Here we go with part 2! If this ends up being too long, I may have to have a part 3… we’ll see.
So the next morning, which was Sunday morning, I’d booked myself pretty heavily for the day. I was picked up at the iSite at 9am, and we wandered through the streets, picking up more people, until finally we were on our way to the first destination: the Lady Knox Geyser. The geyser “erupts” at 10:17am every morning, so we were in quite a rush. The driving conditions were actually quite bad on the way there– it was a really cold, foggy morning– so we had to drive a little slower than usual. But we made it in time, and went to go stand in the spectator area around the geyser.
Now, I say it “erupts,” because it doesn’t naturally erupt at that time. A volunteer guide explains a bit about the geyser’s history, and then pours a lathering agent into the mouth of it (apparently this is how it was discovered– prisoners in the area trying to use it to clean their clothes with soap). The geyser slowly starts foaming, and then it blows steaming water quite high for about 15 seconds. Here’s a picture:
After the geyser was done, our tour proceeded into the Wai-O-Tapu thermal park, which was next door. Some people were also seeing the Waiomangu park the same day, but I’d only signed up for Wai-O-Tapu, so I had a full morning there. I grabbed my camera and bundled up. By the end of the morning, my camera hand was pretty frozen! It was a grey, bleak morning– but because of the geothermal properties of the area, a lot of the ground and foliage was brightly coloured, so it added some life into the pictures. I’m still posting up the pictures on 500px, but here’s an example of one of the geothermal pools (and surrounding area) which was in Wai-O-Tapu:
All in all, I did the long pathway, and it took me around 3 hours with all of the camera stops. Definitely worth it! I stopped for lunch at the little in-house cafe (attached to the gift shop, of course), and then caught the shuttle back to the iSite. I had about 3 hours to kill, so I wandered the town, and stopped in at some little shops and boutiques. Not too much was open, because it was Sunday, but there were some nice shops. There was also a cool pub in a building which apparently used to be the police station, aptly named the Pig & Whistle, so I had a snack and regrouped there. Pretty shortly, I was headed back to the iSite for the next adventure…
…Which was a Maori-village-hosted hangi (earth-cooked) dinner and entertainment at the Mitai village, followed by the opportunity to see some real Kiwi birds! So I had heard a lot about these hangi dinners, both good and bad (one guy said he got food poisoning from one of them), but I figured I had to do it at least once. Just to say that I’d done it. It turned out to be a really awesome affair– the host was funny, the fact that the meal had been entirely cooked in the earth was pretty amazing, and the entertainment was great. We saw some Maori ritual dancing and re-enactments, and of course, the famous (infamous) haka. Which in reality is a war dance of any kind, but it’s been made famous by the rugby team here, the All Blacks. The chief was also funny, and gave some great insights into modern Maori culture. Afterwards, we enjoyed the meal, which was actually pretty massive. There was more than enough to go around, and plenty of vegetarian options. They even had dessert (not earth-cooked, but still good).
After the meal, a group of us (who had paid a little extra) split off to go to the neighboring Rainbow Springs to tour their animal exhibits and potentially see some kiwis. We did! And I can say with certainty that kiwis are definitely one of the weirdest birds I’ve ever seen… They run super fast, are nocturnal, seem kind of weirdly off-balance, and make snuffling noises when they’re foraging for food. They also have high-pitched mating calls. I didn’t get to take a picture, unfortunately, since photography was banned, but that’s definitely one of the cooler memories I’ve made here so far.
The other exhibits were pretty interesting as well– we saw trout, tuatara (members of the reptile family), and also a female parrot who was raised by humans, so unfortunately she has a tendency to kill her potential parrot mates and makes obsessive mental bonds with human males… she followed our (male) guide around like a pet dog, it was kind of cute (and also kind of sad). Nowadays, young animals or birds being raised by humans are actually fed and interacted with via puppets which look like their species, so they don’t form those kinds of attachments to humans.
And after all of that, I got back to my motel tired and full of food, but pretty happy. I toyed with the idea of sitting in the hot pools again, but the memory of the previous night’s weather change was too fresh and I decided not to :P.
…I’ve decided there will be a Part 3, because I have to do some other things tonight as well and can’t spend too much more time writing. In terms of current events, though, I’ve made it safely to Nelson with some very overstuffed luggage. I need to lose some of that weight before moving on again! The good news is that I’m in a really nice hostel, and co-worked for the first time today at a very cool place in town. So I’ll be set here for the next little while– just gotta plan out my weekends now!
Stay tuned for Part 3!