Mother Bernedette stood in front of the class talking about distant continents like Australia, and then came New Zealand. All of 15 I was curious about the place when she spoke of hot springs and the Maoris. The outer crust of the Earth, especially with the hot molten lava inside, seething and bubbling, found a weak spot. It tried reaching or even reached the Earth’s surface, she said. Volcanic eruptions have happened for years together creating hills and mountains. We even had studied about how crater lakes, at the top of a hill, formed. This happened when the extremely hot lava stopped erupting, and on cooling created a huge bowl where the rainwater accumulated on top of the hill.
Shiv had made all the arrangements for our visit to Rotorua, even when we were in far away Mumbai. The day dawned for us to go and visit this rare phenomenon. So exclusively in New Zealand and called Geo-thermal Spot. I had seen pictures of the place months ago, when Shiv and Ria had gone visiting, and today I would actually see it all with my own eyes.
The Geo-thermal area, Wai-o-tapu proved to be the most stunning splash of colours in pools here and there as one would walk along the walkways in the vast area. We saw the Lady Knox Geyser and the mud pool that was earlier a mud volcano, until erosion destroyed it. Sulphur, a bright yellow, combined with other minerals gave vibrant colours such as green, blue, orange and violet in the bubbling pools and these gave out smoke constantly. This strange geographical sight, famous in New Zealand is worth a visit in a lifetime to witness this wonder indeed.
Later, Shiv drove very well, making the long journey short to our visit to the Gondola. Lunch was booked for the foursome of us on the top most point of the Gondola ride. Around 200 kilometres of driving brought us to the starting point where we bought our tickets. The excellent long undulating roads will forever be etched in my memory. Our speed was over and around 100 kilometres per hour, as we sped to be there on time.
Being a weekend and a holiday, there was a crowd and pictures were being clicked not only by the visitors but also the authorities there to sell to those who would be interested in them. The rope car arrived and it was our turn to quickly hop in as it would be moving all along and then ZOOM!
We soared slowly but surely up into the air, the ground below left far behind. The hill had lots of jungles with tall trees and it was scary at times. Soon enough we were at the top and alighting the gondola to a delightful eatery with open spaces. All around it was done up with plants and flowers where you could sit for a while before the lunch.
The lunch was flabbergasting! My desire to have European cuisine was met and so many dishes both veg and non-veg lay inviting me. I was spoilt for choice and the variety of meat, prawn and fish preparation, we found really delicious indeed. After tucking in well, we went to the desserts section where so many varieties of cakes, puddings, ice-creams and other sweet dishes were laid out. The visitors had a gala time and enjoyed to the full.
Later we stepped out to view the surrounding scenic beauty spots and endless pictures were clicked by both Shiv and Gautam, who had almost gone amuck, with so many shots to be taken. The city lay far below, stretched out to the Rotorua Lake, the intense blue of it merging into the blue of the sky. The chilly winds notwithstanding, people roamed about the hilltop and sat on benches around the place. Packaged tours to go down the hilly tracks in gocarts and enjoyable joyrides with forests on both sides were available. One could spend a whole day up there I thought.
The visit to the Rotorua Lake after that, was short and sweet. The dark colored ducks moved on the water, all bundled up in the chilly weather. Three flags adorned the jetty NZ, Chinese and Indian. The last brought a smile on my lips.
Time came when we had to go back to the city of Rotorua. Our hotel had already been booked. Called Jet Park, it was one of a chain of hotels in New Zealand, I later realised. We climbed into the Gondola on the return journey from the hilltop down below. As we sailed in the air, the jungle below could be seen so clearly. Lo and behold, what did we see but a couple of deers! It was charming indeed to see them in their natural surroundings.
We checked into the hotel, tired after the day’s activities. We had a suite of two rooms. Gautam and I chose the inner room. Shiv and Ria settled in the outer room, but only for a short while as we had to get ready for the evening’s most interesting visit to a Maori Village. Abhi to party shuru hui hai!
The Tamaki Village take off point was a short distance away from the hotel, and buses were arranged for the guests to drive them deep into the forest. This is where the Maoris lived. A short nap was all we could snatch after tea/coffee and we quickly got ready to pack ourselves into our car to go to the starting point- a quaint little house- in which was the office. Here we got details of our bus and bus driver. I could see people from all over the world collected there. From every continent, so to speak! In fact this pen I am writing with is from the hotel.