Friday, August 7, 2009

Hot and Steamy

Rotorua. May 2009 Ajr
Things can get pretty hot and steamy at Rotorua’s Whakarewarewa Living Thermal Village. It is an active geothermal area after all – not that that ever stopped the Ngati Wahiao people from settling there over three hundred years ago. In fact, it’s probably one of the chief reasons they did settle there – for the natural hot water, the warm earth that kept them warm in winter and the natural steaming hot pools that they used for washing, bathing and cooking. Around 70-80 Ngati Wahiao people still live in the village today and still make use of the geothermal resources. The reserve is peppered with little raised boxes that cover their cooking vents; and the community bathing pools are still used regularly. On a bigger scale, the hot pool they call Parekohuru (above), which means ‘murderous rippling waters,’ is used for cooking large quantities of food. The water is 95 degrees Celsius on the top of the pool and it gets hotters as it goes down. Its blue colour indicates the presence of minerals and salts. The water is hot enough to boil and egg in one minute and the locals can cook 200 frozen cobs – lowered into the water in muslin bags tied with a rope – in just ten minutes. The hottest pool in the village is Korotiotio, which means ‘Grumpy Old Man’ – aptly named given that its temperature measures 155 degrees Celsius. In the old days, the women of the tribe threw freshly killed poultry into the water for 15 to 20 seconds to make them easy to pluck. The steam from the pool is said to be very good for asthmatics.

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