Maori cultural experience and geothermal spas in Rotorua

The next morning we were up and at ’em to get on the bus to our next destination, Rotorua. On the way we stopped to do another lovely rainforest walk guided by our driver Bods. We also stopped off at Hobbiton for all the people who wanted to see the set – I contemplated going but as I’m not a megafan (sorry readers!) I decided to save my money and we carried on to check into the hostel in Rotorua, another Base hostel. When we got there though – disaster had struck with our food bag….the milk had leaked!

I honestly have no idea how the bus driver (who had warned us about having milk!) didn’t see. As I got the bag down from the overhead storage, some milk leaked out of the bag onto the floor. Frantically trying to clean this up with tissues, we managed to get the bag off the bus onto the grass outside the bus. Milk was still coming out of the bag onto the grass at this point. We tried to wait for the bus to leave before we moved the bag, so pretended to be looking for something in my bag, but the driver was not leaving! Eventually we just had to make a break for it and walked as quickly round the corner and into the hostel as we could! Phew!

Once #milkgate was over we checked into our room, which had a balcony and ensuite so we were happy. It was nice and quiet when we made lunch in the kitchen and chilled out in the hostel for the afternoon. All that coach travel tires you out, especially when taking travel sickness tablets so you get all drowsy!

That evening we went on a Maori Cultural experience which was one of the best evenings I had in New Zealand. We were taken to a replica of a traditional Maori village on the outskirts of the city. Each group was considered a tribe and on the way there we had to elect a leader to take part in the welcoming ceremony. Of course, this had to be a man so one of the guys Blake volunteered to be our Chief. It had been emphasised to us that we must take the opening ceremony very seriously and that as it was meant to be intimidating, to laugh would be very offensive. Seeing all the men performing the haka, bulging their eyes, sticking out their tongues and brandishing spears was definitely a scary experience! After the tribe decided we were okay, we were welcomed into the village. We were now split into smaller groups to visit different ‘stations’ at different huts.

Each station demonstrated various aspects of traditional Maori life – telling us about their history, playing traditional games, showing us traditional art, and most excitingly, teaching the boys the haka.

Apart from the food (don’t worry I’ll tell you about that soon) my favourite part of the evening was the haka that the tribe performed – see blurry photo below. The men kicked off with their very intimidating haka, followed by an equally intimidating female haka, and some amazing singing.


We also got to see the hāngī , which is essentially a pit in the ground where our dinner was being cooked. The food is cooked on hot stones at the bottom of the pit which is then covered with damp cloths and sealed with earth to keep the heat in. The food had been cooking for around four hours – it’s basically and old school slow cooker.

It was the most incredible buffet roast dinner. You could tell the backpacker corner of the room by the piled high plates at the start and the sparkling clean plates at the end! For us Brits, a roast dinners are such a home comfort so it was a real treat. Not to mention the pillowy soft passionfruit pavlova there was for dessert.

Safe to say we all headed back to the hostel having learnt a lot about Maori traditions but also very full!

The next day half the bus moved on to their next destination but we had decided to stay longer in Rotorua. We had a lie in and went off to explore the town. I bought a fleece to keep me warm as it was starting to get colder the further south we headed.

To warm us up we headed to the Geothermal spas with our new friends. We used a discount voucher we had been given on the bus to relax in the eight geothermal spa pools. All were different temperatures and all felt like bath water, although you couldn’t stay in the hottest one for too long. There was also the distinctive smell of sulphur but the experience was worth the smell – if only we’d had pegs to put on our noses!

// here’s a snap of the spa which also had lush lake views:

On the way back to the hostel we swung by our favourite supermarket Pak and Save to pick up ingredients for dinner – we had burritos, yum! The rest of our evening was spent in the hostel bar for a casual drink.

Overall, I really enjoyed Rotura and would thoroughly recommend both the Maori cultural experience and the geothermal spas if you’re in NZ!

The next day was time to move on again towards Taupo. We had a new driver and a new bus load of people. Funnily enough one of the people on the bus was a girl called Charlotte that we’d met in Aus! We knew she was heading to NZ but had no idea she’d catch up with us.

Anyway, on our way out of Rotorua we stopped and went for a walk in a beautiful Redwood forest:

It was amazing to see such huge, old trees and come across pockets of thermal activity – even seeing the bubbling mud was fascinating! After we’d got some fresh air and taken in the forest, we hopped back in the bus and got on the road to Taupo.

The adventures continue in the next installment…