A Travellerspoint blog

ROTORUA - A DAY OF CULTURE

THE MAORI EXPERIENCE

sunny 17 °C
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Kia Ora friends!

Kia Ora, the traditional Kiwi way of saying hello is actually hello in the Maori language.

Today was our culture day where were took time to learn about the native Maori people.

The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand who were settlers from eastern Polynesia. They arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages some time between 1250 and 1300. In the 2013 census, there were approximately 600,000 people in New Zealand identifying as Māori, making up roughly 15% of the national population. There is a conscious effort to preserve that language and culture.

This morning we visited Te Puia, a cultural center on the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve. It was fantastic.

We started with a concert that gave a glimpse into Maori Culture. It was interesting and beautiful to watch. The performers had the most amazing voices and the music was excellent.

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After that we went for a guided tour of this amazing geothermal valley. Here is the actual name of the valley.

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Our tour guide was great and could have been Tony Gabriel’s New Zealand twin, with the same sense of humor and body language.

Our tour took us to see the Pohutu Geyser. The largest in the southern hemisphere. When we arrived it was settling but we went back to see it start up again. It can shoot water to 30 meters. It got so loud and wild. We even got wet.

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The hot waters are used for cooking, either submerged for boiling, or cooked in a covered wooden box like this.

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Here are some tombs from the village. They sit above the ground so the bodies don’t cook. Even touching the paths or sitting on the edges you can feel real intense heat.

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We visited the mud pools, also bubbling with heat. This one is called the frog pond because it looks like frogs hopping. I only caught one bubble bursting in my photos.

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Then we went to see a Kiwi bird. Yay. Because they are nocturnal, she is kept in a dark room so visitors can see her and the lights come on in the evening. It wasn’t a great look but I saw her running around and digging.

Then we visited the weaving and carving schools. The carvings are beautiful.

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From there we went to a café overlooking a lake and the Maori village of Ohinemutu. After lunch we walked around. This place was crazy. Literally boiling water everywhere. People’s backyards were filled with boiling water. People must get burned. We wander around exploring. It reminded me a little of Newfoundland on a sunny day.

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We were so grateful for the sun. It is Fall here and the weather hasn’t been great. But our weekend weather was perfect for our two perfect activities.

I left Crystal in Rotorua, and took a bus back to Auckland. I am departing on a very early morning flight.

Always grateful for the opportunities and experiences. Especially when it is my job that helps me make them happen.

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Posted by curlygirl 02:59 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new zealand te maori puia Comments (2)

ROTORUA - A DAY OF RELAXATION

THE CITY AND THE POLONESIAN SPA

rain 16 °C
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After an incredibly busy week working in Auckland, I was happy to have a couple days to relax before heading home. My colleague and good friend, Crystal, had extended her stay by a week so we decided to spend the weekend together. She trusted me to plan things with only one request, that we would relax.

My plan took us 3.5 hours south of Auckland to the town of Rotorua. Rotorua is a tourist hub and is pretty unique. The main street goes on forever and is nothing but small hotels and motels. Although my reading assured a motel here was a step above the American version, I couldn’t bring myself to spend $200 a night on one. Instead we opted to stay off the strip at a Holiday Inn for much cheaper and with a shuttle for the 7-minute ride into town. The most unique thing about Rotorua is the wild geothermal activity in the area and the accompanying smell of sulphur. The town STINKS of rotten eggs.

Rotorua is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, a geothermal field on the Bay of Plenty Coast. Rotorua's has an array of geothermal features - volcanic crater lakes, spouting geysers, bubbling mud pools and hissing fumaroles. Apparently, there are few places in the world where geothermal phenomena of such intensity are as extensive and easily seen. It makes the smell worth it as it was very cool. I will say, you do kinda get used to it.

Although the smell maybe a downside, the beautiful hot pools are a definite plus. On Saturday, I booked us in to the beautiful Polynesian Spa for a massage. With that booking comes unlimited access to the 5 Lake Pools. The spa is huge and beside what we saw, there’s an area just as big for families, another for adults only and pools that can be privately booked. We arrived about 90 minutes before our appointment and enjoyed to the fullest. 4 spas come from one source and are cooled (yup, cooled) to 4 different temperatures ranging from 38-42 degrees. All are set amongst gorgeous foliage and most have a view of steamy Lake Rotorua.

