Thursday, March 1, 2018

Volcanoes, Mud Pools and Spears

Waitangi Volcanic Valley

Road Scholar is keeping us busy just about every minute.  Today we had three different site visits starting with the Waitangi Volcanic Valley.  Waitangi is the only major geothermal system in the world wholly created as the direct result of a volcanic eruption within historic times. Geologists come from all over the world to study the area and set up monitoring systems.  The exact day, July 10 1886, has been pinned down as the day the activity began.  That is the day of the Tarawera eruption when a crater was formed that encompassed two small lakes into one large Lake Rotomahana. The area sits in the Pacific “Ring of Fire” where the Pacific Tectonic Plate meets the India-Australian Tectonic Plate.  We began our site visit with a boat ride around Lake Rotomahana where we could observe the many steam vents and volcanic rock walls.  After, we hiked down into the Volcanic Valley where we could saw 3 other craters each consisting of different temperatures and minerals.  The colors of the deposits were beautiful, the earth was emitting heat, the water bubbling and spewing.  All plant and animal life here was obliterating in 1886.  Today the area is free of exotic and non native plants under the protection of its Scenic Reserve Status.  It looked like Jurassic Park to us with the 60’ ferns.

Arts and Crafts Institute

After lunch beside Rotorua’s Government Gardens where bocce courts were active and impatients grew 3 feet high, we went to the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute.  The Institute is set in another
thermal area with boiling mud pools and the spectacular Pohutu geyser which erupts up to 90 feet.  We missed that phenomenon, but did get a bit of a burp.  The goal of the Institute is to encourage and train young Moira in the traditional Maori arts and crafts.  We walked through the Institute and observed wood and stone carving, and weaving using both modern and traditional tools.

Maori Culture Performance

This evening we had a traditional Hangi dinner and Maori cultural performance and war dance.  This was similar to our dinner and performance at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.  We both thought the Waitangi performance far superior.  I’m guessing that is because this Maori Village uses its extended family to perform rather than seeking out the best and professional performers.  At our dinner were about 100 people from all over the Northern Hemisphere: Poland, Egypt, France, Norway, England, Canada, Korea, Luxembourg and more.  Our host asked where people were from and then greeted and joked with them in their native language.  He was amazing and very funny.  As a note, the Maori Villages we visit are much like a tribe made up of extended family.  For example, there are 3000 family members of the Te Puia tribe that operate the Arts and Crafts Institute.  They all make a point of thanking us for our interest in the culture and how tourism has allowed them to save and revive their culture. Pictures at flickr.