Polynesian Cultural Centre – Laie – Oahu – Hawaii – 2014 – Day 11

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We went to the Polynesian Cultural Centre (55-370 Kamehameha Hwy). 7 islands in one place.

It was such a fun experience. We got a 10% discount because of our large group which included luau with buffet and a show – $99CDN. It was pretty much a large outdoor facility with majority of its staff coming from the local university. At certain islands, we were able to get temporary skin tattoos from Aotearoa (Ow-T-O-roa), Tonga and Tahiti.

We started at the Samoa pavilion and the Kap was an amazing MC. He showed us how to open a coconut and start a fire with its husk. You can tell when a coconut is ready by the colour – it needs to be brown – therefore a ripe coconut. We played the stick game at the Aotearoa island where you throw 4 sticks back and forth. We walked around and tried to catch all the shows. We saw the huge canoe pageant on the river where all the islands had their own float and did a few dances that represented each particular culture.

We then met up with the rest of the group for the luau buffet. It was really good. The mango smoothie in the pineapple is really tasty (if you decide to purchase). The food selection consisted of kalua pig, poke, steak, chicken, fish, taro, sweet potato and salad for the most part. It was such a good meal to have while watching a luau.

After the luau, we went to the show – Ha Mana. Sortof like a musical with incorporation of all 7 island styles of dance but also showing that the Ha (spirit) gets passed on within the ohana through centuries. It was such a good show but the highlight was definitely the aeoteroa haka dance and the fire baton spinning sections.

Rotorua, New Zealand 2010 – Day 15

05/09/10

Heading out of Auckland today and we wanted to rent a car to continue our journey to Rotorua and area. We got picked up by the car rental van. The guy was a total jerk and we definitely didn’t vibe with him. Ill refer to him as jerk. Anyways, we were told terms beforehand which couldn’t be offered for example parking. We will be driving back on the 12th as our flight is on the 13th at 7AM meaning we need to check in at 5AM. The jerk put us through a lot but luckily there was a customer who had just returned a car and was getting dropped off at the airport so we asked to be dropped off at the airport where we can rent a car for the rest of our trip and also drop off the car anytime. We rented with Europcar and prices were a little higher because we are “young drivers” under 25 and picked up a Hyundai Gatz. We drove straight to Rotorua as this was a hitch in our day with the jerk who took away 3 more hours than we would’ve liked.

GPS is our friend. I highly recommend making sure your rental has GPS included. Andrew was driving and well… I hate how he drives in toronto… Add new zealand driving on top of that…. Great… but I get to drive tomorrow! New Zealand/Auckland feels like a mixture of Pasadena/NYC filled with the hustle and bustle but its not crazy busy as NYC is. The streets especially residential are filled with slopes similar to Pasadena terrain. Getting on the highway from Auckland going towards Rotorua, the hills reminded me of LA like the the route heading up to Golden Oaks Ranch.

3 hours later we arrived into Rotorua and its got a very distinctive smell of rotten eggs due to all of the geothermal sulphurous gases. We checked into our hostel Crash Palace Backpackers (1271 Hinemaru Street) and basically strolled the town or surrounding streets. Can I tell you how dead it was… Mind you it’s Mothers day and a Sunday. The streets were empty and very much like Ottawa at 8PM.

We booked a Mitai (Mitai Maori Village – 196 Fairy Springs Rd) and Kiwi (Rainbow Springs) encounters upgrade for tonight and it was not let down. The Mitai was run by one family for generations but now is run by multiple families. They also called themselves the Maori. Aoeteroa – land of the long white cloud. We went to Mitai to enjoy a ceremonial hangi dinner where we participated in the burying lamb chicken potatoes and sweet potatoes in the earth where the heat would slow cook it making everything perfect. As we waited for the food to cook, we were led down to a river where a canoe arrived with men welding torches appearing then led us to a stage where they performed a cultural piece for us. In this performance, they showed us their traditional weapons, instruments, fighting techniques, training, music and games – well done!

