A surf board purchase called for a road trip to Rotorua (to pick it up!) and a surf trip in Raglan.
The few days before New Years Eve, Sandy and I made our way from Rotorua (a town of geothermal wonders that smells like rotten eggs due to the sulfur but you get used to it) to Mount Manganui (a gorgeous little beach city that's now one of my favorite places).
FUN FACT: The Mount is actually an extinct volcanic cone.
We had a couple of lovely picnic and ice cream filled beach days there making it the best volcanic cone yet.
While in Rotorua, Sandy and I went to the Tamaki Maori Village for an authentic New Zealand cultural experience.
The Maori's are the indigenous people of New Zealand and like Native Americans in the US or Aboriginals in Australia, they have very sensitive and complex history with the European settlers and have struggled to keep their culture alive. Racism certainly exists in New Zealand and the Maori people also deal with many economic and social obstacles so I was bit concerned that this "must see" tourist experience would wind up being campy and culturally offensive. Luckily, I was wrong and it was awesome.
The Tamaki Village was founded by two Maori brothers. One sold his motorcycle to fund the venture and it's gone on to become the most award winning village in NZ, portraying the history and the traditional spirit quite realistically.
About 15% of NZ's population identify as Maori and about a fifth of those have kept the language alive and well. There's definitely a Maori influence in all parts of New Zealand culture, tribal tattoos are quite popular among everyone (even face tattoos! Which is always a surprise to see in grocery store), much of the Maori craftsmanship is featured in jewelry and their national rubgy team, the All Blacks, do the Haka (the traditional warrior dance) at the start of every match.
We learned about ancient ceremonies, Maori words ("kia ora" means "hi") and experienced a bit of their original lifestyle, warrior traditions and music. The best part was the authentic Hangi, the giant meal that's cooked for several hours using heated rocks in a pit oven deep in the earth. It was like a Maori Thanksgiving. There was even stuffing. That may not have been historically accurate but it was delicious.