My next stop in Rotorua was Te Puia. New Zealand Māori Arts & Crafts Institute surrounded by Te Whakarewarewa a Thermal Valley. I entered Te Puia through the gateway, passing five carved portals leading to the sacred Maori place. In them you can already see the connection of Te Puia and carving. On site you can visit the national carving school where young men not only learn how to carve but they also learn about Maori tradition and themselves. Before I visited the carving school myself I went to the lovely café right next to the entrance to get myself a coffee to warm up after the rafting. The café offered a wide range of pastries and snacks, as well. From the terrace in front of the café I could see the beginning of the vast geothermal valley. I could even see the steam alluding to the Pohutu Geyser, which is able to erupt up to 30 meters high.
After my short coffee break it was time to see the most famous bird of New Zealand, the kiwi. In a dark kiwi house which was opened in1976 the nocturnal animal can be seen walking around and being bigger than I expected. The Kiwi House started caring for injured kiwis and had a remarkable recovery rate. That is why a Kiwi breeding programme was set up 14 years ago. Moreover, I learned that one of the special features of the Kiwi is its good sense of smell.
Afterwards I joined a Maori concert taking place at the sacred meeting house called Wharenui. It began with a traditional welcoming ceremony in which I first saw the typical greeting of Maori people. It is called the Hongi and means the pressing of one’s nose to another person’s nose.
The concert was multisided from love songs to the Haka, the war dance of the Maori which is supposed to scare the opponent. It is a mixture of gestures, shouts and foot stamping. Today it still can be seen at Rugby Games of the All Blacks.
At the concert there were no photo restrictions, in the end the audience was even invited to take personal picture with the performers. In general, the performers were all very hospitable, anxious, creating an atmosphere where no one could resist clapping their hands to the beat.
Apart from the Maori Concert, Te Puia offers several other Maori experiences. To mention one, which I would have loved to do, the Steam box, a tour over lunch time. The special thing about it is the possibility to choose your own lunch which will be cooked traditionally by using the steam and hot water which is naturally provided by the geothermal landscape. During the lunch is cooking you take part in an interactive guided tour, during which you not only visit the carving and weaving school but you got the chance to try the weaving yourself.
The tour goes through the Kiwi House, down into the valley, past mud pools and hot springs finishing with your own special lunch on the geyser terrace.