On leaving our cruise ship, Holland America's MS Noordam, Anne from Xquizit tours takes us for a drive along Pilot Bay and then along the Pacific Coast of Mt Maunganui, surf beach on one side and luxury homes on the other, before we head inland through fertile land to the “Kiwi Fruit Capital” of New Zealand – Te Puke. We stop at Kiwi 360 which is a working Kiwifruit Orchard, where we are shown the kiwifruit vines and we learn the keys points of the kiwifruit growing cycles.
Next stop is the Kaituna River/Okere Falls at Lake Rotoiti, where we get up close to the falls but watch from a lookout, but we don't see any rafters or kayakers racing down the falls. This is a Grade 5 rafting river with the highest commercially rafted waterfall at 7m, in the southern hemisphere. Anne shows us the silver fern and explains how it came to represent the spirit of New Zealand, used by Maori hunters - to find their way at night.
Next a real treat, the Te Puia the Maori Cultural Centre. We are guided through this park and see the boiling mud pools, the natural geysers. Pohutu is the largest natural geyser in the southern hemisphere erupting to 30m in the air and generally twice an hour. We also visit the kiwi house where two kiwi birds live, looking at the nocturnal birds through a TV monitor. The kiwis are flightless and endangered. We also see the carving and weaving demonstrations and attend a Maori cultural performance which includes the traditional challenge, action songs and the famous Haka.
After Te Puia, we travel to the city centre and take in the beautiful Government Gardens, which is home to the Museum of Art & History, the Blue Baths, Te Runanga Tea House, Band Rotunda, Rachael Spring and the Totara Gates erected in the early 1900’s.
We return to the Port of Tauranga via the Scenic Highway, and it has been quite an entertaining day!
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