The lovely Christina Walker is back with the third installment of her travels through the antipodes.

If you want to start from the top, here’s her first post.

DAY 6:  Missed my bus to take me to Rotorua.  The lesson: if you’re close to missing your bus plunk down the cash and take a cab rather than wait for the bus, hoping that it gets you there on time.

I wound up having to pay for an additional bus ticket.

This actually turned out to be a good thing because my bus driver was the NICEST man and told me about all the things I needed to do while in Rotorua, and turned the bus trip into a mini tour.  He also let me know which cultural experience was superior to the others, and gave me a brief history lesson about the Pink and White Terraces (aka Buried Village).  Never heard of them?  Neither had I, and they’re considered one of the lost WONDERS OF THE WORLD.

So once I had arrived at my hostel, the worst hostel of my entire trip, I asked about the cultural experience along with taking a trip out to the Buried Village.  The front desk guy was actually able to get me with a group for that night, so I hurried off to learn as much as I could.  (Rotorua is like the cultural mecca of New Zealand and their cultural experiences are supposed to be the most authentic.)

Upon arrival we were placed at long tables, and our guide, John, welcomed us.  We learned that we were to be a tribe of 13 nations (yes, there were people visiting from 13 different countries in our group of about 40 or so people.  And the pretty cool bit was that John, our guide, could welcome each group in their own native language.)  Our leader wound up being a guy named Steve, and I think he was either from the UK or Australia.  So John led us down the chilly dark path, and we saw a war party approach from the opposite direction in their waka (war canoe).  Even in the winter weather these guys were dressed in the traditional shirtless attire, and it was freezing.  They danced, and told us about their traditions, customs, and ways of life.  It was very educational and acted out in an authentic manner.  They chatted the Haka chant that is preformed each time the All Blacks rugby team plays.  For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about check out the link below-it’s pretty impressive:

Finally, we got to go back to our tables and have the full meal.  By this time I was starving since I’d been on a bus for most of the day, and had only been able to grab a snack at our one stop.  The food was decent, and the coffee warming.  After dinner we were offered blankets and flashlights to follow John back behind their village, and were shown where and how the meal was prepared.  Further back we were shown the glowworms caves that light up.  It reminded me a bit of AVATAR, and if Cameron had been to NZ I can see where he might’ve gotten some inspiration.

Eventually, we returned back to the main area and were escorted back to our respective buses.  I believe this is the tribe I saw:

Upon arriving back at my freezing hostel, I immediately turned on the heat, only to find that it didn’t work.  (I learned the next morning that they turn off the heat after 10PM-inded-WORST HOSTEL EVER.  For those of you possibly going to Rotorua-if it has the word Spa in the title-DON’T GO THERE.)

I also was told by my ever helpful from desk guy that there wasn’t a way to get to the Buried Village that day, and I informed him that instead of staying the week I would only be staying an additional day.  He gave me a map and showed me the places I could walk to, and the weather was nice enough that I followed the path he’d drawn for me.  (However, while at breakfast I called up the Buried Village people myself and was able to get a driver to pick me up to take me the next day.  So lesson learned, never take no for an answer when you might miss something you really want to see.  This being the anniversary of the eruption I knew that I wanted to go there if I could.)

Along my walk I smelled several of the native flora and fauna along with the pungent sulfur smell that comes from living in a place that has natural heated pools all over.  During my walk I also found my way to their main locals village/part of town.  I say village because of how small it was.  I found a shop where the owner’s husband had carved everything in the store and was an elder and teaching others his trade.  (This was also the best place to buy remarkable pieces at a decent price.)

Later in the day I walked by a lifesized waka caged so that it wouldn’t be damaged, and I also walked through an English garden…which seemed so out of place but very beautiful in its own way.  I slowly made my way back to the hostel and had a nice chat and dinner with some of the other travelers.  Warning newbees about the loss of heat at nice, and armed with a small portable heater I eventually made it to bed-a little warmer than the night before.