Go Travel New Zealand - - Contents -

Nes­tled in the bub­bling, beat­ing heart of the Cen­tral North Is­land, Ro­torua rep­re­sents one of the few unique places in the world where geother­mal phe­nom­ena are in­tense

and ac­ces­si­ble.

Ro­torua is part of the Taupo Vol­canic Zone, a geother­mal field ex­tend­ing from White Is­land off the Bay of Plenty Coast, to Mt Ruapehu far to the south. The vol­canic crater lakes, spout­ing gey­sers, bub­bling mud pools, hiss­ing fu­maroles and colour­ful sin­ter ter­races that fea­ture through­out this area have drawn visi­tors to Ro­torua since the 1800s, and re­main just as en­tic­ing and in­trigu­ing today.

Geother­mal his­tory a gift

This geother­mal bounty of na­ture has long been re­garded as a gift from the gods. The ear­li­est Ma-ori legends speak of a priest from Hawaiki, con­sid­ered the an­ces­tral home of Ma-ori, who guided the Te Arawa waka (ca­noe) to New Zealand. As he trav­elled up the coast from Maketu to the mag­nif­i­cent moun­tains of the Ton­gariro Na­tional Park, he be­came deathly cold and prayed to his sis­ters in Hawaiki to send fire demons to warm him. The demons trav­elled un­der the earth’s crust from Hawaiki to reach the priest atop Mt Ton­gariro and warm him, leav­ing a steaming, bub­bling trail of ther­mal ac­tiv­ity in their wake. And so it is that geother­mal ac­tiv­ity came to the re­gion and Te Arawa peo­ple be­came its guardians.

Tourism and the eighth won­der of the world

Be­gin­ning in the 14th Cen­tury, Ro­torua’s rich cul­tural his­tory is one of the ear­li­est in the coun­try, ig­nited by its geother­mal marvels and the life force it of­fered to those who lived here.

Thanks to this, Ro­torua be­came the birth­place of New Zealand tourism, with the famed Pink and White Ter­races con­sid­ered the eighth won­der of the world. In­trepid 19th cen­tury visi­tors trav­elled from all over the world to ex­pe­ri­ence the ter­races, as well as the lo­cal Ma-ori cul­ture and hos­pi­tal­ity.

The glis­ten­ing ter­races formed near Mt Tarawera on the shores of Lake Ro­tom­a­hana’s sil­ica-rich wa­ters, warmed by the magma be­low. Visi­tors trav­elled for months by sea and days by horse­back to reach Ro­torua. They would then be es­corted by lo­cal guides, New Zealand’s very first hosts, across Lake Tarawera by waka (ca­noe) and on to the fa­bled ter­races. Then they would soak in the ther­mal hot springs, be­fore en­joy­ing a cul­tural evening of en­ter­tain­ment from the lo­cal peo­ple.

How­ever, in 1886 Mt Tarawera had a dev­as­tat­ing erup­tion, de­stroy­ing the ter­races and en­gulf­ing two

nearby vil­lages, nearly de­stroy­ing a third, killing around 150 peo­ple. Af­ter­wards, many of the sur­vivors were of­fered land at Te Whakare­warewa Val­ley. As those dis­placed set­tled into their new home, Te Whakare­warewa Val­ley be­came the new home of

guid­ing and hos­pi­tal­ity.

That tra­di­tion of guid­ing and shar­ing Ro­torua’s cul­tural her­itage con­tin­ues today in the val­ley at Te Puia.

His­tory alive today

Te Puia takes its ori­gin from the her­itage of Te Whakare­warewa Val­ley, where guides es­corted visi­tors from the late 1800s to ex­pe­ri­ence its gush­ing wa­ters and steaming vents, pow­er­ful en­er­gies and nat­u­ral beauty.

Te Puia spans 70 hectares within the his­toric Te Whakare­warewa Val­ley, on the out­skirts of Ro­torua, and is home to the world-fa­mous Po­hutu Geyser which ex­plodes up to 30m high into the air, bub­bling mud pools, hot springs and sil­ica for­ma­tions. With many of Te Puia’s guides and staff today di­rectly de­scended from the orig­i­nal set­tlers in Te Whakare­warewa Val­ley, the

his­tory of the

val­ley lives on through the sto­ries that have been shared with visi­tors for gen­er­a­tions.

Te Puia builds on the val­ley’s foun­da­tions of open­ness and manaak­i­tanga (hos­pi­tal­ity), of­fer­ing today’s visi­tors new ways to ex­pe­ri­ence and in­ter­act with Ma-ori cul­ture and the nat­u­ral geother­mal en­vi­ron­ment. One tasty way of sam­pling a piece of his­tory and cul­ture is invit­ing guests to taste food tra­di­tion­ally cooked in the ground us­ing hot rocks and steam, as well as food cooked in nat­u­ral hot wa­ter cook­ing pools.

Te Whakare­warewa Val­ley is also home to the New Zealand Ma-ori Arts and Crafts In­sti­tute (NZMACI), the na­tional schools of wood carv­ing, weav­ing, pounamu (green­stone), stone and bone carv­ing. NZMACI was es­tab­lished un­der an act of par­lia­ment in 1963 to per­pet­u­ate these tra­di­tional art forms.

