Rotorua, central North Island 19 March 2006

Rotorua is a beautiful city in the heart of the volcanic region of the north island – I wish I could have taken more photos of it. But it does have a stinky sulphur smell about it – didn’t really bother me, but it does a lot of folks, even though they say you get used to it.

Here is a beautiful, true story whose history is part of Rotorua, and that we heard at the Maori village on Thursday night: Hinemoa was a young woman who lived on the western shores of Rotorua, and Tutanekai lived on Mokoia Island, a large island in the middle of the lake. They met when the two subtribes visited each other from time to time. Although Hinemoa and Tutanekai were both of high birth, but Tutanekai was illegitimate, and while Hinemoa’s family thought highly of Tutanekai, they were not in favor of a union. At night, Tutanekai would play his flute and the wind would carry the melody to Hinemoa, who could hear the declaration of love. However, her people took to tying up the canoes to prevent her from visiting him! Finally one night, when she could bear it no longer, she undressed and swam the long distance to the island. When she arrived, since she had no clothes, she could not just walk into the village, so she hid in a hot pool to figure out what to do next. Eventually someone came by to collect water, and Hinemoa called out in a deep voice ‘who goes there?’. The man answered ‘a slave of Tutanekai’, so she reached out of the dark and grabbed his water pot and smashed it to the ground. This happened several more times, so eventually Tutanekai himself came to see what was going on. When he did she came out of the pool and Tutenakai, with joy, took her back to this dwelling. In the morning, when Tutenakai overslept, someone came to wake him, and then went and reported that someone else was sleeping with him. When Tutenakai and Hinemoa appeared, there was great happiness, and their union was celebrated. Many descendants of Tutenakai and Hinemoa still live in the Rotorua area today.

Saturday morning we went to the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve and saw some very cool mud pools and geysers and steam vents, then we went white water rafting on the Kaituna River and Okere Falls – I decided not to go when I saw that we had to put wet suits on again, and I just wasn’t feeling great with my bad cold. The last thing I wanted was to be more cold! But they had a blast – Okere Falls is a Class V rapids at 20′ high, and we were able to watch them go over! They were in two rafts, and one capsized – it was very exciting but no one was hurt. The river was quite beautiful and *very* rugged… Lindsay – our guide, who is a licensed river rafting guide on about 10 rivers and is also a skier and mountain climber – said that NZ terrain is so wild and rugged that if you happen to slip into a NZ river, you are history, especially if you have no life preserver. We walked for about 20 minutes to the spot where we could watch them, and were probably 70 feet above the river, which was narrow and heavily wooded with typical NZ ferns and tropical trees. I hope my photos come out good!

Then in the evening we went up the gondola to the Skyline Restaurant which had a fantastic feast watching the lights of the city come on. And it was a beautiful spread of many types of salmon, chicken, roast, and lovely veggies and desserts. It was a great way to spend our last night.