January 8, 2009
Image via Wikipedia
We’re nearing the end of three amazing weeks on the road in the North Island – from the Wairarapa to the East Cape, on to the Coromandel and back through Rotorua and Taupo it’s been a great trip. However an event in Rotorua yesterday motivated me to write this post.
Nearing the end of the trip we were a little time constrained so decided to visit Wai-O-Tapu, one of the several Rotorua based thermal reserves. The entrance fee was pretty steep (for these Kiwis anyway) but we thought we’d treat the kids. As part of the entry we got to go and see the Lady Knox Geyser yesterday morning.
For the uninitiated the Lady Knox Geyser is a moderately large steam vent that shoots water a fair distance into the sky, my doubt was raised a little when I read that the geyser goes off at 10:15 each morning – methinks mother nature can’t be timed quite so tightly!
We turned up and came upon a large amphitheatre replete with several hundred camera toting tourists all waiting for the main event. Our “guide” then turned up and told a little tale about the geyser before throwing a few hundred grams of chemicals into the geyser vent to create the show – about as authentic a natural geyser as the Bucket Fountain in Cuba Street, Wellington.
The experience leaves me with two distinct questions:
My belief is that in all commerce people are looking for authentic experiences. A human created geyser event doesn’t fall into that category. If New Zealand has to prostitute itself in order to attract visitors, are we not doing ourselves more long term damage than good?
Wai-O-Tapu is run by the local tribe I believe. Maori hold geysers, and the thermal areas generally as sacred or Tapu – I was incredulous that they’d allow the sort of desecration to occur that I saw there – maybe a few thousand visitors a day (and the tens of thousands of dollars they generate) absolves one of cultural sensitivity – if so it’s a sorry example of where our values as a nation lie. How far does cultural sensitivity extend in New Zealand – just till the US dollars or Euros appear?
Luckily some things never change. I’m writing this from an amazing and (almost) free campsite on the banks of the Rangitikei river at Mangaweka. It’s camping the way it used to be – a nice flowing river, very limited amenities and a bunch of trees to climb and walks to go on – the real New Zealand – 100% Pure!