We started the day with a group breakfast which we all contributed to in one way or another. After we had cleaned up and done the dishes and just in the right moment to fill our water bottles for the ride the water supply was turned off.
What we first thought to be some sort of major error in the water supply turned out to be a half an hour fix that had to be done, so thankfully we were all able to fill our bottles just in time. You may wonder why that is so important, after all this is a supported ride and we have a guide, who most certainly will carry some food and water for us, right?
But even in the guide’s bus there is only so much space left when all our luggage is packed. So usually there is some supply available but if everybody had to fill two full bottles of water at the very beginning there would not be enough left once we would reach the first break point for everybody to have enough for the rest of the day.
So one of the golden rules on these types of rides is that you start the day with a full water bottle, filled not from the guide’s supply but from the water tap from wherever you’ve stayed the night.
After this little incident we were soon ready to get back on our bikes to continue our tour.
This time the weather was really in our favor. Nice and sunny with some clouds, and soon we had left the little town of Te Aroha.
We followed the Old Te Aroha Highway toward Te Poi from where we took the bus to Rotorua. Except for one climb toward the end of the day the route was flat but not entirely without nice chances for taking more photos. This time I rode clipped in, which made the entire ride even more pleasant.
Rotorua and a brief visit to Te Puia
After arriving in Rotorua in the late afternoon, the first thing that hit me was the small of sulfur from the volcanic plateau that Rotorua is a part of. The plateau reaches from Tongariro National Park, which I will see tomorrow, to the shore of the Bay of Plenty and consists of several dormant or extinct volcanos.
In the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley of Rotorua one can explore about 800 geothermal sights as well as learn about the Māori culture, so my first stop after arriving in Rotorua was Te Puia in the Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley. Te Puia is not just a geothermal center in Rotorua with geysers and mud pools, but it is also a cultural center of the Māori and home to the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts institute. Unfortunately I only had about an hour to rush through this place, not enough to really enjoy all the 800 geothermal wonders of the place or even to take a tour through it. But well I would use the evening to learn a little more about the Māori culture.
The Pohutu geyser is one of the most famous geysers, which is located in Te Puia and is known to erupt about every 50 minutes. Not as in other places because someone throws a piece of soap into it, but because the water reservoir has filled up and the water inside has gotten heated up enough to pass through the bottleneck-valve toward the surface.
In the tradition of the Māori, geysers, such as Pohutu, are gifts from the gods. According to the local belief the Te Whakarewarewa Thermal Valley was formed when two sisters, Te Pupu and Te Hoata, traveled beneath the earth to search for their brother. While getting closer to him they lifted their heads up above the surface and by that created the geysers and geothermal hotspots along the way. The largest of the geysers which still is active is Pōhutu, which erupts regularly to a height of about 15-20 meters or even higher than that. Too sad that I did not have much more time to explore the area.
A Māori hangi feast
For the evening I had booked a tour to learn a little more about the Māori culture while taking part in a traditional Māori hangi feast.
The night started by introducing the visitors to the Māori culture of the powhiri, a welcome ceremony and we were introduced to traditional Māori sports and dances – including the Haka. After the hangi feast dinner the evening continued with a walk through the caves before we were taken back to our location for the night.
Of course a 3.5 hour tour like this can only give one a very brief introduction into a culture so different from one’s own.
Once more I wished I could stay longer and learn more.