Experiencing the Life of Maori Culture in Rototura
Rotorua is a city in the Bay of Plenty region of the North Island of New Zealand and is situated on the southern shores of a lake that bears the same name. As well as being a centre for indigenous Maori culture, Rotorua city and the region around it is also famous for a great deal of geothermal activity, including geysers and bubbling hot mud pools.
The disparate but historical and geographical factors at play in the city all combine to make it, and the surrounding areas, a major tourist destination both for domestic visitors and those from overseas.
The New Zealand Wars of the 1860s ravaged the area and it wasn’t until twenty years later that Rotorua’s role as a spa town destination began in earnest and people began to visit the naturally occurring waters in greater numbers.
Tourism grew even more when the town was connected to Auckland by railway and the ‘Rotorua Express’ began running in 1894.
Rotorua has the unfortunate nickname of ‘Sulphur City’ which is due to hydrogen sulphide emissions from the natural activity of the warm waters which causes an almost ever-present “rotten eggs” aroma in the air.
The mud pools and hot thermal springs are all within easy travelling distance of the city and as the natural thermal activity is one of the factors that make tourism the most profitable industry in the area, it is a price that the residents feel is worth paying.
Rotorua is one of the main heartlands of traditional Maori culture and as such plays an important historical role in New Zealand. Maori people make up over a third of the city’s population and their historical cultural activities are Rotorua’s biggest tourist attraction, alongside the geothermal features already mentioned.
Traditional singing, dancing and games make up a range of events that take place at places such as the famous Pohutu Cultural Theatre.
The indigenous flavours and traditional methods of the Maori style of cooking make for a unique culinary experience. The hangi is the traditional Maori method of cooking which entails digging a large pit in the ground, filling it with wood and setting it on fire.
Food is then cooked in baskets which sit upon hot stones and are covered in earth, effectively creating a natural, fully working, oven.
The steamed hangi is a more recent refinement and features in many hotels and restaurants that claim serve ‘traditional’ dishes which still adhere to the rules of ‘health and safety’ regulations. Some say that the food cooked this way is not as smoky and therefore as uniquely flavoursome as the earth-cooked version.
Traditional songs and music play a big part in Maori culture and today it is as common to find a talented guitarist interpreting traditional melodies as it is to hear a group of voices singing in concert.
Image courtesy of Poetprince from Flickr
About Author | Amie is a passionate travel writer who enjoys sharing her experiences of her Holiday in New Zealand. She enjoys sharing her insight and experiences of Maori culture, food and music.