AN UNEXPECTED EVENING
The magic was not over yet. Following my visit to Hobbiton and my “complimentary” beer, I was feeling great. As Hayden drove, I joyfully sang along to the car stereo the whole way to Rotorua. Hayden was confused, since normally I like the car music volume on level 2 maximum.
We always knew that Rotorua would smell like sulfur, being on a geothermal hotspot and all, but I was surprised by all the geothermal vents that you could find all over the city. We checked into our Airbnb, which was a little back house behind the host’s regular house. It was fully equipped with kitchen and bathroom, and though it wasn’t the nicest place, it was ridiculously cheap, marketed as a warm and cosy thermal unit. The worst part about it was that the linens had a bit of hair on them. Hayden stared mournfully at the linens.
It had been a long day already and we were out of groceries for dinner, so we splurged and went out to eat. I used the Google to find a highly reviewed Latin American restaurant in town, and though we’d had some bad experiences with Mexican food in Australia, I was willing to give this 5 star restaurant a go. There was a bit of a wait for a table, so we went to play Pokemon Go in the streets of Rotorua. Instead of finding Pokemon, we found the Rotorua Night Market.
The night market is every Thursday night, and by complete coincidence, we just happened to arrive on a Thursday night and take a stroll through Rotorua. It was like a farmer’s market, but so much more. The market was such a surprisingly mutlicultural environment, with foods and vendors from many lands. We excitedly bought local produce, bread, and an adorable sweater (made with New Zealand wool in Nepal) for Hayden. In the background, there was not just one band, but two! Rotorua was making Palo Alto look terrible.
Hayden woefully stared after all the night market street vendors as I dragged him back to Sabroso, the Latin American restaurant. Little did either of us know that we were in for a wonderful dinner. We got margaritas, the Tres Amigos (chips and dips), and I got the chicken chimichanga. I don’t remember what Hayden got, but he particularly liked the homemade hot sauce and ended up purchasing a whole bottle for himself. We were pleasantly shocked at the high quality of the food, and deemed it the best Latin American restaurant in all of Oceania. The owner of the place was a white New Zealander lady who pronounced all the Spanish words immaculately and really knew her Latin foods. We were too full for dessert and went home happy.
To top off our evening, we watched the first quarter of White House Down’s twin movie, Olympus Has Fallen, which is another way of saying the white house is down. We fell asleep in our warm and cosy thermal unit.
THE THAI MASSAGE
By once again using the Google, I had found The Studio, a massage place with good value for money. It was a Thai massage place, which now scared Hayden after his bad experiences, but it had 5 star reviews and really friendly staff when I’d booked over the phone. The Google did not fail us, and Hayden and I both left very happy with our massages.
After the massage, we went to the market and got food for the next couple days in Rotorua. We had more of the fake chicken tikka masala for lunch. Hayden put his Sabroso hot sauce all over it.
NOT JUST LIKE MOANA
That evening we’d booked the Tamaki Maori Village Evening Experience, our second tourist trap. It was dinner and a show of Maori culture, which I had been very excited about. The entirety of the giant tour group split off into “tribes” and boarded buses which would take us to the village.
On the way, I read through a pamphlet describing our evening which said that the women have to sit behind the men because it is Maori culture for the men to protect the women. My first instinct was anger, and then to wonder why this was an aspect of Maori culture that they had chosen to highlight for our tour.
The bus driver talked to us about various things the whole way, and said that today we would have to choose a chief for our tribe. I decided that, well if I can’t sit at the front, then I’ll be the chief. Just like Moana. But the driver went on to say that there are some rules about being chief, and one of them is that you have to be an adult male. “Sorry ladies. We know you’re the chief of the home,” he joked. I didn’t find that a bit funny, and felt a sinking feeling in my gut.
There was a rule that the tribe had to follow behind the chief anywhere we walked, and I felt a little strange that the adult male rule meant that we would all be forced to follow a man around. I guess it was the principle of the thing. I kept thinking over and over, why can’t “chief” be a woman?? Things change! This was just a tour! Think of Moana!!
The ceremony began with the visiting “chiefs” introducing themselves to the home tribe. Then we went to four different stations where we learned about various aspects of Maori culture. I wanted to enjoy it, I really did. But at the very first station, the Maori guide was like “see this canoe, this canoe is only for the men.” And things went kind of like that. There were clear rules about which gender could do what, and at the last station one of the Maori guys made another fucking “chief of the home” joke to the wife of our “chief.”
