Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Tuwharetoa Experience

As you head into the Wairakei area near Taupo in the central North Island, the first thing you’ll notice will be the steam – huge, cloud-like billows of it rising from the earth. You’re in heartland geothermal territory here – everything bubbles and steams – and hot pools in the Wairakei area have been used for bathing and as healing spas by tourists and locals since the 19th and 20th centuries. The main bathing pool, Te Kiri o Hinekai, was closed in the 1960s though, when construction began on the massive Wairakei Geothermal Power Development, which now dominates the area. But in 1996 a new tourism venture between Netcor and Contact Energy, saw the original steam piped back to Te Kiri o Hinekai, along with the piping of hot, silica-enriched waters over a manmade structure to create natural silica terraces. The bulk of the terrace construction was carried out in 2001 and now, with the help of nature, the multi-coloured silica terraces are developing well.
At the heart of this whole development are the people of Ngati Tuwharetoa, who have called this area home and used the therapeutic waters of Te Kiri o Hinekai for generations – since the time of the legendary tohunga and great navigator, Ngatoroirangi, from whom the Tuwharetoa are descended. Today you can get an inside peek into Tuwharetoa legends and customs by taking part in the Wairakei Terraces Maori Cultural Experience, which will take you through a replica Maori village and introduce you to the pleasures of the traditional hangi and song and dance performances.
When I was in Taupo in April, I stopped in at Bayview Wairakei Resort, which is diagonally opposite the Wairakei Terraces Maori village. As I was coming out of their driveway, I was lured into the second by the handsome carvings that designate the village’s main entrance. I sadly didn’t have time to stop for the whole experience but I did take these photographs – which included a little peep through the bushes to this divinely cute little wharenui. You can find out much more about this terrific venue by clicking on their website:

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