We were up at 7 am to be ready for our all-day tour. The bus was loaded and on its way by 8:15. It was about an hour’s drive to Rotorua City and Rainbow Springs Wildlife Park. We drove through farmland; mostly cattle ranches or kiwi farms. The production of kiwi fruit is a $1.3 billion industry for New Zealand and the majority of it is grown here. We were told by our guide on the bus (in 2011) that they were going to spend $130 million over the next few years to try develop a kiwi that will peel easily like a banana. At Rainbow Springs they raise rainbow trout to salt the local lakes for fishing and have kiwi birds and an aviary. The water from the spring is 98% pure. This is our ‘doctored’ photo holding kiwi birds.
After we toured Rainbow Springs we were driven the short distance to the Agrodome where we were introduced to all of the 19 different breeds of sheep raised in New Zealand – some breeds are for meat (8) and others are for the wool (11). (And it is true there are more sheep in New Zealand than people but the ratio is not a large as it used to be. In 1982 there were 22 sheep for each person – that’s 70 million sheep. 2016 figures came in a 27.6 million sheep or 6 per person.) This fellow could shear a sheep in less than a minute. At the time we were in New Zealand (2011) a shearer got paid $1.50 per fleece and would average 300 fleece per day. Good money for a skilled worker but a lot of back breaking, hot work over a short time period.
A few people were called on stage to feed the lambs.The sheep dog demo began with some duck herding.Yes, the dogs do run the backs of the sheep and the sheep don’t care. You can just make out the second dog jumping on to the back of the black sheep in the front row. The dogs then ran circles over the two rows of sheep. When the owner whistled they would just stop on whatever sheep they were crossing at the time. Outside we saw another demo of a sheep dog moving sheep through a series of gates.
The black swans were getting a little too close for her comfort.
On the way to the Māori Cultural Center we drove past the Blue Baths; a popular hot springs and hotel. They had a lovely rose garden. The Rotorua resort and wilderness area is built atop an active volcanic bed. Nearly everything is steaming and gurgling. It is also the heart of Māori lands. The Arawa people settled in this area in the 8th century believing the bubbling ground and hot water to be divine. They used the pools for cooking and bathing. The arrival of Europeans turned the area into a health spa.
Te Whakarewarewa thermal pools and geyser were like a mini-Yellowstone. Below is the full name but obviously it is not commonly used. Pohutu (meaning ‘spray’) GeyserThe cultural center has lovely examples of Māori art, buildings and weaving.
The school has a three-year course in traditional carving methods. The captain warned us that the scheduled stop in Napier the next day may be cancelled as a tropical storm was building in the area. We had a rock and roll night with high seas.