The weather has changed in New Zealand. Any of you who have been watching the forecasts would know by now that the last couple of days have seen an “extreme weather event”. Wind and rain, more wind and rain. Rotorua has been near the centre of the low pressure area, which means we haven’t been bearing the full brunt of it. Very fortunate! But the weather definitely impacted on our choice of activities for the day.
There was great hilarity in the morning when Stella and I both appeared from our respective bedrooms. One of the hazards of sewing for yourself and for the family! The teen was highly embarrassed – but we stayed dressed this way! We’d chosen to do an activity that would be okay in both dry and wet weather (and which wouldn’t be very demanding of my ankle) – a tour around and on some of the lakes of Rotorua.
Rotorua Duck Tours run the only two WWII army ducks in the country. They have of course been modified a little to take tourists – they’re now right hand drive, have appropriate safety equipment, and have seats, sides and a roof. Back when I was a kid friends of the family had an old army duck, and we were once able to take a short ride on it. I was definitely the only person on the tour who had been on an army duck before!
The tour was packed full of humour and every duck gag you’ve ever come across. Music was used perfectly to highlight moments of drama along the way (such as the theme song of Titanic coming on as we first splashed into a lake). Every member of the family enjoyed it!
Tutanekai lived on Mokoia Island, Lake Rotorua, where of an evening he and his friend Tiki used to play – the one on a “horn”, the other on a “pipe”. The sound of this music could be heard across Lake Rotorua at Owhata and it charmed the beautiful and noble-born Hinemoa who lived there. When Tutanekai visited the mainland with his people, he met Hinemoa and they fell in love. The young man had perforce to return to his village, but the lovers arranged that every night he would play and that Hinemoa would follow the sound of his music to join him.
Tutanekai kept up a nightly serenade but Hinemoa’s people, suspecting something was afoot, had hidden all the canoes. The maiden, however, was not to be deterred and, selecting six large, dry, empty gourds as floats, she decided to swim to the island. Guided by the strains of her loved one’s music, Hinemoa safely reached the other shore and landed near a hot spring, Waikimihia, in which she warmed and refreshed herself – the pool is on Mokoia Island to this day. Just at that moment Tutanekai sent his servant for water. This man disturbed the girl who, pretending to be a man, spoke in a gruff voice and, when she learnt his errand, begged for a drink from the calabash which she smashed as soon as she had had her fill. The servant then went back and reported to Tutanekai what had happened. He was ordered back again and again, each time with the same result, until all the calabashes were broken. The now irate young man himself went down to the pool and to his joy discovered Hinemoa. Like all good stories, the legend has a conventional ending – they lived happily ever after.
That’s Rotorua Museum in the photo above. Unfortunately it is currently closed due to earthquake damage.
There are spa buildings along the lake foreshore. Hot mineral water is piped directly from the spring in the photo above to the spa. From there we headed past redwood forests (they grow three times as fast in New Zealand as in the USA – the weather conditions in combination with the rich volcanic soil is perfect for them) towards Lake Tikitapu, also known as the Blue Lake.
Lake Tikitapu looked pretty green – because the sky was completely clouded over the clear water reflected the vibrant greens of the surrounding vegetation rather than the blue of the sky above. The rain set in while we were on the lake. There was also a story connected to the lake. The Maori name of the lake ‘Tikitapu’ is derived from a story surrounding a scared (tapu) necklace (tiki). It is said that long ago, a daughter of a highborn chief swam in the lake and lost her treasured Tiki (greenstone neck ornament looped through flax cord). Frenzied searching ensued after the loss of this hallowed possession, the sacred tiki of her tribe. To this day, the waters of Tikitapu still hide the tapu – scared tiki – necklace that was lost.
We were fortunate to see the rare dabchicks on Lake Okareka nearby. Rotorua Duck Tours say we are very respectful to our local iwi and the land that they allow us to use. As a result we are very careful when it comes to the preservation of our lakes and waterways. We ensure this via a thorough check of weeds after we leave EVERY lake and ensuring we are not polluting our waterways to the absolute best of our ability. We also educate our guests by education them on the preservation of our waterways.
After our tour we had a quick run through the McDonalds drive through – I rather enjoyed the illustrations on the packaging for my Kiwi Burger.
The rest of our day was spent either lying in hot mineral pools, watching movies/tv, or reading books. And the rain and wind outside our cosy cabin intensified….