Our Country

We raised our heads as our Maori guide finished grace and as if on cue, out the window the Prince of Wales Feathers geyser began to play.

‘Kia Ora Ladies and Gentlemen, please stand and eat as much as you can,’ our gracious guide said.

There were a hundred of us in the room at dusk in Rotorua that night. We sat with two couples, one from Spain and one from Japan, we sipped kumara and watercress soup, tasted all sorts of fish and chose from a plethora of meats.

We talked of sights in far off lands and by the time of the crème brûlée the Prince of Wales Feathers was in full display.  But this sumptuous and generous feast at Te Puia was only one part of a total tourist experience.

Yes, we’d decided to do the whole tourist bit: stay at a bed and breakfast where we’d get inside tips and immerse ourselves in what was on offer in Rotorua.

So it was, within minutes of our late afternoon arrival, Lindsey Brannan at 124 on Brunswick had booked us in for Te Puia’s three-hour evening experience, which began with a taste of Maori culture. A surge of Kiwi pride swelled in us.

At the end of the evening, just before our three hours was up, there were murmurs  that the famous Pohutu Geyser might play. Was there a gurgle? Of course, it’s the luck of the draw at times like this, however the gods obliged and soon we were drenched in Pohutu’s steam, oohing and aahing with the crowd, each time she spouted – lit  in white, against the black sky.

This was only the start. Over the next few days we saw seven lakes, Okataina’s glorious bush, Wai-O-Tapu’s lime green pool, thermal wonders of orange and gold rocks, we saw the giant redwood forest, the grand Government Bath House, the beautiful St Faiths Church at Ohinemutu, one night we joined the buzz of Tutaneki St Night Market, another night the even bigger buzz of Eat Streat (sic) and we shopped for pounamu in an unashamedly tourist shop.

There was only one blip.

Late on the last afternoon, a soak in the Polynesian Thermal Pool appealed. We should’ve known better.  But their web photo showed two people lying in a natural pool by the shore of Lake Rotorua.

‘Are you busy?’ I asked.

‘Take a look,’ the attendant said.

In the numerous pools, we could not see water, for human heads…Did I like being a tourist in my own land?  Next day we drove to the East Coast, immersed ourselves as tourists in Napier for three days.

And loved it to bits.

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Janet Hart

Janet Hart lives in Nelson, where she taught English in secondary schools for nearly 30 years, before dabbling in a little historical New Zealand Art. In 2012 she took up Magazine Journalism, which now consumes her.