Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Sunday, July 8, 2012
We were up with the sun and went to the Redwood Forest for a walk with Grandad Wayne and Jenny. The forest was seeded from the Redwoods in California, so it had a very familiar feel, only with different and interesting birds! The family set out on a one-hour tramp through the woods, and it was a beautiful day for it.
After a peek through the gift shop, we went back into Rotorua. Lunch was a sandwich spread a la Jenny, then we looked at some family photos and headed over for a long soak in the thermal pools of the PolynesianSpa. We went into the family area, which had three pools of varying depths and temperatures, plus a slide for the kids. It was lovely to soak and relax in.
Once we were all overheated we headed out to prepare for the night’s festivities, an indigenous evening experience at Te Puia. We started in the gift shop, browsing around and waiting for the evening to start. Then our guide met us at the gate and led us back into the grounds.
First came a greeting ceremony. The group gathered, and our guide chose a chief – Grandad Wayne! Our chief was to represent all of us and the lands we came from (the U.S., Germany, Italy, Canada, Australia, and NZ) in the powhiri (welcoming ceremony).
A warrior came out of the meeting house – his tribe behind him – and offered sort of a greeting/challenge dance and chant. Chief Wayne stood before us and watched. Then the warrior put down a peace offering (a branch) and waited for our chief to come forward, pick it up, and then come back with it – without turning his back on the warrior. This was a sign that we came in peace (phew!), so the warrior came forward and welcomed him with a gesture of pressing noses together called a hongi.
Once the greetings were exchanged, the group was welcomed into the marae. The chief sat in the front row, his family just behind him on the left side of the house, and the rest of the group sat on the right.
We watched a full kappa haka (performing arts) concert, filled with interesting traditional music and stories of the Maori culture. At one point all the women were invited on stage to learn a poi dance – even Bria did it! The guys were invited up a bit later to learn a haka, which was really fun to watch. Chief Wayne, Justin, and Cameron got pretty into learning.
They closed the concert with a song telling the story of Hinemona and Tutanekai, sort of a Romeo and Juliet story of their tradition (with a happier ending). It was really beautiful, and we all saw a great piece of history and culture.
We then moved into a really first-class meal, with cuisine that incorporated indigenous ingredients, traditional hangi cooked food, and contemporary Maori dishes. There was pork, lamb, chicken, seafood, kumera, potatoes, salad, and lots more, plus gorgeous mussels as an entrée (what we Americans would call an appetizer) and breads. The dessert spread was just as impressive – and we were encouraged to come back for seconds and thirds (and to use a plate if the bowls were too small). There was chocolate mousse, eclairs, fruit salad, pavlova, cream, and chocolate cake with hot custard. We could have stayed there all night, and we were all stuffed to the brim!
After we had all gotten our fill of the lovely food and hospitality, we met up with our guide again for the closing entertainment – a starlight visit to Pohutu, the famous geyser located on the grounds.
Every detail was thought of. We were met with tubs of soft, warm blankets (July is winter in the southern hemisphere), and told to grab one and get into a car, which was one of a row of cars, attached to an electric engine. Each car was encased in heavy plastic with zippers o help keep us warm as we headed down to view the geyser.
They drove us down a path and paused on a bridge to view the pools and geyser, telling us a bit of history of the area, then drove down a bit so we could get out and check it out. When we got out of the cars, there was hot chocolate to warm us. We walked back down to the bridge and watched Pohutu spit and sputter and shoot water 20 feet or so into the air. Then we walked back up and sat on thermal-heated rocks while the evening drew to a close. As it turned out, our host had a beautiful singing voice. We then got back into the cars and rode back to the gate, where we each splashed water on the huge greenstone for luck and then headed out. We all agreed it had been a lovely evening, and Jenny felt she had found a wonderful local secret!
Finally it was a dark drive around Lake Rotorua to get back to our lake house and call it a night, smiles all around.
Posted by Crysta at 8:30 PM