After an awesome time in Auckland (Read about it here), we drove for 2hr 40 min to Te Puia, New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotoroua. This amazing place features Geothermal features like the Pohutu Geyser and Maori Cultural performances that gives you a deeper understanding of New Zealand's land and people.
The attraction is situated within the Te Whakarewarewa Geothermal valley. If you think that is a mouthful, it is important to note that the name has already been shortened. The full name of the place is.....
Since people do name their children after cool places like Paris and London, may I suggest Te Whakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao since this place is pretty cool too!
Upon arrival, the Maori people welcomed us with a Pōwhiri ceremony (Welcome ceremony) that starts off with a Haka dance. Those who watch rugby should be quite familiar with this because the All Blacks do this Haka dance before their matches too. The Maori men carry spears and make gestures and stick out their tongues. They shout pretty loudly and carry out intimidating challenges before leaving a token for a representative of the visitors to pick up.
There would be singing from a female elder to welcome the visitors before speeches are exchanged between the leaders from each group. It would end off with a Maori greeting called the hongi where two people would touch each each other's noses and foreheads together. The guide was humourous and said to touch once is to say we welcome you, two times meant we really welcome you and three times means you have to marry the person. HAHA!
We felt really enriched by the whole experience and was quite envious of the fact that the people here cherish their culture and spirituality a lot. The youths are also able to become apprentices and learn to be master craftsmen of traditional Maori arts and crafts. This continuation of the cultural roots helps future generations develop their understanding of the land they live in.
The day tour also took us to Geothermal features like a Geyser and boiling mud pools. The smell of sulphur is pretty strong but you'll get used to it after awhile. My take-away was more about the wondrous POWER of the earth but beauty conscious people will be happy to hear that they do sell a HUGE selection of skincare products derived from the mud! These products contain a myriad of minerals that are said to do wonders to your skin.
We continued our tour of New Zealand's north island by heading to the famous Lord of the Rings Hobbiton Film set.
This movie set is about 2hrs and 30 mins from Auckland and 1 hour from Rotorua. You may want to consider staying in Rotorua's hotels and visit both Te Puia and the movie set over two days.
It is here that I found myself lost for words. The attention to detail and the seamless combination of a man-made movie set and the natural setting will just blow your mind away. They actually grow and place REAL the vegetables and roots on the film set. The giant tree in the backdrop had its leaves painstakingly glued and put together to fit the director's vision of the set.
I'll let the pictures do the talking. You must really visit this place if you love the movies!
Remember to have a taste of the Ales and Apple cider at the Green Dragon Inn. Smoothest stuff we have tasted. Shop at The Shire Store to get all your movie related memorabilia. I bought myself THE RING. YES....MY PRECIOUSSSSS!
We headed back from Rotorua to Auckland to catch a flight to the South Island. Our flight to Christchurch was delayed and we sat around at the airport for a few hours. We read the news and saw that bad weather and really cold temperatures were awaiting us in Christchurch.
We spent some time in Christchurch and saw the earthquake damage that had so affected the locals. Our focus was however to get to Mount Cook (3724m above sea level). Our plans were temporarily stalled when we were involved in a VERY SERIOUS crash that destroyed the rental car totally.
I was driving the Toyota Highlander at about 50km/h towards the cross junction...I tapped the brakes lightly as the car approached the junction but there was silence and the car DID NOT SLOW down. I hit the brakes harder but it still didn't work. By the time I slammed on the brakes, it was too late. Everything went SLOW MOTION. Our car had hit a long trailer driving across our path at the junction. The bonnet crumpled over like paper and the engine parts flew everywhere. We spinned pretty hard because I hit my head on the window and Debra hit her knee against the door. Head on crash but the airbag didn't deploy.
By the time we became stationary, we were just a few metres from the train tracks. The car was smoking. Suddenly, both our doors opened and the locals who witnessed the accident had come out of their cars to rescue us from the wreck. We were immensely lucky and blessed to come out unscathed. The train rolled past 10 minutes later. If we had rolled any nearer, we would be appearing on national news.
We experienced great kindness from the locals as car after car that passed asked if we needed help. A local contractor even stopped his car, took out his broom and swept the road of debris. The soldier and local who rescued us waited till the police came before they left. These are just ordinary ppl who happen to pass by. They showed extraordinary kindness.
While we waited for the tow truck, the police man determined that I wasn't intoxicated and it was a matter of either aqua-planing or black ice (that could have melted away while we waited for him to arrive). He helped us retrieve our belongings and carried out luggage to put into his patrol car. He turned on the heating and allowed us to rest in the police car. It was the first time I sat in a police car.
After the tow truck had cleared up the mess, the police officer DROVE US BACK TO THE AIRPORT. He helped us with our luggage ALL THE WAY to the rental booth where we had to fill in insurance forms. Thankfully we didn't have to pay a cent because of the comprehensive insurance we bought.
The car was written off and scraped. The rental company was obviously not pleased. So we walked next door to get another car from another rental company. We did however take the entire day off to recover from the shock.
This accident highlighted the dangers of driving in winter and how bad it would have been if we were speeding or didn't wear our seatbelts. We never got to thank those people who helped us. It left a deep impression of the extraordinary kindness of New Zealanders. THANK YOU NEW ZEALAND!
Stay tuned for the next exciting part! Our exciting alpine adventure (Part 3 of this series) Conquering Mount Cook!
Vincent & Debra Kwan, Founders of Hiro & Jack and stay-at-home parents with the odd life.