Even though it poured rain on and off all day, it didn't matter a bit.

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There is also a cold plunge pool. I used the cold-water shower instead.

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Lastly there is a pool that is more acidic and alkaline come from a different source that is support to be good for arthritis. I loved that one but it smelled the worst.

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After that we went to the most serene area for our anti-stress massage. I would have preferred a good hard massage but that wasn’t an option. Still it was lovely.

After that, you spend time in the relaxation room with tea and a wonderful view of the lake.

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From there, we went right to dinner where we continued to relax with a bottle of New Zealand red wine.

It was a pretty perfect day.

Posted by curlygirl 02:15 Archived in New Zealand Tagged rotorua spa geothermal polynesian Comments (0)

WAIHEKE ISLAND

TASTING LOCAL WINES

sunny 15 °C
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Today was simply gorgeous with blue sunny skies. Although much better than yesterday, the temperatures are certainly cooler than I expected and I probably under packed, but I was still plenty warm. I was probably the only warm person on the tour.

Today I opted to visit one of the nearby islands, Waiheke Island, a quick 30 minute ferry ride away. The tour I selected visited 3 vineyards and an olive grove. It did not disappoint. In all 3 vineyards, our guides had such enthusiasm and knowledge about grapes, planting and producing excellent wine. All three provided incredible views and I can see why the demand for land and housing has exploded in recent year. It is even more expensive than Auckland where the average housing cost is 1 million dollars but the average salary is $50,000.

Here are a few snaps from the places we visited. Although Waiheke is known for its red blends, we had the popular Sauvignon Blancs at each stop.

Stoneyridge Vineyard. My least favourite but we did enjoy a nice lunch. Some people obviously have more money than me as they arrive at each vineyard by helicopter.

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Am I the only one that didn't know that cork was a tree? Maybe I knew that. Hmmm

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Did you know that olive oils could win world class gold medals?

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At the same award wining grove, local bring their olives to be processed into oil.

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My favourite stop of the day was at Casita Miro. Owned by a local physician, this small vineyard is family run and could pass for a piece of Barcelona's Guell Park. The owner has hand mosaiced the property and he is still going strong. His wife operates a restaurant that specializes in tapas. It looked amazing. Our food paring were all made by her. The wine, food and view were spectacular.

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Our last stop was the beautiful Mudbrick Vineyard. Our guide here walked us to the top of the vineyard for spectacular views. You always follow the lady with the wine. She was clearly frozen. She would not survive Canada. It is heading into winter here so the temperatures are reaching their daytime lows of 10 and people appear to be suffering.

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it was a great way to spend the day.

We did have a couple girls who did the tour in 4 inch stilettos....imagine thinking that was a good choice and you walked through fields. I never get this.

I came back and met with my colleague to clue up our meeting planning. Sadly, the reality is here and I will be working for the rest of the week so I am signing off until next weekend.

Posted by curlygirl 01:51 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new wine zealand vineyards waiheke Comments (2)

AUCKLAND

JUST LIKE BEING IN NEWFOUNDLAND ONLY NOTHING LIKE IT

rain 11 °C
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Welcome to Auckland. I arrived yesterday dinnertime after a long journey that included a 4 hour layover in Vancouver and a 5 hour layover in Brisbane, Australia. The travel really wasn't horrible and I manage to sleep a full 8 hours on my 14.5 hour flight. I am reasonably rested, somewhat on the new time zone, and have just finished a first day of exploration.

I will only have a few days free since I have meetings here from Monday - Friday, and given that it is Fall, it is dark by 5pm. I am glad that I came a couple days early to adjust to the time change. it is a whole lot harder to deal with jet lag when sitting in a meeting then when you are out and about in a new place.

I am delighted to be here because as I always enjoy seeing new things but truthfully, my excitement was a little muted by my expectations that New Zealand would be somewhat similar to Newfoundland. Beautiful scenery but lacking the culture shock that I love. I am determined to see what I can.

When I woke this morning ( for the 10th time between 2am and 8 am) the skies were overcast and by 9 o'clock it was already raining on and off. I decided it wouldn't be a good day to poke around so I spoke to the concierge and he recommended a tour to Waitakere Regional Park.

