We landed in beautiful Tauranga (the largest port in New Zealand) yesterday morning, Sunday the 28th, and walked along the pristine harbor and up a bit of Mt. Maunganui (a non-active volcano) before getting on our tour bus to Rotorua, about an hour’s drive away. Rotorua is both the heartland of Maori culture but also a geothermal wonderland. You can see steam coming up through the ground in many places. We chose to go to an active geyser park (and Maori visitor center/crafts center) called Te Puia, though we only saw spurts of geyser, nothing as large as Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park. We did see thermal springs, hot bubbling mud pools, and smelled the distinctive odor of sulfur (rotten eggs) everywhere.
En route we stopped at a kiwi farm where we took a tour of the farm and free kiwi ice cream (tart but good!)
Definition — Kiwi
1: a nickname for New Zealanders;
2: a fruit first brought to New Zealand from China in the early 20th century, when it was called a Chinese gooseberry. Main fruit-picking and packing season is from April-June and demands thousands of seasonal workers, many from abroad. Demand for workers is so high that government unemployment and welfare benefits are not paid to local residents during this time period, as work is so plentiful. Today Italy is the largest producer of kiwi fruit, and New Zealand actually imports from Italy in their own off-season. The fruit is good for digestion and is packed with nutrients such as vitamins A, C, E, and potassium.
3: the national bird of New Zealand, which has many mammal-like features such as no tail, marrow-filled bones (rather than air-filled), powerful legs, hair-like plumage, two working ovaries (for females), good smell, large ear openings, etc.
Today we are having a leisurely day in the large city of Auckland. We have walked the downtown wharf areas, visited both Victoria and Albert parks, seen lovely architecture, and discovered free WIFI at the local library where I now sit. Tomorrow will be our last day ashore (at the Bay of Islands, Waitangi (the site of the original treaty signed between many Maori chiefs and the British Crown) before our 2+ day journey back to Sydney, where we will disembark on Friday morning.