Apart from geothermal activities, Rotorua is also the perfect place to learn about the indigenous Maori culture, as it is a notable region in New Zealand where the Maori community is large. There are many Maori Villages in the region which invite visitors to visit, some of them authentic, others more touristy. While I am usually advocate of authenticity and off the beaten track type of travel, we chose to visit a more touristy one as we were short of time, and more importantly, we wanted to see a real kiwi bird. So we chose to visit Te Puia, the biggest Maori Culture experience attraction in Rotorua. Te Puia and it's next door neighbour Whakarewarewa used to be a single Maori Village for generations. I remember visiting the village as a kid. However, in the last decade, a combination of land dispute and government funding issues resulting in the area splitting into two. The original Whakarewarewa Village where Maori Villagers still peacefully live there, welcoming visitors who prefers a more authentic experience, and Te Puia next door which becomes a cultural complex showcasing different aspects of the Maori Traditional Culture, as well as the home of The New Zealand Maori Arts and Craft Institute.
除了地热，罗托努阿的毛里文化也非常有名，因为新西兰北岛中部是毛里人囗比较集中的地区。在罗托努阿周边的毛里传统村落，有很多都会欢迎游客参观。有些是非常传统原味朴实无华的毛里村落，有些是专门让游客以最短时间感受毛里文化最精彩的部分的景点。虽然我通常对这种过于商业化的景点比较反感，可是因为在罗托努阿的时间不多，而且想让M和他外婆看一下真正的奇异鸟，我还是决定去罗托努阿最大最有名的毛里文化景点，Te Puia。Te Puia 和隔壁的Whakarewarewa本来是同一个村庄，是个历史悠久的传统毛里村落。我清楚记得小时候来过这里玩。然而，在近十年来这村庄因为土地纠纷和政府资助问题最后一分为二，Whakarewarewa仍然是一个住着普通毛里人的传统毛里村落，依然欢迎游客来参观他们的日常生活。而旁边的Te Puia变成了一个专门为游客展示毛里文化的文化中心，也是毛里传统艺术学院的所在地。
There are a number of cultural experiences that visitors can enjoy at Te Puia. We chose the Te Ra + Te Po experience, which essentially combines a day time tour and a night time cultural experience into one. The Te Ra + Te Po tour starts at 4:30pm. So we were there just past 4pm, to make sure we don't miss anything. Along the perimeter walls of the Te Puia complex, there are a range of Maori Sculpture which is of traditional design but injected with modern elements. At the foyer of the complex there is a structure which tall wooden poles forms a circle around a fountain at the centre of the foyer. On each pole there is a carving of a Maori god both on the top and on the side of the pole. In the Maori culture, there are many gods, and the who structure signifies the Maori’s legend that mankind are descendents of god's from heaven.
Te Puia 有好几种文化体验供游客选择。我们选择了日与夜体验，基本上就是白天游览团和晩间文化体验二合为一。日间体验从下午4:30pm开始，所以我们在下午四点就早早来到Te Puia, 以免错过了开始时间。在Te Puia文化中心的围墙外，可以看见很多不同的毛里雕刻。这些都是以传统的雕刻法，注入了现代艺术的元素以突显毛里文化与现代社会的融合。在文化中心入口的露天大堂，有一座以高木柱为基础的大型艺术结构，形成了一个圆围绕着大堂中心的小型水池。每根木柱顶部和侧面都雕刻着一个毛里人的神。毛里传说里有很多不同的神，而这个结构代表着在毛里传说中，人是从天而降的神明的后裔。
Our tour guide was an old man who have been living in the village since he was a kid. The first thing that he showed us was a sign with the full name of the Village: Te Whakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahio, which literally means the war dance of the war parties of Wahiao. It sounds cumbersome, but in fact, all Maori Place names are almost always named after an event associated with a famous historical figure, and the common name is usually it's shorten form.
The next stop was the Pohutu Geyser. The Geyser erupted every 3 - 4 hours, and it just so happens that the geyser was erupting at that time, and the guide wanted us to catch the last bit of it before it stops. And luckily, we did. Despite the wet weather which meant that the geyser was covered with thick steam, we could still make out the hot water jets that is spurting out from the geyser. Looks really beautiful with the coloured afternoon clouds as a backdrop. After Geyser, we guide us took us past a boiling mud pool, which to be honest, wasn't as spectacular as the one at Waiotapu. But apparently the mud here is full of minerals and is used by many ladies as face mask and hand cream to keep their skin looking young and smooth. The mud is also used to treat arthritis with supposedly very positive results.
But we were more interested in the Kiwi House. The Kiwi House is an enclosure that is home to three Kiwi Birds. These birds are the national bird of New Zealand. They are usually brown, the size of a chicken, and can’t fly. It is like a giant kiwifruit with a yellow beak. The are nocturnal, and very sensitive to light, so no photos were allowed within the enclosure. But we did see them roaming about behind glass panels, looking fluffy and cute, searching for food. Unfortunately, due to their long and difficult breeding cycle (their egg is ¾ the size of their body), and the introduction of predators such as cats and ferrets by human, the population of kiwi birds decreased a lot, and it is very hard nowadays to see a kiwi bird in the wild.
