NZ Diaries-Day 3: Maiori Cultural Experience

Today was a culture day more than a wine day (although we did have wine with lunch.) This morning we transferred from Auckland to Napier for 3 days to visit the Hawkes Bay wine region.
Our route brought us to Rotorua where we spent 3 delightful hours at the Maiori Cultural Center.
The Maiori were the original settlers of New Zealand, arriving some 600 years before the first Europeans. The theory is that they arrived by raft from the Polynesian islands and brought their customs with them as well as adopting new ones.
For instance there is a weaving center where the traditional art of making thread from flax has been preserved and passed on to younger generations. In fact we all were given the opportunity to practice by weaving a flax flower.
Wood carving is also taught at a workshop where students spend 3 years learning how to carve.
The area is also a huge geothermal center with hot mud springs and geysers. The Maiori have preserved the ancient art of hagi, or steam cooking using the natural geothermal spring vapors. Our lunch in fact was prepared this way: first we selected our lunch items and placed them in aluminum foil dishes and wrote our names on the top cover. Since they need about 90 minutes to cook, they were immediately brought to the natural steam ovens and were ready when we finished our tour.
It was a 3 hour drive to Rotorua and then we continued on our way to Napier, stopping at Taupo for a break.
The topography on the road from Auckland to Napier reminded me a lot of Switzerland: rolling lush green hills dotted with herds of cattle and sheep.

cooking on hot steam vapor

Te Puia Geyser

Maiori wood sculpture

Maiori wood carving

hot mud flats

Te Puia Geyser

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