs that say the mud boils at 212 degrees celcius. This makes the entire town smell like sulphur. Luckily, you mostly get used to the smell. Even on the third day I was there I would walk past some places in town and still smell the sulphur very strongly. It was worth it though because there were so many cool things to see and do in the town. I really felt like I didn't have enough time there.

All of the hotsprings have fences built around them so that people can't fall in. The main park is literally fenced area after fenced area. My favourite springs and the ones with the boiling mud. There are also ones with boiling water and larger hot lake areas. This is a boiling mudpit.

This is one of the lakes right in the centre of town.

To keep the tourists out of the dangerous hotsprings, the city has built little footbaths throughout the park. I sat in one for a really long time. It was sort of cold out and my feet were freezing so it was really nice to just relax here.

In the evening, I went to a Maori show at the Mitai village. A van picked me up at the hostel and we drove out to Rainbow Springs where this tribe lives. I don't think they actually live out there though. I have a feeling they all have apartments in town and things because my bus was late after the show and I saw them all leaving in their cars and things. They tell you they live there though. Maybe the family or tribe owns the land still. First, you see the tribe actors come down the river in their canoe. The canoe was actually carved by people in the tribe. All of the actors are about 22. The chief was maybe 26. I don't know if he's actually a chief. They are all interested in learning about the culture and language though, so that's good.

Then they put on a show. It was really exciting. Kind of scary at times. There was a visiting tribe at the show and I had been chatting with some of the women before the show started. Then they wanted me to sit in the very front row with them. They all had to stand up and sing a special song. I didn't join in because I didn't know any of the words. I felt very tall and white.

The dinner was cooked in a traditional hangi, or ground oven. The only traditional food item was the kumera, or sweet potatoe. The rest was chicken, lamb (of course...I'm a little sick of it), scalloped potatoes, stuffing (weird), coleslaw, garden salad, rice salad, corn salad, potato salad, and, you guessed it, garlic bread. I also had a fine New Zealand Steinlager (German beer) to finish it off. I sat with a nice girl from America named Becca. O, and dessert was trifle, chocolate log cake, and fruit salad.

The next day I went to the historic Rotorua Bathhouse Museum. What an interesting place. Basically, the rich British people wanted to take advantage of the medical miracles the hotsprings could provide. They built this huge, expensive, tudor-style building. Every single pipe in the place had to be replaced in the first three months because the acidic water destryoed it. From then on in it had continuous problems and never was completed. It was abandoned, turned into a nightclub, abandoned, fixed up, abandoned, then taken over to become a really cool musuem. I liked it a lot and they've done a great job at explaining the history of the place.
They have this really neat exhibit that shows the history of the volcanic activity and you sit in these seats and the entire room shakes when the volcanoes explode on the screen. They don't even tell you that's going to happen. It was pretty funny.

And the entire town is full of beautiful tiki carvings. I took more pictures of them. Most of them are actually red, but I liked this white and black guy the best.

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