|We left Napier behind this morning on our way to Rotorua, passing thru the area of Lake Taupo, NZ's largest lake (at 606 sq kilometres, it is slightly larger than Singapore) formed by one of the biggest volcanic explosions of all time some 26,500 years ago. Lake Taupo is the source of NZ's longest river, the Waikato which feeds the Huka Falls (in Maori, Huka means "Great Body of Spray") and which throws 200,000 litres of water each second. Scenic views across the lake include the still active volcanic peaks of Tongariro National Park and Mt. Ngauruhoe, Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ruapeha....there are spectacular walks around the lake itself, to Mt. Tauhara and in the volcanic mountains, especially the Tongariro Crossing...we carried on into Rotorua, an area of Maori culture and a lot of thermal activity.....there are volcanic vents all over with steam rising from the ground where you least expect it, bubbling mud pools and gurgling hot springs. The area has earned the nickname "Sulphur City" due to the smell of boiled eggs all around. Rotorua also has a significant Maori settlement and as a result we chose to experience a traditional Maori performance and "hangi" (traditional cooking of food under the ground using the natural thermal heat of the area). After getting settled at the Kiwi Paka YHA, we went for a walk back into town and checked out a market at the Sound Shell at the lake front.....in the evening we were picked up by bus and taken to the Mitai Maori Village, home to a specific family of one of the Maori tribes that reside in the area....in total there are 98 family members who all work together in this family business of cultural performances and traditional hangi meals. Upon our arrival we were greeted by "Auntie Tui" who welcomed us all and explained the evenings' proceedings...first, the opening of the hangi oven and blessing of the food for our evening meal, second, the arrival of the Maori warriors in their "waka" (canoe), third, attendance at the Maori Cultural performance with detailed explanations of the various aspects of the show, fourth, enjoying a sumptuous meal of lamb and chicken, salads, potatoes including both a local sweet potato as well as regular potatoes cooked in the hangi and one of the most amazing scalloped potato dishes we have ever tasted. An English contribution to the meal was a bread stuffing that was cooked in the hangi in cheesecloth sacks and when drizzled with the cream sauce from the scalloped potatoes, it was out of this world....we can still taste how yummy it was....after our dinner we were taken on a bush walk to the family's sacred spring.....the fresh water simply bubbled up from the ground.....we were also shown various ferns and trees that were important in Maori culture and the glow worms that live in the area arorund the spring and then returned to our hostel at about 10:30 p.m., ready for a good nights sleep.....