Local Heart, Global Soul

May 6, 2012

When The Furnace Is Housed In the Back Yard and Not In the House…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

Still on my retro tour of New Zealand and still in Whakarewarewa, the geothermal village  in Rotorua, the central North Island, it’s been amazing to see the geothermal landscape and learn about the pro’s and con’s of living in the midst of it.

Here is a quick look at the actual houses the village residents live in.

All of them are wooden as far as I can make out and they are all raised up off the ground too… this probably allows Mother Nature to give you natural and  warm underfloor heating rather than charred toes and blistered feet when getting out of bed in the morning.

We are told that because of the heavy downpour, steam isn’t rising off the streets as usual… but the ground is warm all the same. It came as no surprise that not one of the houses had a chimney.

In the last photo is the house that’s due for demolition soon… I stumbled on the photo later after deleting ones taken earlier that showed more raindrops than house. This was the house that will not be living happily every after, after a  new steam vent opened up under the kitchen and laundry floor and has  since rendered the home structurally unsound.

Mother Nature has her own rules… and it’s clear that living here gives you a whole new respect for her power and the amazing energy that she produces.  Local Maori have learned to live as harmoniously as possible with the living earth here,  and most of the time it seems to work very well indeed.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

 

May 5, 2012

You Wouldn’t Want to be Tickled by THESE Prince of Wales Feathers…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The next step in my retro tour of our recent trip to New Zealand is a look at the Prince of Wales Feather Geyser and the others close to it within the geothermal village of Whakarewarewa.

The area that it is possible to walk around the geothermal features is huge, and of course you can get a lot closer to the geysers, but the kids weren’t interested in doing so since the rain was now heavy enough to start soaking through their rain jackets and they were starting to resemble little drowned rats.

I had reached my limit on crutches and let the zoom lens on my camera do the close up looking for me.It would definitely be well worth a return visit on a dry day at a time when walking wasn’t a problem so that I could explore the whole place properly.

I was surprised to learn from our guide that some of the pools and geysers appear to erupt in harmony or in a chain reaction effect due to a complex array of interconnected subterranean water systems…

… but that some other  pools and geysers are supplied by entirely independant water supplies, underground ducts and chambers which is amazing considering that some of these interconnected and independent systems operate just meters away from each other.

Mother Nature’s  underground plumbing system here must be a very complex piece of natural machinery indeed.

If you look closely you’ll be able to make out small figures in raincoats and with umbrellas close to the Prince of Wales Feathers geyser featured in some of the photos… today’s rough weather makes them looked less neat and groomed than usual we are told.

In the meantime Wikipedia gives better information than I accumulated for this part of the tour so I’ll leave you a quote and a link to the page should you wish to read more.   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whakarewarewa

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Most of the currently active geysers at Whakarewarewa are located on Geyser Flat and aligned on a common fissure. This is a highly complex system, with the activity of one geyser affecting another.

Kereru Geyser, about 2 m above Puarenga Stream, located at the head of a small apron of blackish sinter, erupts every few days or weeks, in a fan-shaped jet 15 m high. No large eruptions occurred between 1972-1988, and it seems its recovery was directly linked to the sudden reduction of well drawoff in 1987. Kereru Geyser is probably independent of other springs on the fissure.

Geyser Flat : The Prince of Wales Feathers Geyser, Pohutu Geyser, Te Horu Geyser (The Cauldron) and Waikorohihi Geyser are on a sinter plateau about 6 m above Puarenga Stream.

Prince of Wales Feathers Geyser, Pohutu Geyser’s closest neighbour, always precedes Pohutu, a feeble jet at first but gradually increasing in power until a continuous 9 m high column is ejected on a dramatic angle, when Pohutu usually erupts also.

Sometimes Waikorohihi Geyser erupts a discontinuous 5 m high jet, then Prince of Wales Feathers will commence, later followed by Pohutu.

Until 1972, Te Horu Geyser erupted 2–7 m high as often as 10-15 times each day, but after that time eruptions and even boiling ceased. The water in Te Horu’s vent began to overflow again in 1998. A very direct connection exists between Te Horu and Pohutu, with air-cooled water erupted from Pohutu largely falling in Te Horu’s vent.

