I’m very fond of finding unique experiences when I travel that others may not have tried.
But sometimes, there’s no harm in giving in and doing some very stereotypical touristy things.
Like going to a Maori cultural show while in Rotorua.
There are a few different ones in Rotorua, but the hostel we were staying at had a decent discount on the Mitai Maori Village so that pretty much was the deciding factor.
First part of the performance we were led to line the banks of the river in the village where a whole bunch of Maori ‘warriors’ paddled up the stream and then backwards chanting away.
Also worth pointing out that it was pretty much the start of winter so it takes some brave warriors to be clad in rather scant costumes they had on.
Thankfully for the rest of us that are not as warrior-like, the performance moved indoors, to a a mock Maori campfire set up on a stage.
Like the canoe, it seemed pretty authentic and intricately done, with lots of attention to detail.
The village chief (who, having sat in the front row, I can attest to wearing nothing under his loincloth) was naturally charismatic and pretty entertaining. So despite it being inevitably cheesey, it was actually more enjoyable than I expected.
And of course, no Maori show would be complete without a Maori Haka – a war dance that is a fierce display of a tribe’s pride, strength and unity.
The big chief says that in Maori culture, the more fierce and ‘ugly’ a man is, the more ‘handsome’ he is seen to be. Makes sense.
After the show (about 45 minutes), there was a traditionally cooked Hangi where heated stones and trays of food were put into a firepit and sealed for a few hours to slow cook.
The hangi food itself was nice and tender (except the chicken that was a little dry) and slightly earthy tasting, but didn’t have much flavour to it otherwise. To make up for it, we had various other side dishes with a more French-European style that was served alongside the Hangi dishes.
In all, a pretty decent way to spend an evening in Rotorua and I’m glad I did it, even if it was still rather touristy (but not too cringey).
The next morning, we went rafting (Ben) and kayaking (me) at the Kaituna Rapids.
It was billed as a thrill-seeker’s dream, with a 6 or 7 metre (dependent on water levels) waterfall to go down. While it was rather fun, the actual time on the water lasted only about 40 minutes and most stretches of the river, although pretty fast flowing was relatively calm and not particularly exciting. In hindsight, I’d probably have skipped this activity.
But I did get to wear a rather fetching New Zealand sheep jumper…
Probably even more random was that Hamish, from our ‘night out’ in Rotorua happened to be there as part of this stag party that made up the rest of the group that morning. He looked about as sheepish as my jumper.
Ben had to head back, so I spent the rest of the day wandering Rotorua itself.
Kuirau Park in the middle of Rotorua was pretty interesting. Layout was pretty standard, with a few fields, and a couple of small lakes with some forest walking tracks through it.
But being Rotorua, there were geothermal features round every corner, billowing clouds of steam that diffused the afternoon sunlight making for a very mystical setting.
This helped set the mood for my next (and final) stop in Rotorua – the Ohinemutu Maori village.
Unlike the Mitai village that hosted the cultural show (and similar ones around Rotorua), this was an actual living village, which had some tourist shops but by and large seemed to primarily be somewhere that modern day Maoris live, incorporating plenty of traditional Maori architecture.
There were only a few other tourists wandering around, so it was a rather nice lazy Sunday afternoon stroll.
So 3 days into the NZ holiday and I was getting plenty of bang-for-buck in my itinerary. Let’s see what else is to come… Next stop, Auckland to visit my aunt.