Te Puia Māori Experience – Rotorua, New Zealand
After white water rafting, we stopped at the Airbnb to freshen up after ingesting the river before our Te Puia Māori Experience just minutes away.
Arriving at 4:30pm for our tour of the facility, we were immersed in the artisan craft of Māori carvings. The tour started with a talk on the history of the Māori people and then a walk through of the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute where they accept students to apprentice in the art forms of craving wood and jade, as well as basket weaving. This school is regarded in high esteem for the country and often does work on behalf of New Zealand.
There is a Kiwi house that has two domestically raised Kiwi’s and we were giving the opportunity to see them. The room is very dark with only a few red lights to see insight the enclosure. Since they are nocturnal, we were not hopefully on spotting one but at the last minute one peaked out from its wooden home. It was much larger than we expected but at least we got to see a Kiwi on this trip.
The final stop on this tour was the geyser on the property that was fortunately going off. Our guide, Paul, had been checking in on it periodically and was going to reallocate time if the geyser was going off earlier. It worked out well that it occurred at the end of our tour.
There are two geysers next to each other and they were going off simultaneously. The water coming out of the geyser is extremely hot but as it comes in contact with the air it cools so the mist does not burn anyone. There are several areas where hot spring surrounded and whiffs of sulfur passed by.
One our way back to the front, we passed several natural mud pools. It is such an interesting ecosystem around this thermal areas that changes the landscape dramatically.
With the tour we also got tickets for the Māori experience ceremony and traditional dinner. We were instructed to wait in the lobby area and grab a drink if we were so inclined. Kevin grabbed us both a glass of wine and just as we settled back into the waiting area, we were being taken to the ceremony where the drinks were not permitted. Puzzled and annoyed, why would they encourage us to get drinks but then deny us the ability the drink them? I was not downing this and I was not wasting it so I quickly asked if we were able to place our drinks in the dining area to enjoy with dinner. The request was approved and we were happy to enjoy our wine with dinner. Several people followed suit so glad we were not the only ones that fell into this conundrum.
We learned that dinner would be the last event of the evening around 8PM so I was even more thrilled we got the snack at Sequoia Eatery. Divided into large groups, we were taken around to see the traditional cooking methods. Since the ground is constantly hot and releasing heat, the traditional Hāngi style was to place everything underground, watching it carefully to be cooked to perfection.
It was then time for the traditional Māori culture demonstration. After nudging through a bit of the crowd, we were able to get good seats for viewing the full performance. The Māori performed several songs, dances, and even a Haka which was very intense and emotional war dance. It was a great way to get insight into the preservation of history that these people have and still maintain today. They are very active and respected in society, very well treated for an indigenous people which is not something most countries can attest to.
Finally dinner time! We were given assigned tables and there was a long buffet filled with food. Navigated the large crowd to get a seat for the show was hairy- I was not looking forward to a group of tourist getting food. It was mostly manageable and well organized with only a few people could not contain themselves in acting civilized.
We were seated with several older couples of whom we enjoyed getting to know. Our wine glasses were there where we left them as we sipped waiting for our turn at the buffet line. The food was very good ranging from cold items like seafood and different salads to hot items like the chicken and vegetables we saw cooking underground as well as other meats and pasta dishes. We made the wise decision of grabbing dessert while we were in line for dinner so we did not feel rushed- a huge bowl of chocolate mouse with other items like creme brûlée and pastries. We were both very satisfied with our meal!
At the end of the meal, we had the option of going back down to see the geyser- not guaranteeing it would be active but if it was, they would have it lite up for the night. Since we drove, we had no time constraint and walked back down to the geyser viewing platform.
We were lucky enough to witness it erupting twice as it was gushing once again. The lighting in the area was very nice and gave the entire experience a different ambiance. We stayed for awhile, watching the geysers, smelling the sulfur, and gazing up at the stars.
It was a great experience to be immersed in this culture. I would definitely do the tour and the dinner together as I felt the tour brought more detail and significance to the ceremonies at the dinner. I would have felt almost intrusive to have only done the dinner but many people chose to. This came as a highly recommended stop on our trip and I am glad we had the opportunity to slow down and appreciate the culture that is still a significant part of New Zealand.