This may explain the popular belief that Pohutu is more active when there is a south wind, because most erupted water is then blown away to the north, whereas with a north wind much is returned to cool the system and delay the next eruption.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 4, 2012

Oi, How Dare You Poke Your Tongue Out At Me!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Just in case you have just joined this  blog, you are following the Kiwidutch retrospective tour of New Zealand,  and the trip we made there  in December 2011-January 2012.

It’s difficult to blog every day whilst travelling  “in real time” as we often don’t have regular internet connection, we are busy spending time with family and friends, going places, doing things, (or in my case hoisting my foot onto pillows and taking an afternoon nap) so my solution is to take notes on the laptop, take lots of photographs and to bring the two together as soon as I can after the event.

In this post we are still in Whakawarewa geothermal village , in Rotorua, central North Island and  this is the path that runs alongside the cemetery.

I’m intrigued by the presence of small carved wooden posts, all of figures, realistic or stylised, evenly spaced along the route.

Our guide tells us they are there for luck…  keeping up on crutches and trying to keep the camera dry in the downpour consumes my attention and I forget to ask if that means luck for the departed ancestor or for the living left behind…

I love the fact that these, whilst clearly centred around a theme, are all very different with their own character and I wonder if some of them may even  be actual portraits of people.

I love the fact that the fearsome act of the bulging eyes and sticking out of tongues, so prevalent in the famous Maori Haka warrior dances as a means of instilling fear into their enemies, are also represented here in these figures, and to such an extent that it almost looks like a competition to see who can do it the best.

The Haka is also all about summoning-up up bravery, bravado and courage…

…it’s about rising to the challenge when faced with adversity or a strong  adversary … so maybe this is indeed for the departed as I assume they thought you would need all of this when crossing over into the afterlife too?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 3, 2012

How To Bury Without Burying?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Family Kiwidutch are still visiting Whakarewarewa village in Rotorua, in the centre of the North Island of New Zealand.

As a geothermal hotspot there are many advantages to living here, but the practical  problems exist too and they extend past just the one of trying to start a garden.

One of the biggest problems is that of burial.

Maori traditionally bury their dead and do not  to my knowledge embrace cremation since ancestors are revered as much in death as they were in life.

Cemeteries are usually therefore close to the community and burial  poses a problem if the ground is warm to the touch on the surface and even hotter beneath.

Gardens could be accommodated outside of the geothermal community but the burial grounds not, so a solution needed to be found as to how to inter the departed.  Since even above ground is warm here, the only solution are thick concrete and lead lined graves that sit on solid concrete bases…  so even departing to another world is a kind of other worldly experience, the graves stand in surreal fashion in a surreal landscape…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

May 2, 2012

Wharenui… A Sacred and Beautiful Meeting Place.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Welcome to the Kiwidutch retrospective tour of New Zealand… we were there December 2011- January 2012 and after spending time in Christchurch we are now heading  north to visit friends and family in the upper North Island.

At this point of the trip we are staying in Rotorua and are visiting the geothermal village of  Whakarewarewa: have  just attended a Maori culture show and are learning about the amazing uniqueness of the area and what’s it’s like to live here as one of the lucky few residents living smack on top of a geological wonder.

One thing I always love to look at is Maori artworks… the carvings and motifs fascinate me, I know that  Meeting Houses (“wharenui” ) have special significance and that the structure itself usually represents the body of a revered and sacred ancestor.

The roof line is the spine of the person so there is a  “head” at the centre of the main gable and the two long protruding parts down the sides at the front are “arms” complete with stylised fingers at the ends.

Inside it’s not the done thing to take photographs inside of a Meeting House (the dancing was ok, just not close ups of carvings and decorations as it’s a sacred place, so I content myself with the acceptable  photographs of the outside which are ok, well at least as much as the persistent downpour permits.

If you’d like to learn more about Marae protocol, click on this link:   http://www.eske-style.co.nz/maraeprotocol.asp for an excellent description.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 30, 2012

Oops… You Aren’t Supposed to Pre-Boil Your Veggies…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

You might think that living normal life in an active geothermal area like Whakarewarewa would be an amazingly easy lifestyle  because Mother Nature does your cooking and provides all your hot water and heating for you.

