The first thing that you will notice about Rotorua is the smell of Sulphur or rotten egg. But believe me, if you have not visited this geothermal hotspot in New Zealand than you have missed the most enthralling experience of that continent.
Rotorua was first discovered approximately 600 years ago by ‘Ihenga,’ a Maori leader. As the legend goes Ihenga while searching for food for his pregnant wife discovered Lake Rotoito and Lake Rotorua. The word ‘Rotorua’ is a Maori word that means ‘second lake.’
The Te Puia geothermal reserve is a sight to behold in full eruption. Steam creeps out of fine cracks in the rocks all around the Manuka clad slopes. Manuka is a shrub that bears beautiful flowers, whose honey has amazing antibacterial and antifungal properties. As I walked along the hot spring fine, damp droplets of geothermal spray and steam enveloped me completely. It was an utterly surreal experience.
At Pōhutu eruptions can rise up to 30 meters and are frequent. At Te Puia Rotorua, the magma is only 6-7 kilometers below the Earth’s crust which accounts for all the activity of the surface.
Despite having what many people consider to be an unpleasant smell, sulphur is widely considered to be a safe, non-toxic remedy for skin irritations, acne, arthritis, and bodily aches and pains. There are many places in Rotorua – including the famous blue baths and naturally occurring springs – where you can enjoy a swim in the geothermal hot springs.
The city is also the tribal home of the Maori people, who settled in lakeside geothermal areas more than 600 years ago. It is believed the first Maori people came to this beautiful country from East Polynesia, and since that time they have shaped New Zealand into the culturally rich landscape, it is today.
I was amazed to find how these people have managed to retain their culture in the modern time. On reaching “The Tamaki” village, nestled in a forest, we were ushered through a beautifully carved archway. Four warriors then came chanting with weapons drawn, rolling their eyes and tongues, showing us the ferocity of their spirits.
We were then taken to an oxblood red Maori meeting house made up of wood and decorated with tribal style carvings. We were first served tea along. A tribal group wearing bright colored finely woven garments and ornaments made up of bones and feathers performed Maori song and dance. But it was the Haka, the war dance that we enjoyed most as we were given an opportunity to participate. Some of us did while some cheered. It was a hilarious moment watching city dwellers sticking out their tongues and throwing their arms to imitate the tribal moves. This was followed by Hangi, which is an authentic Maori feast cooked in an earth oven which traditionally used hot stones and wet ferns to create steam.
Needless to say, the Tamaki Maori Village in Rotorua was the perfect way to wrap up our trip to the Sulphur city.