My phone gently woke me and I headed in the direction of my first mission of the day: Jet Boating. The walk to the lakeshore took me by various eating establishments. A coffee-chain named Robert Harris was worth a try. The latte was tasty and the scrambled eggs and bacon hit the spot.
The flaneuring this morning was interesting. There are more Maori folk in Rotorua that I have seen proportionally anywhere else in NZ. I suspect that this is due to the history that Rotorua has for the Maori. There is also a large Maori influence upon the stores and restaurants. There are various “Cultural Experiences” that tourists can join. Usually geared around a meal, these have singing and dancing and a great big Haka. They would need Maori for these “shows”. One way or another, many more Maori around.
My walk continued down to the lakefront as I sought the Kawarau Jet Boat Company. The young gentleman who was due to pilot our boat gave his opening schpeel and, via mumbling, quick speech and a rich NZ accent, successfully obscured his name and 80% of what he was trying to say. We headed out on the jet boat for the 30minute tour. We stopped off of Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua, which is the home of 30 endangered Bird species. We jetted over to another historic point where the female side of a Maori-style Romeo and Juliet took place. The mysteriously named young pilot pulled the requisite 360 degree turns to partially soak this three passengers. Good times. All in all, a pretty good experience.
Once I hit land again, I sought out coffee#2 and headed back toward the hotel via the Government Gardens. Some picturesque trees and some quarantined-by-earthquake Historical buildings were situated right on the sulphurous Lake.
The curse of the light-packed traveller is the ordeal of Laundry. I was due to do laundry today but I was thwarted early by the lineup at the hotel laundry. Delayed not defeated.
My second activity of the day was up. After many kms around the South Island and a brief therapeutic stay with the Cawthorn’s, I was due a massage. The hotel had an in-house spa and I was happy to make use of it. Once the massage started, there was some sort of time warp. It was an hour long massage that seemed to last for 1.5 hours. Best problem ever. The nice lady dug into my left shoulder which had been rather bugging me. Successful stress relief.
Laundry next, check!
Then it was time for my third activity. The bus picked me up at 5:20 for The Takani Maori Cultural Experience and Feast. I thought that it would be worthwhile to take in what was billed as “The Best Cultural Experience” in NZ.
The bus was mostly loaded with 25-ish people as I came aboard. The driver (whose name was 26 letters long and did not shorten it) was a very boisterous and chatty Maori gent who warmed up the bus with the meaning of “Kei Ora”, the NZ greeting that effectively means “to your health”. Impressively he then went to rattle off similar greetings in 61 other languages. Then came the next step: nominating a honorary chief. The driver was a hard core All-Blacks fan and said he needed a rugby player (former or present) to be the chief. I stayed quiet for a long time but there was no one else. I raised my hand and became the Takahe tribe’s honorary chief.
It wasn’t all glitz and glamour. The welcoming ceremony was considered a serious affair. I was taught how to accept a peace offering from a ferocious Maori warrior and how to do the traditional greeting with the village’s chief (maybe called the “hungi”: two touches of one-another’s nose with your own nose while right hands are clasped and left hands of one-another’s shoulders). No smiling and hands in front for the Warrior’s approach. It’s a shame that I could not get footage of this as I was front and center with another 3 bus-chiefs (one of which was the Tui tribe, so close!!!). After I took the peace offering (a silver fern) and greeted the chief, there was smiles all around and the serious portions were over.
We were led into the village to 5 different areas (that we rotated through). First was a stick-game where the kids would increase hand-eye coordination. I had to pick 4 agile folks. Next was the Haka training, where all the men in our tribe (including me) were coached and performed a Haka (of sorts, we sucked). Next, we learned about the ornate facial and upper-leg tattoos that the Maori have. Next was a discussion about the origins of the Maoris and the navigation that transported them. Lastly, was the “poi” game where the ladies in the crowd used effectively a one-ended bolo in a dance/martial art. All pretty cool.
Then the village chief asked us chiefs to led our tribes into a gathering place where the “hangi” was revealed. Basically it is a cooking pit full of yummy veggies, chickens and lamb.
Onwards we ventured to watch the men and women of the trip perform a few more songs as out food was put into buffet-form.
Lastly, we feasted. It was an all-you-can-eat extravaganza. Far too much good food and dessert. After food, we four chiefs were invited up to perform another flailing Haka. We still sucked.
The bus dropped us off and I quickly made the assessment that I wanted to experience soaking in the healing waters of the lake. Right by my hotel was the “Polynesian Spa” that offered 5 different temperature ranges (38/39/40/41/42 degrees C). I tried them all in the course of an hour. Brilliant.
Sleep definitely came easily.