Our first stop on day three was at Te Puia in Rotorua. Te Puia is known for mud pools, geysers, the Carving School, the Arts and Crafts Institute. The tour began with the Carving School where we learned criteria for becoming a Maori carver. This includes the student being male, a Maori descendant, and between the ages of 18 and 30. If all three are met, five students will receive a scholarship and can come learn the intricate art of Maori carving. Even though it seems difficult to become a carver, it is a high honor in the Maori culture to go back to their tribe to teach others! We went across the path to the Art and Craft Institute that had many baskets, bags, and mats that Maori had weaved from a particular plant that is grown here in New Zealand. While walking through the exhibit, we were privileged to see how the fiber was extracted from the plant leaves. It takes great skill to cut the leaf without breaking it apart. I could never have the patience to do that at all! We continued along the path to see the Pohutu Geyser erupting! This is the largest active volcano in the southern hemisphere and it can continue erupting for over an hour. The rocks around the geyser had changed color because of the minerals present. At this particular geyser we saw a lot of yellow coloring on the rocks. We were able to spend fifteen minutes checking out and taking pictures around the geyser before we moved to the mud pools. The mud pools are so cool because the mud is used to take make face masks, soap, and many more beauty items. However, the mud in the particular mud pool isn't a very good quality mud. The poor quality mud isn't used for beauty products, so Te Puia has the products shipped to them. The last part of the Te Puia tour was at the Kiwi bird enclosure. I love how we have seen a kiwi bird everyday that we have been here because it is actually so rare to see one in the wild!! It was a great way to end this tour.
Next, we drove about thirty minutes to the Wai-O-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland. This is by far my favorite geothermal stopping spot because two of the hot springs were different colors! The Devil's Bath is a bright green because of ferrous salts and the sulfur reacting with the water and wind. The other hot spring was red and green because of other minerals present in the water. This stop was also a lot of fun because we were able to walk around the geothermal park at our own speed to see all of their craters, and there were different paths you could take based on how long you wanted to walk around.
The geothermal stops were all that we really did today because we traveled to the capital of New Zealand, Wellington! It was a long bus ride with a lot of stops but we had a lot of fun!
Kia Ora! Welcome to the University of Arkansas’s faculty led study abroad program in New Zealand and Australia! Our group consists of 15 students and two faculty leaders, Dr. Jogan and Dr. Edgar, who will be leading us through the discovery of the wonder of New Zealand the next few days! This morning I was scheduled to meet the group at Auckland Airport at the Dwarf statue that is borrowed from Middle Earth. As a huge fan of the Lord of Rings I was blown away by the statue’s massive size, it’s about three times my height!!! Even people who are not Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fans are undoubtedly impressed by the size and appearance of the Dwarf statue. I did successfully meet the group as they walked into arrivals.
Soon afterwards we had a short orientation, and met Peter the Driver who gave us a wonderful bus tour of Auckland, giving us a general overview of the city, and the volcanic structures it was built on. Having a personal group guide was a new experience for me that I really appreciated because as a local he knew so much about that city. We were then dropped off at Mount Eden, one of the tallest dormant volcanoes in the city. Although the small hike up required a little extra effort after the long flight, the views of the city were spectacular and well worth it! It really made all of us realize we are in New Zealand, in the Southern Hemisphere, and on an island created by volcanic eruptions. The crater was very deep and completely covered in grass, which was an unexpected sight to see as well. Overall, I was in awe with the breathtaking view and New Zealand in general!
Afterwards we headed to the Auckland Zoo, where we got to see a lot of native animals to New Zealand and Australia, including many island birds, penguins, emus, wallabies, cockatoos, and legendary kiwi birds! One of our students, Lesleigh Beer, was very excited to finally get to see a kiwi bird in its natural dark habitat, as these birds are nocturnal animals. By the end of the day ALL of us got to see a kiwi bird!! It was much larger than I expected it to be, so I am very thankful to have gotten to see this endangered flightless bird! It was an experience we will never forget for sure!
Next Peter drove us to the Cambridge Stud Farm, the best thoroughbred stud farm in New Zealand. The stallions were large and very majestic, and we learned about the thoroughbreds bred at this farm, their lineage, and winnings. One of the most famous horses at this farm was Sir Tristram, who sired 45 Group One winners. Rachel Knox and Jordan Payton were especially interested in these thoroughbreds as they are studying them in their courses.
Finally, we were on our way to Rotorua when Peter explained that New Zealand was also very unique in finding and creating their own materials for common projects due to the geographical isolation of the country, like corrugated iron being used for roofing. We then came upon a town with corrugated iron being used as artistic tool by a local artist. His works of art were beautiful and are all made of this corrugated iron! I particularly loved the large sheep, dog, and cheese and mouse projects.
We finished our day with checking into to our accommodation in Rotorua, checking out the local steaming ponds caused by the intense geothermal activity in this region, and having a lovely dinner at the local restaurant.
Thank you for keeping up with our adventures, and goodnight from New Zealand!