Cultural Treat in Rotorua
Please welcome Natasha Amar, a Dubai based traveler exploring the world in cultures, cuisines & hiking trails.
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Rotorua, New Zealand’s North Island
A must visit for the culture-loving traveler seeking to get a taste of indigenous Maori heritage. Of course, like the rest of the country, Rotorua has a visually stunning landscape that’s also very unique because of the fact that it’s a geothermal hotspot. With much to offer to nature and culture lovers as well as those looking for some therapeutic rejuvenation in its world famous Polynesian Spa, Rotorua makes for an ideal stop when travelling in New Zealand’s North Island.
Being extremely popular with tourists, it’s no surprise that there are a number of operators who offer indigenous experiences and cultural tours in traditional Maori villages. As most of these tours are similarly priced, it can be difficult to choose one. My experience with poor quality of food offered on cultural tours in other countries made me especially cautious when choosing which company to go with.
The Indigenous Experience with Te Puia
Te Puia came highly recommended and as I also wanted to see the Pohutu Geyser, I opted for the complete experience called Te Puia-Te Po.
The tour started at 4.00pm with a guided tour of Whakarewarewa village. With the sun shining brightly, I could see the Pohutu geyser at a distance as it erupted high into the sky. It was fascinating as I had never seen a geyser before. Hot rocks in the area heat up with the pressure of the lava below the surface, which has long been a natural source of energy for locals.
The Pohutu Geyser attracts a lot of tourists to the small village and has created employment opportunities with many local Maori now working as tourist guides.
The walk continued at a leisurely pace through the forest talking about the flora and how skillfully and creatively the barks, leaves and roots of trees were used in the homes of the indigenous people. It was interesting to learn how the culture has adapted over the years, so much that there are now initiatives in place to teach Maori language and culture to the local youth who mostly only speak English.
At the Kiwi house, I got to see Kiwi birds up close in a low lighted enclosure. The walk wound up with a tour of traditional structures and building, around which were displayed examples of traditional wooden carvings, sculpture and art.
As the sun began to set, I watched how a traditional Hangi (feast) is prepared. Baskets of meat, chicken, kumara (sweet potato) and other vegetables were lifted from underground ovens where they had been cooking since the afternoon in preparation of the evening feast.
An evening of food, song & dance
The highlight of the evening was the indigenous experience of Te Po, a lively, captivating song and dance show where traditionally dressed Maori artists performed various routines ranging from traditional war dances to ballads of forlorn lovers. The artists of Te Puia are highly talented, enthusiastic and clearly enjoy themselves in spite of performing to an audience every single night. By the end of the show, the audience was starving and a wonderful feast awaited.
Unlike the average quality of meals in most tourist shows, the feast of Te Puia was one of my most memorable meals in New Zealand. The hospitality and warmth of the guides, artists and staff was truly commendable. Post dinner, the group was invited to sip hot chocolate under the stars on hot rocks by the geyser and exchange stories with fellow tourists, a specially lovely experience on a frosty night.
About Natasha Amar
Natasha Amar is a Dubai based traveler exploring the world in cultures, cuisines & hiking trails. On The Boho Chica, you can find stories of the people, places and things that shock, amaze and inspire her on her travels. Connect with Natasha on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Google+.