However,  apart from the possible perils of falling into a pool of boiling water (thankfully  a risk vastly reduced by some very solid fencing materials) there are some more unusual difficulties to be faced.

Take gardening for instance… my first reaction was “great, a warm micro climate and no frosts, most be fantastic to garden here” … but it’s not.

I forgot that if the ground is capable of cooking your dinner, it’s also perfectly capable of  indiscriminatingly cooking the roots of any living thing planted into it too.

Our guide tells us that gardening has been a real problem that the local residents have been unable to provide a good solution for… not just for decades now,  but for centuries.  Seeds would cook and die before getting a chance to germinate and roots of  plants bought in from outside the area burned in the hot soil.  The only solution was to make gardens in areas away from the geothermal activity and to transport fruits and vegetables into the village.

Over  the decades various types of gardens were put to the test, and one by one were found to be no match for Mother Nature’s heat. Finally  in December 2011,  after multiple  unsuccessful experimental attempts the same year, the Whakarewarewa village community produced their very first  successful crops.

(I wrote the word “layering”  in my travel diary notes so I think that’s why they have achieved success but I’ve in the meantime completely forgotten what was layered …yes, Duh… apologies.).  Clearly by the look of these crops  they have done something right…  we are told that all of the veggies we see in front of us now, started life as seeds  just three months ago.

This is a real break-through for the community…  to be able to grow a simple veggie crop directly on top of one of the earth’s hot spots…  Now, I think that that is very cool indeed.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 29, 2012

Cooking Mother Nature Style!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The residents of  Whakarewarewa Village in Rotorua have a very unique way of cooking.

Year round it  requires the usual preparation but no electricity… and yes they do eat warm meals!

Slaving over a hot stove is unheard of here… why take the trouble when you can let Mother Nature take care of  it for you!

A suitably sized steam vent is found and a concrete surround is fitted around it. Into this is inserted a heavy wooden box with slats in the bottom. To complete the cooking equipment a fitted wooden cover is made for the box.

Our guide tells us that anything  you can think of that you would be  normally cooked at home on your oven or stove-top can be cooked in the box.

Meats, veggies, even breads and desserts… It’s as simple as placing things in the box,closing the lid and going off to go other things whilst Nature takes care of the food. This large pot of meat and vegetables was put into the box about 4 hours ago and as it’s getting midday soon the owner will be coming to retrieve it for their lunch.

Amazingly I learn from our guide that any sort container can be used in the box without problems, even Tupperware containers and plastic bags. Apparently Mother Nature makes a seriously good steamed puddings and does joints of lamb fabulously in this… the world’s most organically powered slow cooker.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 28, 2012

Falling Into a Hole and Getting Into Hot Water… Hopefully ….Never THIS One !

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are taking a guided tour around Whakarewarewa  Village in Rotorua, in the the centre of  New Zealand’s North Island.

It’s an inhabited geothermal area and living side by side with steam, boiling mud, water and geysers has both positive and negative aspects.

This is a look around at some of the pools, vents and formations around here…  by chance I realised that the house  (with the red roof) in the background of the first photo is the one that’s soon to be demolished because  Mother Nature opened up a steam vent under the kitchen floorboards and not the building is no longer structurally sound or inhabitable.

In other photos different minerals in various quantities within the boiling water springs produce a startling array of colours via built up mineral deposits.

Our guide points to a very solidly fenced enclosure where an incongruous looking small hole is near the centre.. we are told that there is water in the hole… but getting close to this particular  hole in the earth would be way  too risky. We are told that the solid looking crust here is deceptive… in fact it’s so thin that it wouldn’t  support a person’s weight, hence the sturdy fencing around the area.

Various New Zealand scientists came and studied this new fissure  when it opened up and found that it posed more questions than they could find answers for.  They subsequently called upon the services of  geological colleagues from the United States and together carried out some tests using a long armed crane.

Findings so far are have been that there is boiling water in the hole… measurements to find out  how deep the hole was stopped at some approximately 220 meters (721 feet)  only because that’s how far the specialist measuring equipment reached.

