I sit here in the small airport at Rotorua. The cafe is well-priced, the cappuccino greater than Starbucks quality. This regional airport is not unlike Erie’s. The only difference–which is reasonably jarring–is that there is no security.
Our tour is about to depart for the South Island, also known as Middle-Earth. But in doing so we must bid adieu to the kind city of Rotorua, New Zealand’s geothermal capital. It feels as if we are about to return to earth after a junket on Venus. The city is speckled with vents constantly releasing sulfurous steam. Sure, it was unpleasant to smell, and I may never eat an egg again, but it felt as if we were transported back in time.
You could easily imagine the first Maori tribes discovering the area, confounded by the ethereal mist as were we. We were fortunate enough to witness two Maori cultural presentations, both of which elucidated the islands they call “Aoteoroa.” Appropriately for us, each time vocal music was highlighted, serving to bridge the wide gap of the Pacific and bring their culture close to our American hearts.
Beyond geysers and ceremonies, we had the privilege of singing with a high school choir at a small Anglican church. One of their songs featured a Karanga, which a microtonal Maori chant invoking ancestral and natural spirits to come welcome guests of the tribe. It soared straight through the diatonic choral background and moved every man, woman, and child towards its attention.
Middle-Earth awaits us next. If it can live up to Rotorua, we are surely in for a treat.