My tour went to the west coast for views of the black sand beaches and a hike in the rainforest. Despite the rain and the cool temperatures, we managed to see most without getting drenched. The rain was quite heavy at times but in any hour, we experienced, rain, wind and sun. Just like home.

Our first stop was at a beautiful waterfall in Karekare.

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I guess with a view like that, you would just make your home fit.

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As we headed towards the Tasman Sea, the wind began to pick up and we could see the swells on Piha Beach from the look out. Although a popular surfing spot, the waves were way too high today.

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We made our way down to the black sand beach. The black sand is black iron and originates from dust from a volcano loaded 250km away. The wind was howling and only a few of us ventured out of the beach. Honestly, it wasn't that cold but it was incredibly windy and the seas were wild.

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I tied to capture some of the movement of the sand blowing across the beach because it was crazy and beautiful all at once. Perhaps a video would have been a good choice. This is the beach from the movie "The Piano".

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From the beach we went to the rainforest where it was much calmer. The rain and wind held off here. This was a 45 minute walk, looking at local flora and a few birds. I am told that if I want to see the Kiwi bird, I have to go to the zoo. The giant trees are called Kauri and they live for up to 2000 years.

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It was great to be out in the fresh air today. In many ways the day, the weather and the landscape reminded me of Newfoundland, only a whole lot lusher, greener and with a wind off the ocean that is a whole lot warmer ( with that strength, you would freeze on the rock).

In any case, the day ended with a silver lining...or rather a rainbow. It actually was two full double rainbows, but they appeared after we were driving.

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We were told that the Lord of the Rings has really increased tourism in New Zealand, constantly increasing at a rate of 15% a year. Tours of the movie set are very popular but not that interesting for non-fans. Since I don't know what a Hobbit is, I have decided to pass and instead, have a winery tour booked for tomorrow.

Hoping for sun tomorrow because I packed for the forecasted 16 degrees and didn't count on rain and wind...but either way, I am looking forward to another good day tomorrow.

Posted by curlygirl 00:59 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland Comments (1)

MEMORIES OF MOROCCO

REMEMBERING ALL THE THINGS I LOVED AND LEARNED ABOUT MOROCCO

semi-overcast 26 °C
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As always, as I make my way home from a spectacular trip, these are the things I want to remember.

1. The people are warm, friendly and inviting. A smile with a “salam”, “ bonjour” or “hello” is almost always returned.
2. The tea. The first welcome in a hotel, a home or a shop. It comes in many forms but the most traditional is the mint tea, poured beautifully, with care and almost always too much sugar. The base is Chinese Green Tea, shotgun, meaning hand rolled so it opens in boiling water ensuring it can’t be dried and reused.
3. The incredible climate, sunshine, heat without humidity (except in Essaouira where it is humid).
4. The food, always made with fresh ingredients and served piping hot with subtle spices. Besides good eating, the added bonus is no bad bellies.
5. Fresh squeezed orange juice every morning. I could pass on the rest of the bread laden breakfast. So many forms of bread would arrive on my plate each morning.
6. The beautiful faces of the Moroccan people with the wonderful bone structure and big brown eyes.
7. The beautiful faces of the beautiful men.
8. The wonderful people who allowed us to come into their homes and photograph them. And Darren, for making that happen. Especially for the hospitality they showed us.
9. The people of El Khorbat, for their music and the hospitality. Especially the women who made me feel like I was part of their community.
10. The hustle and bustle of life inside the medinas. Even in Marrakech where it was especially crazy.
11. The amazing accommodations that were charming, traditional and unique.
12. The beautiful colours everywhere and well represented in the Berber carpets.
13. The pussy cats who inspired me in Essaouira.
14. Inshallah. The word that follows everything. “You will come back to my shop, inshallah”, “I will return to Morocco, inshallah”. God willing.
15. The lulling sound of the call to prayer over the loud speakers of the mosque. Except at 4:30 am when the Iman decides to keep it going too long.
16. Riding camels into the desert.
17. Languages. So many people speak so many languages. Many people spoke Arabic (or their local dialect), French and English. Many, in the tourist industry, spoke 5+, adding the formal Arabic they learn in school, Spanish and German. Impressive.
18. Morocco is a major destination for families. Lots of Germans and French.

Until next time, Inshallah

Posted by curlygirl 14:41 Archived in Morocco Tagged the in sun el morocco images kasa korbut Comments (2)

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