The hole is most certainly far deeper,  but until more advanced equipment that can can reach further is invented, it will remain a little mystery as to just how far down into the earth this hole reaches.  The temperature is boiling and constant and so naturally they are keeping an eye on it to see if this dangerously thin area of the earth’s crust is growing or changing in any way.

Luckily people are well protected from this fragile and dangerous spot… had it not been, then quite literally,  a wrong turn off the path here would land you both in a very deep hole and get you into some seriously hot water.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

… a very very deep hole,  one that would get you into very hot water…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 27, 2012

Mother Nature Giveth, Mother Nature Taketh Away…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

In a continuation of yesterday’s post, we have entered the geothermal village of Whakarewarewa…

Yes, it’s pelting down rain,  but our legs are warm as the steam from surrounding vents  swirl clouds of warm vapour around us.

Pools of boiling water, mud or stem vents are fenced off for obvious safety reasons, even for locals, these are not areas to be accidently straying into in the dark on a walk home after a few too many at the local pub, or for small children or hapless tourists to be falling into.

One of the first houses we see inside the village looks to be in a rather sorry state of repair… our guide tells us that it was in pristine state not too long ago but is now awaiting demolition.

(I did take photos but the rain on the lens messed up the photos and I’m probably incredibly lucky it didn’t mess up the camera as well) .   Apparently some months ago a new steam vent opened up below the floor of the house’s kitchen and adjoining laundry… with increasing damage as the vent grew, the walls becoming quickly so damp that that they became structurally unsound and the house needed swift evacuation.

Mother Nature provided all the free heating and hot water, but whilst she gives she also takes away… this house is now directly over a hot-spot in a crack on this ultra thin section of the earth’s crust and now no building can ever be built here again.

It’s a reminder of the very simple reality that all the residents of the village face, but they will pragmatically move when Nature moves and they see it as a natural trade off for the lifestyle they have here.

A local lady is standing  under an umbrella within the safety fence  of a pool filled with boiling water… at first I assume she’s fishing and then of course realise that fish can’t live in boiling water.  Going closer I see that she has some flax woven together, tied onto a rope and is tossing it in and out of the boiling water pool.

The water and the minerals in it are curing the flax, changing it’s colour and the heat of the water is slowly curling up the flax into tubes that, once they have been dunked often enough to make the perfect shape,  will be used to make traditional Maori grass skirts, used when dancing and on ceremonial occasions.

Let’s look though some of the steamy clouds of warm air at what’s around us…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

April 26, 2012

A Welcome Extended Literally Into Our Guide’s Back Yard…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Whakarewarewa Village is not just a place full of mock-up buildings where workers turn up for work  in the morning to imitate the roles of Maori life as it would have been in the past and then go home in the evening…

Not that there is necessarily anything wrong  in this sort of tourist attraction anywhere  in the world,  since often that sort of demonstration is the only opportunity left for people to see how a culture existed in the past, and whenever and however people learn is a good thing after all.

But what’s special about Whakarewarewa Village is that the people who show you around during the day are quite literally showing you their back yard, they live here too.

Tourists quite rightly, don’t get to intrude into people’s actual houses, but they can learn a lot about life in the village from the residents themselves.

This puts a whole new dimension to the phrase “Working from Home”… or in this case, ….next to it.

After exiting the building where we learned about the history of the area and bought tickets for a guided tour we pass by a wall, where notable guides from the last 100 years are featured…

…and then pass under  a commemorative archway and over a bridge to begin our tour.

I know that “Whakarewarewa ” is a very long name… but the Maori language is full of long names and spare a thought for these folks if they had to use the “official” name all of the time,  since “Whakarewarewa” is  actually the shortened version!

The village’s website http://www.whakarewarewa.com/about-us/ tells me that their official name is  “Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao” meaning ” The uprising of the warriors (war party) of Wahiao”.

It’s still pelting down rain and the surrounding area could be mistaken for being foggy or misty, but this is neither mist or fog,  it’s steam rising from the ground from vents all around us.

We cross the bridge and enter…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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