Mountain Biking & Maori Warriors

Rotorua Travel Blog

 › entry 27 of 117 › view all entries
An easier section
Seen as Rotorua was the home of the 2006 World Mountain Bike Championships, it seemed only fitting that two complete novices gave it the runaround. The location: Whakarewarewa Forest, surrounded by beautiful Redwoods, with more trails than you could shake a stick at.

After hiring some bikes - a lot more expensive but a lot better than the ones in South America - we saddled up and hit the tracks. The tracks' difficulty ranged from two to six. We started off at two, supposed to be the easiest, but there was still the odd steep hill, fast downhill or hard-to-negotiate obstacles, so from the outset we felt at least a little challenged. A personal fave was the Dipper, which did pretty much exactly what it says on the tin - lots of dips with weaving, fast corners and lots of speed without much pedaling.
A waka
  Once I had this sort of level mastered, I felt the urge for more of a challenge, and to try the harder grades. We were expecting to be surrounded by other backpackers or casual bike riders, but most were in groups of riders, kitted out with flash bikes and fitted lycra cycling outfits. So Kyle was slightly bemused when I demanded we tried a grade 3, and although I don't regret doing it, I have to admit that by the third time I was jumping off before hitting an obstacle or shooting downhill after a blind turn, I thought I might have made a more sensible judgement and kept to the Dipper.

After a well-needed shower, we prepared for the evening's festivities, in the hospitality of the Mitai family - who were to put on a public show about their Maori culture, set in a nearby forest.
Maori warrior
After a welcome drink in shelter, we were taken to Wai-O-Whiro stream to watch a traditional Maori canoe - or waka - being paddled by the Mitai warriors. After trying to take hundreds of photos of them - nearly all unsuccessful cos they wouldn't keep still - we sat under a canopy for the main event, the cultural performance. Songs and stories detailing the history of the Mitai and Maori tribes were performed, the reasoning behind the tattoos - or ta moka - were given and displays of weaponry was followed by an explosive rendition of the famous Haka.

Then, for me anyway, the main event. A benefit of geothermal Rotorua, for the Maori tribes at least, is the fact that the ground is a perfect method of cooking. So for hours before we arrived a feast had been cooked underground. Chicken and lamb was cooked to perfection, and sweet potatoes and cauliflower cheese, and even some stuffing - all the way from England, apparently - were all welcome, too. Needless to say I left feeling in a bit of pain, seen as it was the first decent meal we had had in New Zealand since we arrived.

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An easier section
An easier section
A waka
A waka
Maori warrior
Maori warrior
Riding the Dipper
Riding the Dipper
Semi-naked men
Semi-naked men
Anger
Anger
More anger
More anger
Rotorua
photo by: Vanessa_Mun_Yee