Kia Ora! Today’s journal is the last of the #AirAsiaXploreNZ familiarization post… #sad. It was indeed too short, our time at the beautiful Northern island. But we came home bringing beautiful, unforgettable memories that we’ll treasure in our hearts forever. Read my full journey about Rotorua, Geothermal Geysers, Sheep Farming and Maori Cultural Night here! Don’t miss my previous New Zealand posts here:

The New Zealand Journal: Dine and Wine on Waiheke Island
The New Zealand Journal: Hobbiton Movie Set

Te Puia on a better weather day by Victor Geng.

If you picture  New Zealand in your head as breathtaking valleys, endless lush grassfield and meadows, isolated ranch in the mountains, volcanic geothermal pools and authentic, indigenous tribes; then Rotorua should be the city on your list to visit as it crosses all the above-mentioned things.

Rotorua (Māori: Te Rotorua-nui-a-Kahumatamomoe) is home of the thermal wonderland of New Zealand; with bubbling mud pools, shooting geysers and natural hot springs. The area was initially settled by Māori of the Te Arawa Iwi in the 14th century, making it a city truly steeped in history and culture. Today 35% of the population is Māori, with their cultural performances being world famous as travelers bucket list as the sceneries itself.

Here are three of the major sightseeing spots and experiences we had during our day in Rotorua,

Te Puia

Te Puia is a 60 hectares geothermal wonder just five minutes from Rotorua city. Literally, we just fastened our seatbelt and arrived. It is home to the world famous Pohutu Geyser, baby kiwis, boiling mud pools, native bush and the New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute. Te Puia’s full name is Te Whakarewarewatanga o te Ope Taua a Wahiao, now try to pronouce it in one go.

Te Puia houses the New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts Institute, with the focus on traditional arts such as woodcarving and weaving.

It was raining hard in the morning, but it didn’t lessen this magical experience. In fact, as we explored the geothermal pools and active geysers beneath the cloudy skies, misty trees and pouring rain, the whole atmosphere felt even more otherworldly. We walked slowly with our umbrellas, soaking up mother nature’s greatness in this mellow-beautiful mood (probably also because Clara aka Miss Melancholy was there too. Just kidding hun.)

Didn’t know we could ask for this much fun from one place, but it didn’t stop there… we also had a wonderful lunch that we got to pick and seasoned by ourselves, cooked in the Ngā Whā steam vent using an ancient Maori method. The Maori people have cooked using the natural geothermal heat in this valley for hundreds of years, and still continue to do it until today.

Agrodome

Someone should have warned me that New Zealand would also make you lose your calm when you’re subjected to a bunch of baby lambs on stage! Ok, long breath and let me explain from the beginning.

Our next stop in Rotorua was the sheep farm. Well, you know right… it’s New Zealand. The sheep will inevitably make a whole appearance on this journal, because literally everywhere you go, you’ll see them. So we dedicated one third of our last day to visit the Rotorua sheep HQ, The Agrodome.

We entered a huge auditorium to sit and watch the legendary sheep show. Oh God, I thought, what’s that smell? Where’s it coming from? Then we realised we were, indeed, sitting inside a huge farm. Anyway, after a while, we kinda get used to the cattle smell (I kept hoping the rest of the day won’t be rainy because I’m definitely gonna hang my clothes on the window to get rid of the smell.) Sorry, straying too much. Let’s go back to the show.

Nineteen breeds of sheeps were the superstars of the stage, with the beautiful Merino sitting on top like a diva that he/she was. There was a live shearing performance (which I first thought would be scary… but looked like the sheep was enjoying it. I’m not good at reading sheep expression so don’t trust me too much on this), the unbelievably clever farm dogs performance, and a fun cow-milking game for the audiences.

On the second game when they asked five volunteers to join up on the stage, I and Abby rushed up there (won’t miss a photo op for our IG content) and waited for the surprise coming for us.

They distributed plastic bottles filled with milk to us on stage, then instructed us to raise the bottles on waist length on the count of three. When the time is up, a bunch of baby lambs were released from the side stage door and RAN towards us, reaching for the milk bottles. I DIED AND WENT TO HEAVEN.

Eventually, I came back into earth -well, the smell kinda reminds me of so. We ended up the tour by visiting the farm nursery where each of us girls cuddled and took photos with the baby lambs. The cute things kept munching on my hair and Clara’s skirt. Out of this world.

Tamaki Maori Village

Here comes the most magical experience that also closed our final night in Rotorua. We boarded a big tour bus, where we joined several other visitors heading to the Tamaki village. Our bus driver, a Maori Native, informed us with bits and pieces of Maori’s culture history and legends from the pre-European times in such an entertaining way, making forty minutes passed easily. Before we realized it, we had arrived on the entrance of the village.

The day was setting to dusk and the darkness of the night; lit only by fire torches and candles, added an even more mystical feeling to the whole setting. We were lined up in front of the entrance for a few minutes, waiting in silence. Someone whispered from the back,”Don’t talk, smile or laugh until the ceremony ends.”, ok #nochill.

A long wooden boat arrived in front of us, rowed by twenty Maori hunks warriors. They landed and performed Powhiri, a ceremony ritual that was so memorable and powerful as the audience was spellbound. I literally held my breath all the time and my face probably looked funny because I was petrified of doing the wrong things and have spears thrown at me. After the Powhiri ended, their scary war expressions turned into big, warm and genuine smiles as they welcomed us into the village.

We explored the village beneath the canopy of the 200 years old Tawa Forest, led by the friendly native villagers telling us histories, customs, traditions and the Maori way of life that have been passed through the  generations of time. The male visitors were allowed to participate in warrior training and learn the Haka (Maori war dance), I was pretty jealous of the guys for this. They also showed us the process of cooking food with the traditional hangi (can’t wait for dinner! I still remember how good my lunch tasted today, yum!)

The most unforgettable highlight was the stage performance, where the Maori danced and sang so passionately, infected us with their spirits and happiness. It was hands down the most memorable and entertaining experience I’ve had during the whole trip.

Dinner was the delicious hangi feast buffet banquet, with the meats and vegetables cooked beneath the ground on hot stones; like how the Natives have been doing it for centuries (just like our lunch). The whole experience was ended by the Tamaki villagers performing the closing ceremony, Poroporoaki, sending us home with the Maori blessing that truly resonated within each of us.

Kia hora te marino,
Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana,
Kia tere te karohirohi.

May the seas be calm,
May the shimmer of summer
Glisten like the greenstone,
Dance across thy pathway.

Ma Io koutou e manaaki, e tiaki, i nga wa katoa.

May your God bless you and protect you for all time.

Kia Ora.

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