Wellington--April 6-8, 2006
It was time to leave the south island and head up north to bigger and better things. I took a car ferry (with my beloved car) from Picton on the south island to Wellington on the north island. I spent a full day in Wellington. Took a cable car to the top for the great views of the city and visited the Te Papa museum which is a really good look at the history of the country and the history of the Maori's.
Taupo and Rotorua--April 9-12, 2006
Next stop on my way north was through a town called Napier. Not much going on here so I moved on toward the north. I spent one night in Taupo and was rained on the entire time and decided that although it was a beautiful place with the lake, I didn't want to be wet so I continued to Rotorua. The area between Taupo and Rotorua is a geological thermal area where steam rises from the ground from the activity beneath the surface. There is one famous area called Craters on the Moon right outside of Taupo that really looks like it could be craters on the moon with all the smoke coming up from the different holes and bubbling and boiling water and mud scattered over a large area.
Rotorua is the cultural center for the Maori people (indigenous people) of New Zealand. This is "the" place to go to a traditional Hangi.... Maori feast. It was nice to learn about the culture and the history of the Maori people and what they as a people are doing now to protect their culture. The evening program consisted of a traditional show where they did their traditional dance, sang, played music and told stories of their history.
And then the evening finished with a feast that had been cooked in a large pit in the ground. The food was delicious and included plenty of potato and kumara (Maori sweet potato).
In Rotorua there is also another geothermal area where there is a geyser that goes off regularly through the day. I also had a chance to learn more about Maori culture and see another performance similar to the one the night before at the Hangi.
Coromandel--April 12-15, 2006
My next stop was an area called the Coromandel which is on the north east part of the country. I needed some time to relax on the coast and thought this would be a great place to do it. On the way to Whitianga, I stopped at the "Big Kiwi". A sight that can't be missed and had a chance to see kiwi fruit growing. I had no idea that they grew on vines.... did you?
I stayed in the town of Whitianga at a backpackers called "On the Beach". Can't beat that for location! There was a gorgeous view of the bay and the Pacific Ocean from the window. There are two must does when in Whitianga. The first is a walk to Cathedral Cove. Pristine beaches with a cave formation that walks through to another pristine beach.
and Hot Water Beach
And the other thing to do is to visit hot water beach. First you have to see when low tide is and go at that time. The thermal activity here on the beach creates areas that if you did down you will get steaming hot water. It was really weird to be standing on the beach, a meter from the ocean and the water was hot enough to burn you if you stepped in the wrong place. Worth a trip to see..... but a little too overrun with tourists as you can see.
The Maoris are also known for their carving. They carve in wood, bone, jade, etc. All the shops sell bone carvings that have meanings to the Maoris. There was a place in Whitianga that let you carve your own. First I picked a design and then traced it on a piece of bone from a cow (yes it had been cleaned up....) and then I carved it out with a dremmel (similar to a dentist drill!) and then sanded it down. And I have to say, with my limited creative ability, I was able to create one that looked pretty good. I chose the Koro which depicts new beginnings, growth, and harmony.
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