A couple of months ago, I got to visit the number 1 place on my "Bucket List" -- New Zealand!
It was a FANTASTIC trip and the country was just as beautiful and the people even nicer than I anticipated. One of the most fascinating places we visited on our recent trip was the city of Rotorua and the area surrounding it. The region is visually stunning with gorgeous lakes, mountains, and geothermal hot springs. But also the most native New Zealanders, the Maori, live in this area, which has historically held deep spiritual significance for them.
The city of Rotorua is built on the shores of a beautiful lake of the same name, and has lots of geothermal hot springs and other natural wonders within the city and close by. One of the places I enjoyed seeing the most was a Maori historical and cultural center called Te Puia which showcased two geysers (shown above) and all things Maori.
The entrance to Te Puia.
A closer look at one of the elaborate wooden carvings, which are tributes to a family's ancestors.
There is also a carving school on the premises which teaches traditional Maori carving techniques like these as well as construction of things like buildings and war canoes.
The local Maori also give several performances daily in traditional dress. They do dances, songs, and even some fighting moves. Here are a couple of Maori warriors in authentic costumes, inside a beautiful meeting house built with traditional decorations.
Here is the outside of the meeting house (called a wharenui). The red color was originally derived from local clay.
I was surprised at how many place names and cities in New Zealand are from the Maori language, which is Polynesian in origin (so there are lots of vowels). Besides Rotorua, we also visited Whangarei, Paihia, the Tutukaka coast (gorgeous but I didn't get any good piccies due to rain), Taupo (including Haku falls), Otorohanga, and Mangere, to name a few!
I'll stop for now but will post more pictures of the simply stunning landscapes later. Since we stayed on the North Island for this visit, we will have to go back for a tour of the South Island! I can't wait!