They even mentioned the movie Moana, since the people of the Polynesian Islands (Moana’s people) migrated to New Zealand and became the Maori. MOANA BECAME CHIEF.
I can only hope that this was just how it was for the tour. I get that they’re trying to keep their culture alive and, sure, the whole world has issues regarding gender. But I didn’t expect to be bombarded for three hours with rules about what women aren’t allowed to do.
Chief of the home, my ass.
I’ll try to keep moving this blog through the tour. We learned about how the Maori people traditionally made food by cooking it underground. Some of our food for the evening was prepared this way. Then we watched several Maori cultural performances, which I did enjoy. After that, dinner was in a big dining area and then they wrapped up the evening by inviting the men up to do something cultural. It was something like “anyone can come on up, anyone, gentlemen” and I was like “oh, guess that’s not me.”
I don’t need to go on.
At home, we finished Olympus Has Fallen. I liked White House Down a lot better, but apparently something about Olympus Has Fallen connected better with audiences so that’s why it got a sequel.
HAYDEN SLEEPS IN
We both slept in that morning. I tried to wake Hayden up but he wouldn’t budge. How were we going to have breakfast if Hayden wouldn’t wake up???
It was up to me.
RAB MAKES BREAKFAST
I made eggs and bacon for Hayden, who eventually woke up and sat on the couch playing Sim City. I made tortellini for me.
WATER RAB IS ALLOWED TO GO IN
I’d originally structured our time in Rotorua such that we’d have a day where we do water activities where it’s safe to go in (like hot pools) and then a day where we see geothermal wonders that are too dangerous to touch. So there was “water rab is allowed to go in” day, and “water rab is not allowed to go in” day. The latter ended up falling through for the most part because most all of the geothermal things are commercialized and thus cost way too much money, but we did do the former.
After our long morning in, we had a 3:30 PM Grade 5 river rafting adventure down the Kaituna River. It was a good activity for the rainy day, since we were going to get very very wet anyway. I cheerfully went into it pretty blind, and only discovered there that we would be going down a 7 meter waterfall. I was like, “oh. okay. 🙂 is that tall”
This waterfall is the highest commerically rafted waterfall in the world.
We had a very experienced, very disciplined Dutch guide, making the journey down the river feel very safe. Towards the beginning, we got the opportunity to float down the river for a bit. Our guide later told us that “Kaituna” means eels because eels live in the river.
Good thing he told us after we went in.
The 7 meter waterfall wasn’t so bad with our experienced guide. He told us that approximately 1 in 8 rafts flip going down that waterfall, but we were not one of those!
After we finished rafting, everyone jumped into the river from several meters up. That was fun. They had a photographer come and take photos of us from the land. The photos were for sale for a steep price and you had to buy all of them, but they were really awesome.
I had a stomach ache for some reason so we went home and Hayden fed me pasta and bread.
MUD RAB IS ALLOWED TO GO IN
That evening, we had booked the Hellsgate Mud Bath and Sulfur Spa Twilight Package, which entailed going into some geothermal mud and then going into a sulfur bath. It’s supposed to be good for your skin. It was still raining when we went, which was an interesting experience. It was relaxing while in the mud/water, but then a big rush when moving from place to place. I enjoyed the mud, and I get overheated in the warm water so the rain actually helped me cool off.
Definitely a tourist trap.
Back at home, we showered and Hayden complained that he couldn’t rub the sulfur smell out of his skin.
For some reason, packing up took a lot longer than usual, and we were in a mad rush to check out of the Airbnb in time. Hayden made the rest of the eggs and put them in a tupperware to eat elsewhere. We only checked out 15 minutes late, which the host didn’t seem to mind at all.
We ate our eggs at the nearby Kuiri? Park, which was one of the only free geothermal activities in the Rotorua area. As such, it smelled like sulfur, so the smell of rotten eggs wafted around our perfectly good eggs. I asserted that it was a fun experience, while Hayden mumbled that it was weird.
After the park, we went to Warehouse Stationery to print our Great Walk tickets and then the market to get food for Whanganui Journey. We packed our bags at the Government Gardens and then wandered around there in the rain playing Pokemon Go. We found TONS of Charmanders. I noticed that Hayden was beating me again, and I got really upset because he always does this despite my best efforts to beat him.
Hayden, on his Pokemon Go strategy: I just have fun 🙂
Once we were satisfied with the number of Charmanders we had caught, we hit the road on a 2 hour drive to Taumarunui Canoe Hire, where we would be freedom camping for the night before starting our 5 day canoe journey down the Whanganui River.