Sunday, February 26, 2012

The last leg of our adventure in New Zealand

After a quick breakfast in the dining room at The Chateau, we gather our luggage, load up the car, and head out into the rain. A half hour later, we’re at a much lower elevation, on the road towards Tapeau, and suddenly the sun is shining. We stop for photos at a scenic overlook, and when we get out of the car, the sound of the humming cicadas in the trees that surround us is nearly deafening.

We head north for a few hours and drive into Rotorua, which claims to be the heartland of Maori culture. We visit Whakarewarewa, "the living thermal village". It’s an actual thriving Maori community, but a tourist destination by day, as it is an active geothermal site (think steaming, bubbling pools of water and mud).
We take a guided tour and see how they use the earth’s natural heating systems for cooking and bathing (community members congregate at the local natural pools early in the morning and then again after the tourists go home to soak). 

No one, not even community residents, are allowed into this fenced area, where the earth's crust is very thin and brittle.

Our guide says community residents use these containers, which cover a natural steam vent, to cook their food. 

This is the communal bathing area. Hot water runs down the grooves in the pavement from a natural spring into several deep tubs.

It is a great tour, but it’s pouring rain and we finally take refuge in a small cabin where see a demonstration of how generations of this community have used local reeds to make baskets and other materials. We’re then treated to traditional song and dance by a troupe of eight village residents. 

Our guide shows us a traditional skirt made from twisting, drying, and dying the long green leaves of a local plant.

After the tour, we get back into the car and drive northwest for almost five hours more, the last hour in rush hour traffic on the highway into Auckland. 

We check into the Rendezvous, a beautiful modern hotel in the heart of the city. The rooms and bathrooms are large; we see several flight crews so assume that this is where a lot of airlines put their staff up during Auckland layovers. We quickly clean up and change clothes before heading to Satya, a restaurant specializing in Southern India cuisine. Delicious and perfect after a long day in the car. We cross the street to a local pub for a final beer before heading back to the hotel to sleep. 

On Friday morning, we’re up by 8:00 am. I head a few streets over for a cup of Starbucks and to peruse some local shops, while Peter and Mark walk a few blocks to the Sky Tower, the tallest man-made structure (1,076 feet) in all of New Zealand for some birds-eye views of Auckland. 

At 11:00 am, we all rendezvous at The Rendezvous, pack up the car,and head to the airport.


  1. What did you think of Rotorua's unique odour? Ah, I don't envy you stuck in Auckland traffic. A lot of Americans I meet seem to think it's all countryside and so on, but the transport in Auckland is dismal, definitely don't miss the commute!

  2. Gwan -- there was definitely a distinctive smell, but i think the pouring rain helped beat it down a bit! My grandmother lived for years in a small town in upstate NY in an apartment building right next to a sulfur spring. There were some times when we visited that I didn't want to get out of the car!! Yes, I must admit I was surprised by the traffic in Auckland -- we were so ready to get out of the car, didn't know we were going to be stuck in bumper to bumper for another hour!!!

    Nik - yes, Peter and Mark totally lucked out with the weather and beautiful clear skies. Except for the rain in Rotorua, the weather gods were on our side!

  3. The Rotorua and Aukland pictures bring back very happy North Island memories. Fritz and I spent four days there starting in Rotorua with hot mud baths and the Maori dances, and ended in a harbo(u)r-side hotel that upgraded us to a suite overlooking the bridge. Incredibly lovely people into the bargain. Thanks!

    1. Hello Will -- thanks for your note. Yes, it was a magical place. Didn't get to partake in one of the mud baths, probably because we were totally zipping in and out of places, trying to stay on schedule! When we return to NZ someday, we plan to take it slower, stay in places longer than one night, and really get to live in the culture!



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