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  • Day277

    Back on Stray

    March 7 in New Zealand ⋅ ☁️ 68 °F

    Yesterday, Helen dropped me off so I could catch the Stray bus and head south to Wellington. What's really cool about Stray is that it's not just taking a bus from one place to another. You can do that for about $25 US. Stray takes you places in between.

    Our first stop after leaving Rotarua was to the boiling mud, my third visit and still mesmerizing. Then we stopped in the Kaingaroa Forest, the largest man-made forest in the Southern Hemisphere at 276,000 hectares. Interestingly, Harvard University and a Canadian teachers pension fund own the land. However, New Zealand is trying to return traditional tribal lands back to the Maori, so this tribe will receive 85,000 hectares in 2045.

    We picked up Ena, our 18-year-old Maori tour guide, who has perhaps the bubbliest personality I've ever come across. What a hoot. Anyway, she took us to see the rock carvings in the forest. They date to about 1050 and depict the Moari's Great Migration from Hawaiki, their original homeland now lost from knowlege, to New Zealand, called Aoteorua for the long white cloud in Maori.

    After that, we went to our accommodation, Kohutapu Lodge on Lake Aniwhenua in the very tiny town of Murupara. Some of the group learned then performed the Huka, while I played with the very friendly goat and pig. The owners and their team served us a delicious hungi, traditional Maori meal.

    The next morning was another magnificent sunrise, then we were back on the bus. Our first stop today was to a daycare facility in Murupara, to which we gave the rest of the hungi and interacted with the kids, aged 6 months to 4 years.

    Then, we made a short stop at Huka Falls. Enough water flows to fill five Olympic-sized swimming pools every minute! Cool.

    Now, we're in Taupo for lunch. According to Maori legend, the lake is the heart of the fish that is the North Island. It's NZ's largest lake and was formed by a massive eruption that vaporized the land (a crater lake). Gorgeous.

    So long [for now] and thanks for all the fish. ✌️
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