The last stop of the Day part of the tour is the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. This place is a working institute where students are taught traditional Maori arts and crafts skills, as a way to past ancient knowledge to the generations to come. It is important as globalisation and industrialisation meant that these ancient arts has lost its original purpose, and newer generations are more attracted to modern technologies than traditional arts. In order to attract young Maori people back to their roots, the Institute offer scholarships for those who are deemed suitable. But they only select the best – only 1 student every 3 years! There are a few “departments” in the Institute, one department corresponds to one form of traditional crafts: Bone Carving, Bronze Carving, Wood Carving, and traditional textile. And as we walked down the corridor, we could see different displays of artwork that was created here. Some of the craftwork is more complex than it seems. For example, bronze craving involves multiple steps of craving the mask, making the mould, and finally use the mould for the actual bronze statue. Or like the traditional textile, where cloaks are made by sewing feather by feather using fibre made from flax plant, and premium handcrafted cloak can worth tens of thousands of dollars. Also on display were man-size wooden statues, and bags made from Kiwi feathers. It was interesting to take a peek of how traditional arts try to survive in the modern world.
And that was the end of the day tour. We were lead back to the entrance where we wait for the tour to start at 6:30 pm. We waited around the souvenir shop, browsing pretty stuff while enjoying the central heating that was much more cozy than waiting outside in the cold. There are a lot of cool stuff like polished Paua shells and Opal jewelleries. There was even hand cream made with Thermal Mud. Outside, it was getting dark and the wooden statues outside the foyer was lighted up nicely. The night tour starts at the Café, but only as a shelter for visitors to sit down when they were given groups and table numbers for the upcoming dinner. The dinner is traditional Hangi, which is a Maori way of cooking where the food is wrapped up in cloth and then placed in a hole in the ground and then steamed using geothermal hot stones, and takes up to 6 hours to cook. For us, the Hangi is that is served is not entirely traditional, with modern tools such as stainless steel boxes which speeds up the cooking time down to about 1.5 hours. Sure, it may not be authentic, but it still look delicious even as it was cooking.
So while we wait for our dinner to cook, we were taken to see a Maori Culture show. The culture show happens in a Marae, a traditional meeting hall that exists in every Maori Village. Outside of the Marae, there was a traditional bronze box with Maori Carvings that is usually used for storing food and the tribe’s treasures. It looks quite pretty as it was lighted up in a purple colour as the night falls. Usually, visitors needs to be invited by the Village chief before entering the Marae of a village, and the welcoming ceremony will usually happen at the lawn outside of the Marae. But because it was pouring down, we were instructed to go in and take a seat. The welcoming ceremony is called a Haka, a traditional Maori War Dance which showcases the strength and fierceness of the tribe, involving a lot of muscle slapping, eyeball bulging, and tongues sticking out. The Haka is still used today in many international sporting events such as the Rugby or the Cricket by the New Zealand National Team. After the Haka, the Village Chief would either decide that the visitors are welcomed, or not welcomed. If welcomed, the chief of the visiting tribe (here randomly selected by our guide) will go through the “Hongi”, where the chiefs’ noses touches to greet and signify friendship. After this fascinated ceremony, we were treated with a range of Maori performance, ranging from traditional weapon display to Poi dancing to Romantic Maori songs. We even got to try our hands on playing with Pois and performing the Haka! It was a really fun experience!
Finally, it was dinner time. While the meat and vegetables were cooked in a traditional Hangi manner, it was served in a very modern buffet setting. The meat was served western style rather than Maori style: Pork with apple sauce, Chicken with stuffing, Lamb with mint sauce, and beef with gravy. There was also non Hangi cooked food, such as a salad bar, raw fish salad, steamed NZ mussels, even seafood chowder. But the best part was the Hangi cooked Kumara, a type of local sweet potato. These sweet potatoes are much smaller than the typical sweet potato, and have a texture that is closer to purple sweet potatoes - more starchy and less sweet. But the thing that made it stood out was the smoky aftertaste that came from the Hangi cooking. Absolutely delicious. There was also plenty of desserts for the sweet-toothed, such as mousse cake, soft serves, and the NZ dessert Pavlova. It was a really fulfilling dinner, leaving all of us full and satisfied.
After dinner, we took a people mover back down to the Pohuto Geyser, where it was colourfully lighted up. The wet weather created lots of steam around the thermal rocks that it was very hard to see, but it felt especially mystic. It was really nice and relaxing as we were each given a cup of hot chocolate, and we sat down on a row of rocks that was warmed by the geothermal heat, and watched thick mist dancing under coloured lights. If it wasn't the heavy rain and the fact that I felt slightly uncomfortable as I was too full from the buffet, I reckon I would stay here the whole night lying on the warm rocks gazing at stars and watching the geyser.
But that was the end of the tour. So we were taken back to the entrance and were shown the way out, as the main entrance was already closed. We bid goodbye to our host and walked out of the place satisfied. It had been a very enjoyable afternoon and evening. The Cultural show was fun, the geyser was spectacular and the food was delicious. While the ticket was a bit pricey, it was a pretty memorable experience. So if you are in Rotorua and want to learn a bit more about the Maori Culture and want to see the Kiwi Bird and some Geyser action, Te Puia is a good one stop shop that would let you experience all of these over limited time. Highly recommended!
Posted from my blog with SteemPress : http://stabilowl.vornix.blog/2018/08/30/travelling-with-stabilo-28-te-puia-maori-cultural-centre-%e7%bb%8f%e7%ba%ac%e6%b8%b8%e8%b8%aa-28-te-puia-%e6%af%9b%e9%87%8c%e6%96%87%e5%8c%96%e4%b8%ad%e5%bf%83-2/