Spring Break: Taupo and Rotorua (day 2)

Friday April 20th

Today was a great change of pace since we got to spend most of it outside instead of riding on the bus like the day before and the weather was gorgeous.  After breakfast in the hotel and a very quick bus ride, we went for a walk around the Huka Falls which we then got up-close-and-personal with on a crazy speed boat called the Huka Jet! I must have been a silly mood or something (and the giant water-proof jackets they gave us didn’t help) because I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard! As we were whipping across the waterway in this little boat I was hard-core belly-laughing and making the girls in front of my crack up too! I was also sitting next to Amanda, and as we learned in the South Island, we feed off of each other. So I would laugh, she would laugh at me and then I would laugh harder…. vicious circle ensued. We were doing 360 spins all up and down the river and got really close to the falls. It was so much fun! Little did I know until we made it back into the shop after the boat ride was over that we were being videotaped—the laughing wasn’t over yet.

Next stop was lunch at the Waimangu Thermal Valley and then a nice long walk along side some amazing natural feats. Because of all of the thermal activity it is easy to mistake the copious amounts of steam everywhere for smoke and makes the valley look like it is on fire just below the surface waiting to burst through. Also in this valley is Lake Rotomahana, the former home to the Pink and White Terraces which were unfortunately destroyed by the eruption of Mount Ruapehu. The minerals in the water and intense temperatures make some of the most vivid and unique colors appear on the rocks and other deposits throughout the valley. Waimangu doesn’t have any geysers, but there are tons of pools that vent steam and that are so hot they are visibly boiling! The southern section of the Taupo Volcanic Zone is home to Tongariro, Ngauruhoe, and Ruapehu—the three most dangerous volcanoes in New Zealand. Ruapehoe is the tallest and most active of the three and has erupted 60 times over the past century, the latest being 1995-1996. We walked all the way from the top of the valley along the hot pool to the bottom which took about an hour. We took plenty of pictures, of course, and then took the shuttle waiting for us back to the top where we met up with Hester and moved on.  

We had another short-ish bus ride to get to Rotorua and our next accommodation which we were staying at for the next 2 nights. We had some free time that I was hoping we could do some bungee jumping with but unfortunately that didn’t work out. We stopped at the jade factory and we saw some pretty impressive green stones. It was really interesting to see all of the different Maori designs and learn what their significance was. Once we got settled at the hotel I decided to explore Rotorua a little bit and go for a run. I have to admit I got a little lost, of course. But it wasn’t the scary kind of lost. I found my way back to the water’s edge and then caught up with some friends who were exploring too. We walked around for a bit then I headed back to the hotel (they got me back on the right track haha) to get cleaned up for our special dinner.

A couch came and picked us up to bring us to the Mitai Village where we would be having our traditional hangi (dinner)! There were a lot of other groups participating in the cultural event from all over the world. Our host was able to great them ALL in their native languages! It was so impressive.  A leader of the entire group needed to be “elected” to represent the visitors to the chief later on in the evening. Of course we got Garvin to volunteer so he became the chief of the foreigners. After introductions were made we headed out to the hangi pit to check on how dinner was progressing. The way you cook a hangi is to dig a large pit in the ground, fill it with stones and wood and coal, then put all of the food (meats and vegetables) in the pit, cover it up, and leave it for about 3-5 hours! We took a peak and it looked and smelled delicious. Next we took a dark and chilly walk to the edge of the little river that cuts through the village. We were greeted by the Maori warriors who came down the river in their waka (war boat). Their chant and navigational skills were very impressive. After that we made our way to a stage where we were introduced to the Chief of the tribe and given an amazing show/demonstration of Maori songs, tools and weapons, dancing, and a history of the land. Garvin had to give a speech explaining who we were and why we were visiting, and just like at the Marae on Waiheke, he did a great job. After our songs were sung it was time to eat! The hangi was set out by the time we came back to the dining room in magnificent style. It was all you could eat, and believe me, we ate all we could! It was all so delicious. We went to sleep VERY full and happy that night!

Fun Fact: Lake Taupo (one of New Zealand’s most popular tourist destinations) was the source of the largest known eruption in the world in the last 70 thousand years. It had a Volcanic Explosivity Index of 8. It released over 530 cubit kilometers of magma. The event took place in the summer of 186a.d. and was noted by Roman and Chinese historians as a sunset that burst into flame. The cloud that it spewed out over the world was about 70 cubic miles and the huge crater that was left behind eventually became Lake Taupo.
Pictures: www.photobucket.com/erb_in_hukafalls

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