Day 3- November 20th
In the morning we visited a conservation center primarily for birds (New Zealand has no native mammals predators, possibly no native mammals? and as a result has a lot of flightless birds that desperately need conservation since stoats, rats, and dogs have been introduced.) We did the behind the scenes tour and got to see a baby kiwi which was pretty awesome. They also had a nocturnal house with 3 kiwis and an option to come back after dark to see more.
In the afternoon we visited Hell’s Gate geothermal park and caught up with a guided tour. This was a contrast to the other geothermals parks I’ve seen in Yellowstone because those are colorful and these were completely monochromatic. They talked about the “white”, “gray”, and “black” mud but they were really just all shades of gray. He told us all sorts of legends about the healing properties of the mud and which pools they used for cooking. We got to play with some of the mud which was also a contrast to Yellowstone where the general rule was “if you touch it you will die.” So after hearing all about the therapeutic healing powers of the mud we stepped over to the spa area for a mud bath followed by a soak in the sulfuric springs. Chris was mostly humoring me for this one but I’m very glad I talked him into it. The tub was mostly dirty water and all the mud was at the bottom so you had to scoop it up and coat yourself in it.
That evening we went to a Maori cultural show. They took us on a bush walk to see their war canoe and we saw another pool with geothermal activity. This one was my favorite since the pool was crystal clear but the mud at the bottom was bubbling up. I have no idea how the bottom could churn so much but not muddy the water but it was amazingly clear. So much so that it took a little while to determine where the water line was exactly. They did a presentation of their war dance, weapons, and facial mutilation (eventually it evolved into tattoos but they used to split the skin in elaborate designs over and over until it no longer healed but left intricate scars). I was quite smug to score front row seats for the presentation but it turns out the war dance is terrifying and loud and we may have been happier a couple of rows back. The dinner was cooked underground in the traditional haggai fashion but that’s about where the tradition in the food ended. We had lamb, beef, chicken, and stuffing. I would say this is the closest we got to Thanksgiving dinner this year.