The evening we arrived in Rotorua, we went for another M?ori cultural experience, this time involving a H?ngi feast. H?ngi is a M?ori method of cooking that involves cooking food with heated rocks in a pit oven.
Before the feast we were entertained with some M?ori games; the most amusing of which involved four people in a circle holding long sticks vertically. When the word matau was yelled, the participants would release their stick and move round the circle to the right, grabbing the next stick before it hit the ground. Similarly, if the word mau? was yelled, the participants would go left. When someone goes the wrong way, collision is inevitable.
The feast itself was really good, and consisted of chicken, lamb, and vegetables.
We visited four geothermal areas around Rotorua. These were all quite different from each other. Unlike similar geothermal areas I have visited, in Iceland and Yellowstone, most of the geothermal features in New Zealand are on private land and thus have entry fees.
The first geothermal park we visited was Wai-O-Tapu. Of all the geothermal parks we visited, this one had the most impressive pools, some of which overflowed onto terraces. Though many of the pools were clear, one of them was bright green with algae.
The second geothermal park we visied was Waimangu. The park is a river valley, with many geothermal features feeding the river. At the end of the walk the river joins to a large lake. The walk was advertised as "mostly downhill", which seemed impossible, but actually makes sense as there is a bus that takes you from the lake back to the start.
The next day we visited Orakei Korako. This involved a short boat ride across a river to a large geothermal terrace. The terrace was covered in algae, making it impressively colourful.
The upper terraces were mostly dry, so were not as colourful as they could have been: the algae rely on the features being active enough to cover the terrace in warm water.
The final geothermal park we visited was, rather aptly, called Hellsgate. The geothermal features were very sulphurous. Most were boiling mud pools, some of which were very acidic. Many of the rocks nearby were stained yellow with sulphur. That was all the colour there was though; the conditions were too inhospitable for algae.
The park is also home to the largest hot waterfall in the southern hemisphere�though I am not aware of any hot waterfalls in the northern hemisphere either. The park's second claim to fame is the second largest mud volcano (effectively a muddy geyser) in the world.
Overall, the geothermal features were certainly more varied than Iceland's, but don't really compare to those of Yellowstone. We didn't see any geyser eruptions in New Zealand other than a few small constant eruptors. Yellowstone is definitely the place to go for geysers; in Yellowstone you see multiple eruptions by chance, or failing that, there is always Old Faithful. What New Zealand does have though, is variety and setting. The views of steam rising out of the tree fern forests is quite unique, very prehistoric.
This is the end of my travels of the north island. Tomorrow I fly to Christchurch to begin my explorations of the south island.