Rotorua is a fun-filled city on the shores of Lake Rotorua in the middle of the North Island. It's also in the amazing geothermal region of New Zealand. Nowhere in NZ offered many as many varied experiences as Rotorua did.
First I became aquainted with the most obvious thing about Rotorua - the sulphury smell and steam rising from bubbling pools and drains in the public park. Rotorua is a hub of geothermal activity, and a walk through X Park on a chilly winter's afternoon is quite an eye-opener.
At night I set off to Mt Ngongotaha on the edge of Rotorua to experience an initimate and magical evening of Maori culture at the Mitai Hangi. The evening began with the fearsome challenge by the Maori chief, who then led us through Maori protocol as we were welcomed to the marae, sharing the breath of life (hongi - rubbing of noses). The Mitai Chief and his family then gave an excellent performance of Maori song, dance and warrior demonstrations, including the world famous haka.
The hangi followed (earth-cooked meal), and then the Chief took us on a tour of the bush featuring glowworms, explaining traditional uses for native plants in medicines. A superb evening ended appropriately with a meditation by the side of a trout-filled pool.