Day 17& 18, Jan 24th
We said good bye to Australia after 2 full weeks with many new experiences and friends. There are many places that we would have liked to have spent more time at and to delve into the history present and past. We arrived in Auckland after a pleasant 2 hour flight from Sydney. The population of New Zealand is about 5 million and Auckland 1 1/2 million and that of Sydney is just over 5 million. We spent time touring the city which is becoming a big city with underground roads, metro, and large downtown apartments. It is a bustling growing city. The highlight of our stay was the time spent with the chairman of the Host Tribe of Auckland, Ngati Whatua, who not only gave us a history of his tribe but went into detail of how they are working to become well integrated into today's society, but still keeping their own tribal identity.
Day 19, Jan 26th
We bussed to Rotorua through beautiful farm land. Rotorua is 150 miles south of Auckland and is a center of Maori culture. The Maori settled on the North Island about a thousand years ago, and they have held on firmly to their identity and traditions. Nearly a quarter of a million indigenous Maori still maintain their unique lifestyle and culture. That is about 14% of New Zealand population. In the Rotorua region it is about 40% Maori. On the way we stopped for a home lunch at an Organic Dairy Farm. Not only did we have a delightful lunch, we learned about the family and area history and how they manage to run an organic dairy. The family is moving into their 5 generation on this farm. This area of New Zealand was settled by the Irish, and the farms and hedge rows reminded us much of Ireland. We had a nice hotel on a lake just outside Rotorua with a swimming pool right outside our door. The motive of going to Rotorua was to explore the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. This area is often called a thermal wonderland because of its volcanic activity. The region is filled with bubbling mud pools, geothermal geysers, and steam vents. We also took a cruise on Lake Rotomahana to see more that aren't accessible by land. For dinner we attended a lively cuitural performance that showcased the Maori heritage and then sampled a hangi - a traditional feast. The next morning before leaving Rotorua, we visited Rainbow Springs Nature Park to see and learn about Kiwis. Kiwis are a flightless bird native to New Zealand, It is a unique and curious bird: it cannot fly, has hair like feathers, strong legs, and no tail. Before man and mammals were introduced to New Zealand there were an estimated 2 million Kiwis in New Zealand. Now there are 75,000 and the country is working hard to increase this number. The Rainbow Springs is funded and run by one of the tribes. They hatch and raise birds to be reintroduced into the wild. We could not take pictures, but did get to see some of the new babies. We took pictures of pictures and stuffed ones. So many things to learn about.