They also explained the meaning behind the moko tattooing of birds. The story begins with a god and goddess in a quarrel where the god strikes his wife. The wife runs away and the man goes after her. On his adventure, he comes upon another god who has a beautiful moko tattoo on his face. He befriends him and asks him to give it to him as well. That man decides that he will only if he gives him his bird – owl, parrot, bat and kiwi in return for a custom/unique design. On the women, they have owls tattooed on their chin as they are the protectors. The males have bats on their foreheads with wings spanning over their temples. The face represents a home where the bat represents intelligence and wisdom. By doing so, the bat is historically placed in the very top of the house. The next bird they present on the face is that of a parrot being the watchers. They would place the parrot on the windowsill. the parrot’s eyes become the person’s eyes thus seeing both sides of the beak on their nose. The kiwi; the flightless bird remains on the ground, protecting the home by eating intruders. The beak and head of the kiwi is tattooed around the mouth. On the left hand side is the design of the mother clan (intelligence, calmness, femininity) and the right the father clan (rage, anger, power, masculinity). Yin and yang.

After a wonderful dinner and show, we went on a 45 minute tour at Rainbow Springs to see the kiwis at night and other animals. The Kiwi’s are nocturnal with very sensitive hearing and sight. The park had 4 on site and we would catch glimpse of them at the back of their cage.

Rotorua is the largest tourist area in New Zealand and it thrives off of that. This town is in it’s down season at the moment because its fall and snow hasn’t fallen just yet.

Tongariro National Park tomorrow!

Auckland, New Zealand 2010 – Day 13 & 14

05/07/10

Rangitoto island was on our schedule for the day. We ran to the dock to purchase our ferry tickets (30NZD Auckland->Rangitoto Return) but missed the ferry we intended to catch. So as we waited for the next ferry to arrive, we walked over to Westfield mall to do a little souvenir shopping and grab lunch. Since I’ve been down under, I’ve been really intrigued with the aboriginal culture of the Maori. I love the symbols and the meaning and wanted to find myself a pendant. I had no luck finding one in Australia that I truly loved but I got a nice seal or whale bone fish hook (hei matau) necklace for myself. The fish hook’s meaning in Maori culture signifies abundance, strength and determination. It is believed to bring peace, prosperity and good health. It harbours good luck and energy, and is believed to provide safe journey over water. It’s a good luck charm by travellers, boaties, fishermen and surfers.

The ferry ride was nice but very chilly riding on top. We got to the island and began our hour hike to the summit. Basically, Rangitoto Island is an inactive volcano with black soil and loads of volcanic rock. The hike was long but not too long. The paths are uneven as you are stepping on jagged and odd shaped volcanic rocks. My feet and knees cried in pain for a bit afterwards. There are also lava caves that have formed and are great to explore however we didn’t bring a “torch” aka flashlight but luckily a nice family lent us a torch to explore it ourselves. After we finished the cave, it was a gruesome slope of a hike to reach the summit where we could look into the core of what use to be an active volcano. Mind you, we felt we were running out of time so we rushed back to the docks to catch the ferry and return the torch to the family. The rest of the evening was spent walking around town and we visited the Skytower. We were too late to see Toi O Tamaki (art gallery) so we found ourselves at Jimmy Wong’s for dinner and then headed back to the hostel.

 

05/08/10

We decided to skip Bay of Islands because it is far North from Auckland and for a pickup it would be an extra 100 on the tour price. Instead we decided to take the link bus over (1.70NZD a ride) to Newmarket (the south point) to do shopping. Breakfast at Massimo. We tried to shop for a bit then made out way to Auckland Museum (25NZD). It’s a nice museum with 3 floors and many exhibits to see. I purchased a beautiful jade fish hook necklace from the gift shop here and its one of the more appealing ones I’ve seen. We spent a good 2-3 hours here exploring. After that, we walked up to Parnell Rd; another shopping area but by the time we arrived it was roughly 430PM and stores were closing. We ate dinner at La Porchetta (167-171 Parnell Rd) and wanted to get Movenpick Ice Cream after but alas, we decided to order 2 medium pizzas, a jug of coke and garlic bread thinking with our eyes over our stomach.