Rotorua – Tongariro – Redwood Lodge Waitomo
We had all day to make the 3 hour drive to Tongariro national park. So we stopped at the Rotorua Museum for a bit of Maori history. The history is mixed with mythology and is quite interesting. There is a cultural value called Utu, that seems to cause a lot of problems for the Maori people. If you receive a give you must return a gift , if you receive an insult or injury you must return it. Both of these things escalate and lead to excessive gifts or to war and bloody violence. The Maori are descended from the Polynesians you also see in Australia, French Polynesia, Hawaii etc.
Ok, now I need to be a bit blunt. The Rotorua geothermal areas are just plain…. Dull. We paid the exorbitant entry fee for what our bed and breakfast lady had told us was the prettiest one and walked around underwhelmed for half an hour before deciding to forge on. If you have been to Yellowstone, DO NOT bother with the Rotorua area geothermals. Likewise Huku falls is nice but you really would be ok to miss it. We had a quick stop in Taupo for a Mexican lunch (which actually wasn’t too bad).
We arrived at the Adventure Lodge around 5PM to discover a giant disappointment. We had planned to hike the Tongariro crossing, reputed to be the most fantastic day hike in New Zealand. However, the next day promised torrential rains and gale force winds. No Tongariro Crossing for us. We MIGHT have been able to pull it off the next day if we were on the trail at 5:30 AM and rushed the 4 hour drive back to Auckland to jump on a plane to Christchurch at 9PM. And that was if everything went as planned. Abandon Plan A. So we took the opportunity to do laundry and watched a DVD of an artsy film called Whale Rider that was made in New Zealand. It was very interesting to see some of the same things we had learned about Maori culture at the museum played out in the movie. It seems indigenous people everywhere struggle.
So, the next morning, instead we headed back north to do the only thing we could do in the rain. We toured a couple of caves including a boat ride through the famous Waitomo glowworm cave.
I will leave you to read more if you want, but it was actually pretty impressive. We found a bed and breakfast called Redwood Lodge ( http://www.redwood-lodge.co.nz/ )near to the Waitomo caves. Julie, our hostesss was friendly and brimming with interesting anecdotes. Incidentally, she is also trained as a chef as we discovered at breakfast the next morning. The B and B is totally organized with instructions for everything, including the rec room, the sauna , the hot tub and exercise facility all on site. Best of all she ordered Indian takeaway from the local Capital 91 restaurant. The Lamb Madras and the Chicken Saag were fabulous, as was the mango chutney. The naan, however, was not fabulous.