All the time we were in Rotorua there was the pervading smell of bad eggs, I seemed to be sneezing all the time and this sulphur activity seemed to play havoc with the car paintwork and in some instances the fabric of the houses (we believe). This was one of the few places we were staying 2 nights so we didn't have to pack our bags each day. We started our day by going to the Agrodome where we were introduced to 19 breeds of sheep currently farming in New Zealand, together with some of their dogs and handlers. It was an amusing show and watched by many hundreds, the were very complacent and knew that there was food for them on the stage, one was more savvy than the rest and had a go at the troughs for the following sheep before it got to it's own stand.
We then went onto the Rainbow Springs nature park where we were introduced to a number of the native NZ species. There were also a number of farmed trout which are raised in pools where the water comes from natural springs.
Across the car park from this is the Kiwi Encounter – it was fantastic. There have now been so many non-native animals introduced to NZ (such as possum, weasel, stoat, rabbit, rats, feral cats) that they threaten the habitat of the native Kiwi in a number of ways. The Kiwi is a flightless, nocturnal bird that weighs an egg about one fifth of its body weight. The egg is incubated by the male. The species is under threat of extinction so the government license certain establishments to monitor wild birds and take away the newly laid eggs, which are then incubated, hatched and the young birds nurtured before being released at a few moths old. This gives the young birds a 75% chance of reaching maturity rather than a 5% chance if they were left with the parents (the young chick is the most vulnerable from being eaten by predators).
We were first shown into the hatchery where we saw a number of eggs that were due to be hatched and 3 newly hatched kiwis! One of them was actually awake and moving about – it was gorgeous! Sorry we weren't allowed to take any photos. Then we went into a special unit where they artificially swap the day and night so were were able to see 3 real kiwis. They were fantastic – much bigger then I expected.
We then had a couple of hours free to wander around Rotorua – it was extremely hot and sunny. We chose to go to a park at the side of the road at one end of the town, it had a number of fenced off areas and each of these contained some kind of thermal activity – really fascinating to have a peer over each fence and see what there was whether it was bubbling mud or steam rising from water or what looked like smouldering rocks.
We then went to Te Puia, which was only a short distance from our hotel but in the opposite direction where our Maori guide told us about local Maori history and customs in the area as well as taking us on a train to introduce us to the geysers in the Whakarewarewa thermal reserve (the name is pronounced as it looks except 'Wh' is pronounced like an 'F'). The geysers and the rainbow colours in the sun were amazing.
We stayed on here for the evening 'Te Po' we were first invited into the Manrae through the traditional Haka chant. The Maori men and women were in traditional dress. We were then entertained by then singing songs, playing instruments and swinging the poy (these are 2 light balls on the ends of strings about 2 to 3 feet in length which the women swing in various ways). Men from the audience were invited to join in the Haka and the ladies were invited to swing the Poy. I went up and had a go at the Poy. There is a video of the mens' attempt at the Haka – there were some of our fellow tour members there – but not Pete!
After this we had the Maori kai which is a feast of food prepared by digging a whole in the ground and adding in hot rocks and water then the food and essentially it is all slow cooked with steam – it was delicious. We didn't arrive back at our hotel until about – 9.30 – it was a really long day out, but our entertainment didn't finish after the meal. We were getting a lift back to the hotel in a mini bus and the driver did his best to give us a jet boating experience on our short drive back to the hotel. He started off by playing some James Bond music which was then changed into the roar of a motor bike, he took us round a round about twice and he slipped the clutch to make the bus feel as though it was twitching. We were all laughing so much when we got out of the van all the people at the reception must have thought we were drunk!