Monday, May 01, 2006

Day 3 - from Tumi Tumi toobing to Maori culture night - all in a days work!!!

Day 3. Today its goodbye Raglan. Hello Waitomo (via a strange place where we saw Angora bunnies that were bred for their hair .. and the amazing implements used to shear these bunnies!). Seems a little like hard work to me; aren't sheep easier but hey, what do I know!

Anyway it was Waitomo first then after that on to Rotorua. A big day! We left pretty early as we had alot of ground to cover today. In typical Ihaka fashion, he turned on the hard core base/techno (not sure what the young kids call this music these days but to use a descriptor from here it was "full on" for first thing in the morning!), put his hoodie up and started dancing around in his seat as he drove us down to Raglan town (trust me, it was hilarious, but maybe you had to be there!!) We were dropping Kelly off, a new recruit we unfortunately only had the pleasure of hanging out with for one night! She has a brilliant plan for a new business back home in England, and we brainstormed on the name .. you know what I'm talking about Shane and Kelly - but I can't mention it here until Kelly patents it at home - sorry folks but trust me, its a winner!

We arrived in the rural town of Waitomo, famous for its caves and glow worms. Waitomo comes from the Maori words - Wai for water, and tomo for holes or shafts. This name is perfect for the area, with tons of shafts dropping abruptly into underground caves and streams.In fact there are over 300 caves in the area, and almost as many activities you can do around here! Some folks chose to take the Spellbound boat trip, where you literally see millions of glow worms....Josh, Shane, Lindsey and I decided Tumu Tumu Toobing was in order (4 hours of black water rafting involving incredible views of stalagmites and stalagtites, inner tubes and an underground river, with lots of caving where you squeeze through teeny wee spaces and have to submerge yourself in freezing underground water on a number of occasions). You have to wear a wetsuit and I had a bit of trouble fitting into mine so our two brilliant and hilarious guides, D and Neil, very kindly held onto either side of my suit, and lifted me up so my legs were dangling off the floor, so i could be more comfortable! Yes indeedy, all pride goes out the window for adventure sports!

Glow worms are amazing things. In a nutshell, they are actually glow larvae (but it doesn't sound as good to tourists, hence they are called worms!). The larvae stage lasts 6-9 months, and the glowing part is actually luminescent organs as well as poop that has nowhere to go, cos they don't have orafices....once they come out of their cocoon stage, they go crazy mating and egg laying but unfortunately that only last about 2-3 days then they are dead! Because these wee things are carniverous, the female divides up her approx. 120 eggs into different batches, cos whichever eggs hatch first, eat the others.. see, more interesting information for ya!!!

We then drove 2 1/2 hours away to Rotorua, where we stayed at Hot Rocks hostel (who makes up these names, please!) Actually, I think the reason is partly due to Rotorua's geothermal activity and let me tell you, you smell the sulphur as soon as you get into town - quite pongy indeed! As the sign says, the receptionist was great, the hostel, not so much! Oh well!

Lindsey, Hayley and I had all heard about a great Maori cultural evening, Mi Tai, so we decided to split from the group and check it out! It was really amazing, I have to say! I'm very intrigued by the Maori culture anyway, and this evening, with its bush walks through sacred ground, Maori warriors in canoes, coming out to showcase a tribal dance on the waterfront in torch light, then a full on presentation of how a tribe lives, their songs, war preparations, greetings to friends and foes was really powerful (even tho' its a show, the men and women are presenting their Maori culture and do it with amazing energy and passion, eyes rolling, tongues out, really dramatic to see). The men dance the "haka", the women the "poi" and its all so interesting and educational too. Oh yes, and we didn't even notice the fact the men wear barely anything - teehee. Well, we were quite excited until we found out the boys performing were all around 17 yrs old.. then I felt a bit like a pervert...but they were beautiful!!!

Did you know even now, you can get a Maori "moka" (face tattoo) put on with chisels and NO anaesthetic!! There are 3 chisels used; one to make the initial wound, one to re-open it, and one to add the dyes.... Maori warriors would meditate to get through the pain... quite amazing when you think about it! It takes about 1 1/2 years to complete and if you can't handle the pain, you are not ready and have to wait until the elders call on you again....I'd be happy to not be able to go through it, but its all about "mana" which is respect have to earn it in this culture, and even today, if you dont have "mana" from your peers and community, you have nothing! An incredible evening I have to say!

Got back to the hostel and met up with the rest of the gang! As you can see, we had yet another engaging evening, with lotsa dancing, chatting and the odd Malibu and pineapple imbibed...gosh, think I need detox from NZ already! Sorry Mum!!


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