Monday, 20 June 2011


24 March 2011
Much happier with the bike after some further running repairs and minor adjustments. Also got some Tiger Juice lube for the chain... just the stuff. One really good thing about having the bike Is the scope it gives for exploring. I went along the lake edge, the Maori village and Kuira Park nearby and had a good look at the steam coming out of the ground and the mud pools bubbling away.

The steam is used by the locals as a heating source. The meeting hall in the Maori village was my first taste of their culture. I got some more of it that night when I went on a trip to Mitai village. John, our guide kept us entertained and claimed the Maoris had found New Zealand through astral travel. We had a tasty traditional ‘Hangi’ meal, cooked on hot stones in a hole in the ground. There were a lot of people sitting for the Hangi in a large marquee including an old running pal from Penicuik over in the far corner… fancy meeting you here!. After the Hangi we went for a walk in the bush and the Maoris re-enacted a canoe scene. Canoes are an important recurring theme in their culture and are called ‘Waka.’ The Maoris navigated from Polynesia to New Zealand in their “Wakas’ by the stars and the moon. I thought the ‘Haka’ was an intimidating display on the rugby field but the welcome ceremony is much higher on the scale. Luckily for us the Chief told us that they don’t eat whiteys any more, they go to McDonalds instead. He explained about the importance of the ancestors to the Maori people and told what all the tattoos on their faces stand for.

When I was cycling along the lake front, I spotted a float plane and was immediately taken back to my childhood and comic stories of Biggles landing on the Amazon and carrying out heroic deeds.

What else could I do but book a flight the next day and am I glad that I did. The 1954 De Haviland ‘Otter’ was straight out of the past. The technology was authentic 1950’s which meant pumping up petrol up the pipe manually before take off. We listened to the pilot through our head phones as we flew over amazing volcanoes and multi-coloured thermal pools with steam rising from them.

Our destination was Orakei Korako, an active area of geothermal activity. We landed on the river and got the ferry across to the silica terraces, geysers and a geothermal cave.

I needed some fresh air after all that sulphur, so I went along to the Redwoods, a few kilometres outside Rotorua. The Kiwis know how to organise outdoor activities and this was a good example. Set in beautiful forest, there are separate areas for walking and running, horse riding and mountain biking. I had a fabulous cycle down the ‘Turkish Delight’ with lots of roots and rocks and steep descents. The bike and I held up well and I didn’t fall off. I was planning to leave the next day but the rain started and I’m glad I stayed because I made friends with Vera and Loz from the back packers and we had a good time at the night market where I met All Black Frano Botica. I also went along to the very traditionally British looking Rotorua museum and got another dose of Maori culture and local history and experienced what it is like to be in an earth quake. The next part of my trip was to Lake Taupo and I was getting itchy to get in my first long cycle.

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