|After another at sea day we docked this morning at the town of Tauranga. By 9:00 we were on our bus for a tour led by one of the most insightful guides we had during our entire trip. Jason was part Maori, part European, holder of a degree in biology/botany. Before starting his own local tour company he was a worker and guide at Mt.Tarawera, a volcano site, and had also been employed by the New Zealand government to manage a kiwi breeding program. All of this was the perfect for the day we had in store.
We took about a one hour drive from Tauranga to Rotorua to visit Te Puia, which is something of a national centre for Maori culture. After an orientation presentation we had an opportunity to participate in an interesting performance. We had a formal welcome by a Maori warrior to the village centre which consisted of him running at the crowd, spear in hand and then issuing a challenge to the visitors. Once we identified ourselves as coming in peace, we were treated to a welcoming dance and led into the lodge for a show of Maori dance and music, including the famous stick dance (where the dancers simultaneously throw and catch sticks tossed from their partners) and the haka dance. It was delightful.
After the performance we headed outside and walked around the geyser field which is adjacent. The largest geyser (Pohutu) was in full performance mode, gushing out pulsing streams of water and steam 25 - 30 feet in the air. We also saw several boiling mud pools ... not something we see in Canada.
Following our visit to Te Puia, we headed off to visit the Mt. Tarawera volcano, hiking around the massive crater filled with what is considered the largest hot spring in the world and a variety of interesting ponds and streams. One stream, which we followed for several minutes, received regular injections of sulphuric acid when the pool at its source fills and overflows every several weeks. I don't recall from my high school chemistry classes how acidic the reported +2.1 was, but none of us were willing to stick our fingers into the stream to find out!
Finally it was back to the ship, and our final sail aboard Sapphire Princess as we departed for Auckland.