Majella and I were up at 7:00 am. We had breakfast and relaxed until 8:30 am when Majella woke Harry for breakfast.
Around 9:00 am we were on the road to Rotorua. As we left Hamilton we were stuck for a while behind a wide load, a truck delivering a swimming pool. Eventually we came to a section of expressway with room and Majella passed it. The rest of our journey to Rotorua was uneventful.
We had been to the Maori village, Whakarewarewa, twice before and thought Harry would enjoy the thermal activity and the cultural history. Perhaps Harry wondered about our choice for a few minutes after we pulled up and he got out of the car to smell the sulphide infused air. In the end he got past the smell and, despite things including the ground being so hot, proclaimed it all ‘very cool’.
Majella had checked the website and found the cultural performance was on at 11:15 so we had left a little earlier expecting to catch it. when we asked at the desk, we found we had just missed a 10:00 am guided tour and the next one was on at noon. The cultural performance was not on until Saturday and there was a funeral happening at the time we were there. We opted for the package with an unguided walk around the geothermal trail immediately followed by the guided tour at noon. The man at the desk talked us through the trail, indicating key location on a map that he gave us. Before entering the village we had coffee (hot chocolate for Harry) and snacks.
The village is home to several families and is not just a tourist attraction. That meant that most, if not all, people in the village were relatives of the deceased and involved with the funeral. Any businesses that might normally be open were closed for the day.
Entry to the village was being controlled because of the funeral but once past the meeting house where the ceremony was starting we were able to follow the trail without issues. We skipped the first part past the bubbling mud which we had seen and Majella thought would be replicated at locations on the guided tour. That took us onto a wooden walkway that wound across the inshore part of a lake that was not quite boiling but was emitting dense clouds of steam.
From there we wound our way up a hill, around the green lake that was also steaming more gently, and further up the hill to a group of lookouts at the top. They offered views across the lake and the village where we could see clouds of steam rising.
We walked back down to the visitor centre and waited about 15 minutes for our guided tour. That led us through the village with explanations of how the hot rocks and boilng water were used to cook food. Water from that area flows down, cooling on the way, to an area where it is a suitable temperature for bathing. That is a group activity carried out after tourists have left for the day.
We paused for a view of the geysers erupting in the distance and returned to the cooking area to eat corn that had been cooking while we strolled around. Our guide then led us further up the hill to another viewing point, explaining some of the buildings and burial sites along the way. Traditional burial did not involve digging holes because that would likely uncover hot mud or boiling water. Instead the dead were laid on the ground and covered with concrete tombs. Even then we could see steam escaping from some of the tombs.
Once back at the visitor centre we drove into town to show Harry the museum which is an impressive building we had visited previously. It had been a sanatorium but has been a museum for decades and was now closed for strengthening and refurbishment. We had not intended to visit today and our drive by was not impeded.
On the way out of town we stopped for lunch at a cafe attached to a garden centre. Harry, Majella and I had sausage roll and hot chocolate, salmon quiche and cappuccino, and smoked chicken croissant and black coffee. On the way out we looked for a silver fern to show Harry but the only specimen they had was young and not showing the characteristic silver underside.
Majella drove on to Waikite Valley Hot Springs. We had camped there on our 2019 trip and she was keen to get back into the hot water. We spent about an hour in the various pools that range from just warmer than body temperature to about as hot as one can stand, especially near the point where water runs in from further up the system. The water that comes out of the ground a hundred metres or so upstream is boiling and has to be cooled to a temperature that is not likely to cook bathers. It initially took Harry some time to find a temperature that he felt comfortable with but once he had acclimatised he tried all or most of the pools, including the hottest.
Once we were well soaked, we dressed and walked up the short trail to see where the water bubbles (literally as it is boiling) out of the ground. The stream is hidden by steam most of the way up to that point but can be glimpsed when the breeze clears the steam for a moment.
Rather than drive back to Rotorua and along the same highway back to Hamilton we took another route suggested by our navigation app. That was a little further and was estimated to take about 30 minutes longer but seemed worth it to see some different countryside. At first we drove through rolling green hills, similar to what we had seen earlier in the day, with cattle and sheep grazing. Later we saw a line of sheer bluffs on a range of hills, drove through an extensive area of forestry with the usual scenes of hillsides devastated by harvesting of trees with likely consequent erosion and degradation of streams, and passed through an area with rolling green hills strewn with large boulders before reaching more green hills as we approached Hamilton.
Before going back to our accommodation we stopped at Countdown to buy some pasta, ingredients for a simple bolognaise sauce, and a tub of ice cream. When we got home, Majella took care of some minimal laundry – mostly togs and towels from today – and I made dinner. There was plenty for all (and some left over so Harry must not be starving) and we topped it off with fancy ice cream and fruit.
Majella and Harry finished their game of Anagrams – she had conned him into that while I was making dinner – and then relaxed. We will need to be on the road a little earlier tomorrow.