Te Puia geothermal park in Rotorua

Te Puia geothermal park in Rotorua

I continue to be amazed by the beauty and strangeness of the earth. In the last year I have found myself, sometimes by chance and sometimes not, in natural thermal pools in the middle of the jungle (Honduras), extinct volcanoes, I had to, I did sand boarding (Nicaragua), volcanoes full of water (Guatemala), I saw mine Etna erupt like I’ve never seen it in the past and now to Rotorua I saw for the first time the geysers which reminded me, sorry for the terrible comparison, of the broken water fountain in the streets of New York whose jet was so powerful that it was scary to get close to it.

Pohutu Geyser

The land in this town on New Zealand’s North Island seems to breathe. The stench of sulfur becomes a constant odor from morning to evening (I find it stronger in the morning), vapors and odors come out of the manholes.
For the first time, or rather the second after the small earthquake we had years ago in Sicily when Etna started erupting again, I feel that something under my feet is alive.

I arrived in Rotorua when it was already dark and the smoking manholes made the walk to the hostel a little scary, I felt like I was in a sort of crime-free Gotham City.
The smoke was coming out of the grates on the ground, making even dimmer the light lights of the street lamps that illuminate the streets where there were neither cars nor people (which is normal in New Zealand after a certain hour).
But those who come here do so precisely for these fumes, vapors and “perfumes”, Rotorua boasts many geothermal parks and muddy hot pools. They are everywhere, paid and free.
There are two main thermal parks, which obviously require a fee: Mr. Puia and Holy Way.

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Te Puia Geothermal Park and Institute of Maori Arts and Culture

Probably less impressive than Holy Way this geothermal park is the natural one, where the spitting geysers are not stimulated by any bar of soap thrown into the hole.
I reached the park by bicycle borrowed from the Oasis hostel. The hostel gave me a voucher for a small discount, I pay $40 instead of $46. The cost of the ticket includes a free tour with a guide that leaves every hour and a show held every day 3 times a day: at 10.15am, 12.15pm and 3.30pm.

Our guide, Paul, introduced the entrance to the park with a long and interesting explanation of the Maori culture and the history of this people of warriors who made the visit worth the money I paid.

The Volcano in Maori it means “geysers”, in fact in this park there are 65 of which 7 are active and of which the largest and most famous is the Futu.
This site was the active center of a well-stocked Maori community, considered a fortress and has in fact always been impenetrable, and has never been invaded during battles.
The Maori occupied this area in 1325, taking advantage of the valley’s geothermal activities for heating and cooking. We are therefore in the center of Maori life at its dawn, that is, from the arrival of Cup who 1000 years before T.Cook arrived in New Zealand sailing the waters of the Pacific from Hawaiiki, the mythical homeland of the Maori.

Maori wooden statue

Paul, half Maori and half Irish, explained to us the history of the Maori, from the beginning until the arrival of the Europeans, he practically showed us how clothes were made using the leaves of the flaxa leaf that has very robust filaments inside which, once processed, an activity that takes maybe 5 minutes, seems similar to cotton.
Afterwards he took us to the Carves school that is, a room in which about 6 people were meticulously digging up tree trunks and enormous pieces of wood.
This is a school, the course lasts three years, in which children aged 18 to 30 learn to inlay and work wood to produce original Maori craftsmanship using the same tools used by their ancestors.

After an introduction to the culture and history that lasted about an hour Paul took us to the geothermal park where the geyser Pohutu he was giving his best, splashing water about 10 meters. This geyser works about 1 time every hour and it is worth waiting for the jet to become powerful and for the steam to cover the blue sky enrapturing you in this hot and smelly fog.
Then following the path your attention is captured by a series of “blop blops”, they are the hot hot pools in which the hot mud boils forming concentric circles and continuing to make this crackling sound that sounds like soup in a pot.

hot pools

Inside the park there is also the kiwi house that is, a room where there are rare kiwis. These plump, long-beaked birds live in the dark so you need to have a watchful eye to find them, it won’t be difficult since the little light there is in the case will allow you to see what’s happening inside, but not what’s happening next to you. I was looking at the Kiwi and didn’t realize there was another person next to me.

An hour and a half had already passed between the introductory tour, the geyser and the walk through the park and at 3.15pm the Maori show began. A woman in traditional dress ushered us into the hall where singing, dancing and arts entertained us for 45 minutes. Me and about 50 Chinese who always seem to have something to tell each other since despite the invitation not to speak during the performance they continued to speak without paying too much attention to the tone of their voices.

Before starting, a sort of welcome celebration was held So. We chose the Chief (a Chinese gentleman with a family) who played the role of mediator between us and them. We started with the typical Maori greeting which consists of toccata on rice, and not rubbed like everyone thinks. At that point the dancing and singing began.
Obviously it is a show for tourists but as with the dances in Bali I really appreciated it as it allowed me to see and touch what I had been looking for for 3 weeks. An approach to New Zealand from a historical and cultural point of view.

Costs and how to get to Te Puia

TePuia is close to the center of Rotorua. If you have a bicycle it will be a ride of about 20 minutes. Easily reachable therefore without relying on any minibus or organized tour.
Entrance costs $46 with hostel discount, ask at your reception, $40 or 41 if you pay by card. The park is open only at 6pm in summer and until 5pm in winter.
The park’s website is www.tepuia.com

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