While I was in Auckland, I decided that I’d head further south to Rotorua (also on the North Island) to get a feel for the Maori culture. I organised a couch surfing host who is a Maori native and living just outside of the town. I booked the Naked Bus (don’t get the wrong idea!) for the next day. With this service, the earlier you book, the cheaper it is, so there’s no harm in being a little orgainsed when planning your travel. From Auckland to Rotorua it takes around 3.75 hrs by bus. It’s a comfortable journey and with the beautiful scenery to look out at, the time flies! The tickets can range between $1 – $30 so again, try to book ahead!
Pererika picked me up at the bus stop and we had a quick chat about what I’d like to do over the next couple of days. From here, he brought me to the harbour to show me a beautiful te arawa waka taua (the war canoe). He explained all about the designs and how it was made by the local Maori tribes. On the way to P’s house, we passed two gorgeous lakes, Rotokakahi (green Lake) and Tikitapu (blue Lake). When we arrived at his place, my mouth nearly hit the floor. His cabin is set on the side of a mountain, partially supported by stilts, with a wrap around porch overlooking Lake Tarawera. All you can hear is birds singing! The view was incredible with having Ruawahia, Wahanga and Tarawera mountains directly in view. These would have been the volcanoes that erupted and wiped out the 8th wonder of the world, The Pink and White Terraces as well as the surrounding village. The place is full of history! We sat up for hours where P gave me an introduction to the Maori culture and told me the beautiful stories of where they believe the world comes from.
The next morning we got up early and left for Hobbiton, I was like a child I was so excited! It took about an hour and a half to get there but again, the scenery was amazing. The entry cost for Hobbiton is $80 and you are brought as part of a group around all of the hobbit holes. It was honestly like being in a dream, everything was kept so perfect! Our guide was lovely, chatty and full of information. The tour itself takes about an hour and a half and there’s lots of opportunities to take some snaps.
Pererika brought me to the village, Whakarewarewa, where his Iwi (tribe) comes from in Rotorua, after we came back from Hobbiton. I had the pleasure of meeting his cousin Jason, who showed me more Taonga Puoro (wind instruments) than I’d ever seen before! He played a few of them and I was in absolute awe. As well as this, I got to see their ngawha (hot pools) (the smell of sulphur was delightful), wharenui (big house) and hangi (traditional outdoor steam oven). P was full of stories of when he was a kid growing up in the village and how things have evolved since then.
That evening, Pererika had to go to training (he’s part of a canoeing club, one of the best in NZ so I believe!) and he brought me along. He set me out on a waka ama (out rigger canoe) while he trained with his team. I was so excited! On the way back from my paddle I caught the most amazing sunset. It really caught me by surprise and I nearly fell out of the canoe trying to turn around!
The following morning we got up and hit the gym (Total Fitness) for an hour. When we finished up there we came pack to P’s for some breakfast and then back in to town to go for a walk through the Redwood Forest. The Redwoods were brought over from Oregon in memory of the soldiers who died in the war. These trees were incredible. So high and wide you wouldn’t be able to put your arms around! There are a couple of different treks that you can take and you could easily spend the day walking around.
When we finished up here, we went to check out Rotorua’s museum. The museum is separated in to two parts. One focusing on the baths that the soldiers used to recuperate throughout the war and the other on the Maori culture and history. This was my favourite part. I loved seeing all of the different artifacts, learning about all of their beliefs and gods. I could have spent all day in there! There is also access to the roof where you can see all of Rotorua and the beautiful area in which it’s set.
After some food, it was time to head back to Auckland. I was sad to say goodbye to Pererika but there’s promises made to come back (where he’ll give me a Ta Moko – Maori tattoo). This was an experience I didn’t expect at all and won’t forget.
Although me and P were flat out throughout the days, there was so much more to see. Rotorua is full of history and activities to do and sort of reminded me of a smaller Queenstown. So if you ever find yourself in the area, give yourself a couple of days and EXPLORE!