Rotorua is known for its geothermal activity. As soon as we arrived, a smell of rotten eggs infiltrated our bus. There is so much geothermal activity, that there are boiling sulphur lakes in almost every backyard and all the gutters. Just driving through the city, you can see large clouds of mist behind every second house, and even in the local park.
But Rotorua is not only famous for its large amounts of sulphur, but also for its culture. Near Rotorua you can find a lot of active Maori villages, some of them are even open to the public – like the Tamaki Village.
Because I decided not to visit Hobbiton (not a big enough fan to justify the cost), I paid to visit the Tamaki Village. We were all picked up by a Tamaki shuttle that took us directly to their village. The drive took about 30 minutes, during which the driver told us a lot of interesting information about his culture. For example, a chief had to be elected from the people on the bus, so that he could greet the Tamaki chief in the name of all the guests. A woman could not be elected chief, because in the Maori culture, a woman has to be protected as she can bear children.
Our elected chief was then introduced to the Tamaki chief, accompanied by singing and dancing. The Maori chief made our chief a peace offering – be placed a piece of silver fern on the floor between them, and our chief had to pick it up without breaking eye contact. If our chief were to not pick it up, break eye contact, lose or break the fern, it would mean that he is declaring war. After that, both chiefs shook hands and the evening could begin.
Each group had a guide who showed them around the village. There were small stops, where a member of the Tamaki told us a little about their culture, their games, their tattoos, or the traditional method of cooking. It was all very interesting, and some of the stops were even interactive, such as the games. One of the games worked like this: There are four people and four large sticks of wood. Each person has to hold one stick, so that one end touched the ground and the other end is held in the person’s hand. Then, a fifth person sells a command in Maori (either left or right ), and the people have to move in the direction they are told to – they let go of their stick, and the next person has to grab it before it hits the floor. This is played until there is only one person left – the winner.
After that, the Maori danced and sang for us, before we moved into a large dining hall for the buffet. All the food available was cooked in the ground, following the Maori’s tradition. There were different meat options available, such as lamb, pork, or chicken, but also a lot of vegetables and vegetarian options.
On the bus ride home, the driver encouraged everyone to sing a song from the country they’re from – it definitely was one of the best bus rides I ever had.
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