Fun fact about New Zealand #1: A Star Wars sounding ray gun sound shoots out of every crossing in New Zealand to tell you that it’s OK to cross. Now if only there was a Stormtrooper to guide you across each road.
The first morning waking up in Rotorua, two thoughts came to mind. My lord is it freezing today. Thank the lord I didn’t have to pee in the night. Unfortunately for me, using the toilets requires me to go outside, down few steps and into the cabins that is the designated toilet area. I dread the day my bladder fails me in the night.
The second thought that came to mind was that I really didn’t know anything about Rotorua. In fact, I had never even heard of the place until I bought my Lonely Planet ‘Discover New Zealand’ guide. Please excuse my ignorance.
The first day in Auckland I went to the museum to learn about its history and the past times of Maori. So what the heck, why not do the same in Rotorua?
After spending way too much time trying to figure out what bus to get, it was made a little easier when I realise there’s only one bus that stops near my place of stay. Rotorua making things easy for the easily confused like me. When I arrived at my stop Rotorua Museum was only a short walk away. The minute you see the place in the distance you soon discover the beauty that surrounds it.
Like most places in New Zealand I have seen so far, my photo’s really weren’t doing my view justice. As you walk up the path to the museum you are walking next to a beautiful field that’s grass is cut perfectly to the very inch. The sun was shining onto the beautiful tall trees that had made their home surrounding the squared field. I don’t think I had seen so many shaded of green in one compact park before.
The closer I got to the museum building, I passed a natural hot spring that was contained by a beautiful stoned enclosure and past the blue pool building that looked like something from old England.
In fact, the museum itself replicated an old style Victorian establishment, perhaps representing the influence the British had on New Zealand when it was first discovered. Can you tell I’ve been learning lots these past few weeks? *insert winking iPhone emoji*
The building in a word is simply stunning.
Fun fact about New Zealand #2: Rotorua has a’unique rotten egg’ smell throughout the town. This is caused by hydrogen sulphide emissions from the geothermal activity of this beautiful region. The longer you stay, the more used to the smell you’ll become to the point where you realise you don’t really smell it anymore.
With my ticket paid for the first stop was…the toilets…no no I’m joking, well not really, but the first relevant stop was a short film that gives you a little taster of the Maori history. One thing I learn’t that the Auckland Museum didn’t mention (well it may have, maybe I was cleaning my glasses when I walked by) was that volcanoes occupy this earth due to Ruaumoko, a Maori mythological god.
Ruaumoko is the son of Ranginui (the Sky father) and Papatuanuku (the Earth mother) also known as Rangi and Papa. The two underwent a fierce breakup when their offspring, Tumatauenga (who originally wanted to kill his parents) and Tane, forced them apart so they would no longer have to live between them in darkness. To help them was their brothers, Rongo (the god of cultivated food), Tangaroa (the god of the sea) and Haumia-tiketike (the god of wild food).
When apart Rangi tears flooded the land, so in order to stop this the sons decided to turn Papa face down, so Rangi and Papa could no longer see each others sorrow. Ruaumoko was at his mothers breast when this happened so he was carried to the world below. He was given fire to keep warm by Tama-kaka, and his movements below the earth caused earthquakes and volcanoes.
I’m not going to lie, I did have to take a photo of the information plague that was in the museum to remember this, but I have built up such a strong interest in Maori mythology. I’ve been interested in spirituality for a fair while now, so the mythology behind the Maori culture is so fascinating in my mind.
As my brain went into hyper mode trying to digest all of the information of the Maori part of the museum, it was time for some art.
There was an exhibition taking place on Walter Bakkenes. Who I hear you asking? How on earth do you not know who Walter Bakkenes is? Don’t worry I didn’t know either. But I now know he’s one hell of an artist.
Now I won’t bore you with his whole history, but his one very talented artist. His artwork to document his time in World War Two was the highlight for me. It was so abstract but at the same time you could see the strain it brought onto his life and the visions that no one should see was captured perfectly in his astonishing art creations.
His works during the post-war period are marked by a mixture of chaotic and nightmarish scenes that recall 16th century Vanitas traditions, specifically the obsession with death and decay.
Another exhibition at the museum was showcasing remastered versions of the art of Rembrandt. Paintings from the 1600’s had been put through a Photoshop like treatment that fixed the damaged done to the paintings over the years gone by.
Another one of my favourite element of the museum was its showcase of its own history. Back in the days of the World War, the building was used as a natural medical centre for the injured and was ran by a British doctor. Unfortunately, due to my mind exploding from all the information I had learnt previously, it has failed to remember this doctors name.
However, visitors from rich backgrounds throughout the world would make their way to Rotorua in order to bath in these magical hot baths that were curing the injured. This didn’t last forever of course, and once the miracle of medicines took centre stage less and less people were coming to Rotorua to see the natural hot mud baths and everything else it had to offer.
After the trip to the museum I decided that I could no longer ignore the cries of my belly and went to get food. I found a nice cafe that overlooked the pond, where I had the biggest french toast with bacon and fried banana with maple syrup you’ll ever see!
I spent the afternoon walking around Rotorua town central, establishing that it has a lot to offer. It has a certain uniqueness that places can sometimes lack in this day in age, and is something that creates the charm of Rotorua. Its laid-back, quiet lifestyle is a warm welcome after being under the hectic lights of the city.