Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mount Maunganui and Rotorua with Polly

After a rather treacherous drive late at night along exceptionally curvy and possum-splattered roads, Mark did manage to find our way to the vacation home a hospital colleague had generously lent us for the weekend near the beach destination of Mount Maunganui. More importantly, it was also close to the kiwi capital of the world in the town of Te Puke (the boys loved this of course - but really it means The Hill in te reo Maori) where we headed the next day after enjoying some time on the beautiful white sand beach where the boys played beach cricket and Polly and I collected shells. At Kiwi 360, the boys climbed into the gigantic kiwi - above - and we dined on things with and without kiwi - including the nice Greek salad, seen below.Simon, our very informative tour guide in the land of kiwi vines shared the following fascinating facts:
  • About 80% of New Zealand's kiwifruit are grown in this area, known as the Bay of Plenty, thanks to its deep layer of volcanic soil and copious sun, but also good rainfall and enough chill to frost the vines.
  • Sadly, like so much other internationally shipped fruit, they are picked half-ripe and can be held for 8-9 months until shipping. This is why sometimes they arrive hard -- and never ripen, which just happened to me here so Kiwi kiwis are not immune from this problem.
  • The industry brings in 60,000 bee hives for pollination every year and employs 20,000 part-time workers for the harvest, 20% of whom are from overseas.
  • A single vine can produce 1,000 fruit at its height of maturity of seven years.
  • They are now growing a golden kiwi that is sweeter. We don't like it as much - but apparently the very large Asian market does.

Kiwi Tour mobile above - and us posed with the bird kind of kiwi below.

Alex under the vines - and almost ready-to-be-picked fruit below.

Moving on from the magical world of kiwifruit, we headed to the town of Mount Maunganui where we fortified ourselves with very good gelato for the climb. We did not choose the flavor below - and were not the first Americans to take a photo of it, apparently. We're so darned predictable, us Yanks.

Here, Mark, double-fisted with gelato, contemplates whether he should indeed have ordered the Red Bull.

Not every vista in New Zealand is pristine and pastoral. This is a very popular tourist destination with quite a lot of building.

A beautiful walk down around the bottom of the mount too - with a few sailors in the distance.

Kiwis -- of some kind or another -- are everywhere.
On Monday, we started wending our way home via Rotorua, an inland city known for its adventure activities, natural hot pools, and Maori cultural heritage. We managed to hold the boys off the adventure stuff long enough to get in a really good visit at Te Puia, a Maori cultural destination with staged performances (including a powhiri - welcoming ceremony - shown below), a carving and weaving school, and really stellar geothermal stuff as well as a kiwi house, which we didn't expect. Pricey but worth it.

The replica of a marae, meeting house, where they stage their performances. (For a real one, see entry on Patea hangi. No photos of the real ceremonies are allowed.)
The "welcome" by a tribal leader - essentially a challenge of "do you come in peace or war?"

Traditional dances including the poi - little balls she is swinging in below photo.

And the haka, of course. Do you think this guy is used to posing for this exact photo?

Many statues of gods stood on the surrounding grounds, including this one of the god of wild foods, near and dear to my heart of course.
Very cool geyser that shoots up obligingly on the hour. (Apparently they can "encourage" these natural tendencies - it's good business isn't it?).

Bubbling fields of mud never seem to lose their fascination.

An example of a really long word in te reo Maori. Below, a carver in the school and a flax weaver too.

OK, enough culture - time for adrenaline-rushes. Boys went on the Zorb, which Alex had been on in New Hampshire (right, Gretchen?) but it was invented here. Basically, you get in a big ball with a smaller ball suspended in it filled with some water. The ball turns, the water keeps you upright by suspending you. You go down a hill and you come out mostly smiling and a little nauseous. The boys went together down the straight hill and Mark by himself, down the wiggly path, whose bounds he managed to leap.

Above - Mark jumping the bounds and below, in the cocoon.

On to the Rotorua gondola and luge - much more up Polly and my alley.

And that was Polly's first weekend here in New Zealand.


Beth said...

Can't believe you passed up the Red Bull gelato! You may never pass that way again

As usual, love your posts and your pics, and am feeling hungrier than when I started reading.

It's really spring here.

Beth W. R.

Beth said...

ps am going to show Robert R. the god of wild foods. he will love that

Melissa said...

hey Beth - thanks for reading...I tried to email you the other day but I don't think you got it. Send me an email will you at so I can reply? melissa