Rotorua was our next stop and home of some very stinky geysers, boiling mud pools and hot springs. Known as Sulphur City, or the Maori Whangapipiro (evil-smelling place), the sulphur dioxide gas is created by the geothermal activity underneath the town. This afternoon I decided to take on the grade 5 rapids on the Kaituna River with a spot of white water rafting. Before setting off we paid respect to the river and the people of the river by way of a karakia, a traditional Maori prayer. Navigating the narrow canyons through 14 rapids ranging from grade 3-5, the big one was the 7m high Tutea Falls. Following a final briefing from our guide, we did a Maori chant of “ Kia Kaha!, Kia Toa!, Kia Manawanui!” meaning “be strong, be brave, be patient and take heart” before we took on the mighty Tutea Falls. We were told there would be 3 ways this could turn out. Option 1, we went over the vertical drop, bobbed under the water and came back up again all still in the boat. Option 2, you may fall out and end up being thrown around at the bottom of the waterfall before hopefully bobbing back up again a little disorientated. Option 3, the boat flips over and we all end up in the river, in which case we had to hold on to the ropes at the side of the raft or make our way out from under the raft before attempting to climb back in again. I am pleased to say that we ended up with option number 1!
That night we all went to a traditional Maori village where we sampled a Maori cultural hangi (feast) and concert. We were able to witness to a Maori challenge, song and dance, weaponry displays and the haka. Whilst being able to take part in some traditional dancing, stick games and warrior training before seeing our hangi meal being lifted from an earthen pit where it had been cooking for several hours over hot stones. Learning about their traditional customs and history was a real eye opener and so nice to see that these traditions are being kept alive even in today’s modern life.
Before leaving Rotorua the next day we just had time to visit Te Puia, a geothermal reserve where we learnt a little more about Maori traditions and arts and crafts, as well as seeing geysers and sampling an egg cooking in the near boiling waters, boiling mud pools and the nocturnal kiwi bird.