After getting our fill of the dark expanses of the Waitomo Caves, we headed further west to explore Rotorua. The area in the central part of the North Island is known for its geothermal features, particularly for an abundance of natural hot springs, and for its strong Maori presence and culture. We started at Orakei Korako, a beautiful natural area just outside of Rotorua that includes a range of active geothermal attractions including geysers, silica terraces, boiling hot springs, and eerily bubbling mud pools.
A day of touring the town and the nearby area by bike gave us a great opportunity to view of Lake Rotorua (NZ’s second lake and another lake formed by a collapsed volcano), including its iconic black swans, “Sulphur Point”, and steaming springs…
…which, of course (?!), justified a few hours of soaking at one of the local spas (when in Rome!).
We ended the day with a visit one of the Maori villages for a cultural exhibit and concert, along with a “hangi” dinner prepared using their traditional method of cooking the food for several hours in an underground pit. We were fascinated to learn more about the traditions and culture of the native NZ people, and were impressed by their obvious pride in maintaining many parts of their culture into the present day (the first photo is from our visit; the second I borrowed from the web as it was similar to the dancing we saw, but weren’t able to capture that night; the third is a photo of Te Winika, a 200 year-old hand-carved Maori canoe we saw at the Waikato Museum in nearby Hamilton, a beautiful example of their incredible craftsmanship.