Te Puia|NZMACI are cus­to­di­ans of New Zealand’s trea­sured Ma-ori her­itage, through pre­serv­ing and shar­ing their peo­ple’s his­tory and knowl­edge. In the Ma-ori world, con­nec­tions be­tween peo­ple are in­te­gral to their cul­ture. Whaka­papa (shared ori­gins) de­fine that world, and these re­la­tion­ships are main­tained and hon­oured through­out the gen­er­a­tions. Visi­tors to Ro­torua can be­come a part of that her­itage by ex­pe­ri­enc­ing Te Whakare­warewa Val­ley, its peo­ple and their sto­ries.

Spa of the South Pa­cific

As with Ro­torua’s guid­ing legacy, Ro­torua’s spa her­itage also sur­vived the de­struc­tion of the Pink and White Ter­races.

Ther­mal baths have been used in Europe for cen­turies for the treat­ment of a wide va­ri­ety of ill­nesses. Spas be­came fash­ion­able dur­ing the 18th and early 19th cen­turies as re­lax­ing meet­ing places for roy­alty and lead­ing so­ci­ety

fig­ures, as well as places to “take the cure”. The rich, ill and fa­mous con­sulted bal­ne­ol­o­gists who treated dis­eases with baths and wa­ter cures.

Ro­torua be­came known as a bathing des­ti­na­tion be­fore the erup­tion of Mt Tarawera, when peo­ple came not only to see the Pink and White Ter­races, but to bathe on the edge of Lake Ro­torua in an area known as Te Kauanga, were a va­ri­ety of ther­mal pools were nes­tled amongst pumice, sul­phur and manuka.

In 1878 Fa­ther Ma­honey, a Catholic Priest from Tau­ranga dis­abled with arthri­tis, was car­ried to Ro­torua to bathe in the small wa­iariki (spring) known by the lo­cal peo­ple as Te Pupuni­tanga. Af­ter soak­ing in its acidic wa­ters he was able to walk back to Tau­ranga ‘cured’, and the pool be­came known as the “Priest’s Bath”.

A num­ber of bath houses were es­tab­lished in Ro­torua in the years fol­low­ing to tempt wealthy north­ern hemi­sphere pa­trons to travel far from home, both at the site of the Priest’s Bath and sur­round­ing ar­eas that were also rich in geother­mal ac­tiv­ity. Bath houses were also built as treat­ment sites for sana­to­rium pa­tients and later as treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties for soldiers. Ro­torua’s most fa­mous build­ing, the Ro­torua Mu­seum – known at the turn of last cen­tury as the Great South Seas Spa – also used to be such a site where peo­ple could “take to the wa­ters”.

Bath struc­tures grad­u­ally be­came more im­pos­ing as the years went on, in­clud­ing the Duchess Baths built on the site of the Priest Spa in 1901 to cel­e­brate a visit by the

Ul­ti­mate geother­mal well­ness

Today, the Poly­ne­sian Spa in­hab­its the site of the Duchess Baths, tak­ing great care to ac­knowl­edge the over 130 years of rich bathing his­tory of the area. Part of the bath house that was last built in the 1930s is in­cor­po­rated into Poly­ne­sian Spa’s build­ing today and the site is part of the New Zealand His­toric Places Trust.

As well as the Priest’s Bath, renowned for its effect on tired mus­cles, aches and pains due to the acid­ity lev­els of the wa­ter, a se­cond spring also feeds into Poly­ne­sian Spa. The Rachael Spring pro­vides bathers with al­ka­line wa­ter renowned for its skin-sooth­ing prop­er­ties due to its sodium sil­i­cate con­tent. An old lo­cal be­lief is that those who swim in the Rachel Spring wa­ter will re­ceive age­less beauty. Poly­ne­sian Spa is the only spa des­ti­na­tion that in­cor­po­rates both types of wa­ter for ul­ti­mate bathing well­ness.

Poly­ne­sian Spa’s his­toric site has evolved over time, and as well as

of­fer­ing hot min­eral bathing to visi­tors with its 26 pools, it also has a vast ar­ray of spa ther­apy treat­ments that har­ness Ro­torua’s unique geother­mal prop­er­ties such as vol­canic mud wraps. Other nat­u­ral spa treat­ments are based on the likes of honey and pure es­sen­tial oils.

Tak­ing great care to ac­knowl­edge its roots as be­ing one of the old­est in­ter­na­tional spas in New Zealand, Poly­ne­sian Spa fo­cuses on whole body well­ness and has con­sis­tently been ranked in the top 10 spa des­ti­na­tions in the world by read­ers of the UK Conde Nast Trav­eller Magazine.

Ex­pe­ri­ence past, present and fu­ture

With a his­tory of tourism and hos­pi­tal­ity as deep as many of its vol­canic crevasses, Ro­torua’s in­cred­i­bly unique land­scape has much to of­fer both lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional visi­tors, with a vast ar­ray of op­tions and price ranges to suit ev­ery bud­get.

Ro­torua and the sur­round­ing re­gion has six geother­mal parks and five spa des­ti­na­tions, as well as many other pub­lic ac­cess geother­mal fea­tures and min­eral pools that are wor­thy of ex­plor­ing.

Come and take a peek into the cul­tural past, ex­pe­ri­ence the heav­enly present of soak­ing in min­eral pools, and taste a lit­tle of the fu­ture as these geother­mal phe­nom­ena live on to be ex­pe­ri­enced for many more gen­er­a­tions to come.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.