We set the alarm for 6 AM. We had a tour booked to the thermal area around Lake Rotorua. Normally we don’t take ship tours but this one was a “freebee” for booking early (nothing on a cruise is really free, but…) It would have been an expensive one and we been out of pocket.
But we had a problem. Suzi still was in isolation with symptomless COVID. We got up at 6, dressed and prepared as if we could go. At 6:30 our breakfast arrived. We had asked the medical department to come by our cabin first thing for testing to see if Suzi was negative so we could take the tour. The nurse arrived at 7:15. The tour was to assemble at 7:30. Suzi did the swab and we waited to see if the second red line would appear. After 10 minutes it had not, and the nurse declared Suzi COVID free. We grabbed our stuff and ran to the muster area for the tour. I remembered to bring my raincoat and hat but left my camera in the room. Fortunately, I had my new iPhone.
Our next concern was Suzi getting off the ship. They scan your card in and out. When you have COVID they block your card and we were not sure that the formal email from medical to security would get to the gangway before Suzi did. It did so were on our adventure.
The first stop was the Agrodome, an agricultural tourist show where they gave demonstrations of sheep shearing (a good shearer can do 300 sheep in 8 hours, a little over a minute and a half per sheep) and dog handling, except they had the dogs herd ducks in the “dome.” After the show we watched a dog work sheep in the paddock. It was a corny, silly tourist show but we got to see different breeds of sheep and learn what they were good for. Little kids got to bottle feed lambs.
But the main reason fort the tour was to visit Te Puia, a Māori cultural center and geothermal area featuring bubbling mud, steaming water, hot rocks, the smell of Sulphur and several geysers, including the Pohutu geyser. Pohutu erupts about 20 times a day and shoots water 30 meters (almost 100 feet) into the air. The water comes out boiling hot but by the time it reaches the ground it is only about 11 degrees Celsius, (50 F). Conveniently it has a sister geyser that erupts a few minutes before Pohutu which they call the indicator geyser, although one guidebook calls it the Prince of Wales’s Feathers. I have no idea why. You can sit on the hot rocks and warm your butt while watching water shoot skyward. But if you sit on the hot rocks, you get soaked. Adjacent to Te Puia a golf course has water hazards that bubble with signs telling you not to retrieve balls. The whole area is spellbinding with sight, sound touch and smell, and perhaps a taste of Sulphur.
The New Zealand Māori Arts and Crafts institute sits next to the bubbling caldron. It runs classes for stone, bone and wood carving and traditional weaving with masters and apprentices working on practice pieces and commission works. We watched the artists at work. It was particularly interesting for me after watching years of Tlingit and Haida carvers work in South East Alaska. Several Tlingit carvers spent time in this region exchanging techniques and motifs with Māori carvers. Suzi has a Tlingit/Māori, I guess you would call it “fusion” bracelet.
Finally, there was a Māori song and dance program, including the obligatory public participation dance.
On the ride back we cruised Lake Rotorua’s shores (in a bus.) It is a classic resort area except that once a geyser erupted spontaneously in the middle of the lake, and then it want away. Swimming along one shore of the lake is not advised because you could get cooked. We arrived back at the ship 9 hours later.
Holland America likes to issue certificates. The crossing the Arctic Circle certificate, the crossing the international dateline certificate, the crossing the equator certificate, the crossing the prime meridian certificate, the crossing the prime meridian and equator at the same time certificate, but the certificate greeting us when we got back were probably the most useful of them all, the COVID Recovery certificate. Australia here we come!