Our round the world trip (20): from Rotorua to Christchurch

Sunday evening was as full as the day, since we were entertained at a specially constructed Maori village called Tamaki (“the village among the the trees”). This is located at Tumunui which is a half hour drive out of Rotorua. Our Maori driver – a guy known as Mark – was an amazing character: irrepressively ebullient as he talked the whole way through a microphone while driving with one hand, seriously impressive as he proceeded to offer us the equivalent of “Kia ora” in 60 other languages, and endlessly amusing as he affected American, Canadian, English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish accents and cracked a stream of jokes.

At the Maori village, there was a ceremony where the village elder challenged the leaders of the four coach groups, before establishing that we were friendly and offering us hospitality. A series of outdoor huts in the trees hosted Maoris explaining different features of the indigenous culture. Then we were shown how the Maoris cook food in a “Hangi” stone pit, before attending a concert of traditional dance and song, and enjoying the meal.

Before we all left the village, we were entertained to a display of the “Haka”, the traditional Maori war dance made famous worldwide by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team (which Mark insisted was the finest sporting team in the history of the world). As well as much beating of the body and shouting, the haka involves the protrudence and wiggle of the tongue in a fiercesome manner. On the return coach journey, Mark excelled himself by leading a sing song in various languages, concluding with a rendition of “The wheels on the bus go round and round”, the highlight of which was three rapid circumambulations of a small roundabout.

The evening was not quite over for Roger & Vee though, as back at the Millennium Hotel we met our New Zealand friends Val & Ross Bartrum for drinks and a chat. Roger & Val worked together in London as long ago as 1971 and have stayed in touch while she has emigrated to NZ and raised three children in Wanganui.

Next day, Day 21 (Monday), saw a further early start, with the alarm at 6 am and departure at 7.45 am. Clouds of sulphur vapour were streaming out of the storm pipes, fissures in the parks, and the sides of the Rotorua Lake which made for an ethereal veiling of the town in early morning.

it was a particularly good day for Vee because the morning was all about visits to city sights featuring local animals and she loves all creatures great and small. First stop was the Rainbow Springs Nature Park. Amid vegetation including Californian redwood trees and New Zealand fern bushes, we saw rainbow trout, kea parrots, small lizards and dragons, and something called the Tuatara which is billed as “New Zealand’s living prehistoric fossil”.

The park also contains the Kiwi Experience which was a million times better than the Kiwi House which we visited at the thermal reserve yesterday. There were excellent information displays and the kiwis themselves are in much larger and better-lit glass cases where we could actually see them. Before leaving, Roger bought a kiwi cuddly toy for granddaughter Catrin and Vee purchased “Kiwi poo” (chocolates) for her nephew’s children Yasmin & Lucas.

The second visit was to the Agrodome Sheep Show. The accent of the presenter was so strong that we did not understand all he said but he was as entertaining as he was informative. We learned that New Zealand has 32 million sheep (that’s more than seven for very person in the country) and we were introduced to the examples of no less than 19 varieties of them (just how exciting can life get?). The presenter actually sheared a sheep for us and members of the audience were invited to try their hand at milking cows before, in field outside the display theatre, we observed how a trained dog cleverly herded sheep. Vee was able to pet various animals, including an alpaca, and was the last in the bus by a good 10 minutes.

We were dropped off in Rotorua on the Tutanekai Street – full of shops and cafes – so that we could have a bit of lunch and Vee & Roger teamed up with Andrew for our refreshments. We found a place that we loved because of the name (it was called the “Fat Dog” and had a “Fat Dog Bog”), the ambience (it displayed a Thought For The Week on a blackboard and quotes on walls and tables), and the food (Roger had a dessert of brandy snap with vanilla ice cream & raspberry coulis).

It was time to leave the North Island and head for the South Island. At Rotorua airport, we were required to pay NZ$ 5 a head as a Domestic Development Levy which is fancy name for an airport tax. The flight from Rotorua to Christchurch took little more than an hour.

The South Island is very different from the North Island: it is much less populated and the population is much less diverse, while it has a much more varied geology and wider variations in temperature.

Christchurch has been utterly changed, and will experience still more change, as a result of the devastating earthquake of 22 February 2011 which kiled 186 people and severely damaged the business centre and the east of the city. We had a short coach tour of the city and our tour director Mark, who grew up in the city, spelt out the extent of the destruction and the challenges of reconstruction. We had a stop of of about 40 minutes next to the Canterbury Museum and Roger & Vee took the opportunity to walk down to Cathedral Square, which is shielded off by railings, so that we could see Christchurch Cathedral which suffered such terrible damage that it may need to be completely replaced.

Finally we checked into the Sadima Hotel, on the undamaged west of the city, just by the airport. We had dinner in the hotel with our new friend Andrew.


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>