Te Puia was the impenetrable fortress of the Whakarewarewa Valley.
First occupied around 1325, a similar time to medieval castles in Europe, it was strategically built beneath the cliffs of Pohaturoa Mountain and surrounded by a natural moat of lethal hot pools. Terraced palisades, cleverly designed to trap enemies in trench warfare, could be erected at a moment’s notice. When the warning call went out, tribes from around the area took refuge inside its’ protective walls. For centuries, Te Puia never fell in battle.
Here is where the earth’s crust is thinnest, where awesome drama unfolds daily as geysers erupt, mud pools bubble, steam hisses and warm water rains down. Some 500 pools and at least 65 geyser vents, each with their own name, are found on this site. Seven geysers are active, the most famous, Pohutu, meaning big splash or explosion. In front of visitors Pohutu can erupt up to 30 metres high, depending on its mood.
The midday concerts at Te Puia are an easy and exciting introduction to the culture. Visitors simply gather outside the main entrance to the Marae. A traditional welcome marks the start of 45 minutes of song and dance inside the sacred meeting house. Here, surrounded by the carvings of ancestors, visitors are treated to perfect harmonies, the seductiveness of the Poi dance, the ferocity of the haka, (war dance) and the complexity of Tititorea, the stick games.
Be amazed at Te Wananga Whakairo, the traditional carving School, and Te Rito, the weaving school. Where Maori young and old are taught hands on in a craft centuries old. From the wood shavings of the carving workshop and the woven mats of the weaving school, students are happy to share the stories of their work, their ancestors and their lives. History is not only being retained. New pages are being written .