Our cruise ship docked in Tauranga at 8AM and by 8:30 we joined a small group of friends for a full day of culinary experiences in The Bay of Plenty. Kiwi, the world's healthiest food, grows better here than in any other place in the world. We toured Kiwi 360 a Kiwi orchard where we walked into the orchards and sat under the kiwi vines for a lecture about the history and commercial development of the kiwi fruit. Did not know there is a " yellow" kiwi prized in China and Japan and not available in the USA. We had NO idea of the significance of this fruit. They served us morning tea and kiwi juice and scones with kiwi jam. The large gift shop had many interesting kiwi products. From here we continued to travel inland past the many lakes of Rotorua to Whakarewarewa. This is a geothermal valley created more than 40,000 years ago and filled with hot springs, bubbling pools and gushing geysers. The Maori have inhabited this land since the early 14th century. And they continue to use the geothermal pools for cooking " kai" their word for food. We were hosted by Maori at Te Puia a working village that continues to teach the skills of the Maori people like wood carving and weaving. We had a local guide who walked us down through the valley to a private area that overlooked our own geothermal pool. A tent and tables were set up for us to enjoy preparing our food the traditional way placing our food in a woven bag which was lowered into the pool where it cooked very quickly and naturally in the super hot water! We cooked large mussels, corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, prawns and eggs! We were offered champagne and wine/beer as well as iced tea or kiwi juice, beautiful salads, homemade breads and fruit and bread puddings for dessert. While our food cooked we were able to prepare tasty dips using traditional Maori native herb alternatives. DELICIOUS!! Just as the meal was ending, their large geyser erupted and continued to erupt for about 15 minutes allowing us to take great photos. Our guide and chef offered interesting and colorful commentary about the importance of location in the choices and availability of food to the indigenous people. This continues to be important today. We then toured the village and watched the apprentice craftspeople carving wood and weaving reeds. .... Most people head to Rotorua and the spa hotels, thermal pools etc.. We were not interested in this especially since we had only one day to explore the area. But these tours would be available to anyone staying in the Rotorua area and definitely worth experiencing.
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