Tag Archives: tourism

The Pink and White Terraces, the 8th wonder of the world

Hailed as the eighth wonder of the world, the Pink and White Terraces on the shores of Lake Rotomahana near Tarawera, Rotorua, were, for a time, the country’s premier tourist attraction.

A view of Tarawera today
A view of Tarawera today

For over a thousand years water had been spilling from geysers above Lake Rotomahana. The water left thick pink and white silica deposits that formed terraces, enclosing pools of silky clear water that left the skin feeling soft and refreshed.

The White Terraces, known to the Maori people as Te Tarata or the tattooed rock, faced north at the end of the lake.Their white appearance was attributed to bleaching effects of the sun. With a drop of forty metres, they covered an area of 3 hectares and descended over approximately 50 layers.

Prettiest and most popular, the Pink Terraces or Otukapuarangi, the fountain of the clouded sky, were about two thirds of the way down the lake, on the western shore, facing south east.Their pink colour was said be caused by the presence of algae and by the absence of sun. The Pink and white terraces were 30 metres high. At the top the terraces covered an area of  75–100 metres, while the lowest were about 27 metres wide.

Reaching the terraces involved quite a journey. In Auckland, the travellers boarded a steamer and sailed to the port of Tauranga.  From there they took a 70 kilometre coach over the rugged hills to Rotorua. After a night’s rest they took the coach again to Te Wairoa, 17 kilometres to the south. Here they rested again. The following morning a local Maori guide led them down through the bush to Lake Tarawera where they were ferried by canoe to a narrow isthmus on the other side. The travellers crossed the isthmus on foot while the specially constructed canoe was dismantled and carried across. On the shores of Lake Rotomahana it was reassembled and its passengers re-embarked for the breathtaking trip up to the terraces. There they soaked in the pools or trudged up the hillsides for picture and even photo opportunities.

The terraces were a gold mine for the people of Te Wairoa. Pakeha businesses, particularly the hotels, boomed. The tangata whenua, the Tuhourangi people, flourished from the tourist trade, providing cultural entertainment, transport and guiding services as well as photo opportunities. Such was their prosperity, that the paua shell eyes in the carvings of the ancestral figures in their meeting house, Hinemihi, were replaced with gold sovereigns.

But the golden days of Te Wairoa were not to last.

Mykonos, Part 4, Petros the pelican

I was enjoying the last drops of a hot, strong, post-prandial Greek coffee on the terrace of a café in Little Venice, Alefkantra, when a large pink bird waddled past. He paused, preened, then hopped gracefully up the café steps. All heads turned as he passed, cameras clicked and flashed, a waiter with an armful of carefully balanced plates stood back and the Maitre d’ rushed out to usher him through the door.

“Who was this famous fowl?”  I wondered.

Petros the Pelikan of Mykonos
Petros the Pelican of Mykonos

This was Petros, the pink pelican, the Mascot of Mykonos. With his girlfriend Irini, (also a pelican, also pink) he wanders the steep stone laneways, dropping in for a snack at cafés and restaurants along the way, posing for pictures, visiting friends, blending with the tourists and enjoying every moment of his life as the island’s most celebrated bird.

Petros was not the first pelican to make his home on Mykonos and assume the mascot’s mantle. Nor has he been the only Petros

In 1954, after a fierce storm, a local fisherman found a pelican washed up on the beach. He was exhausted, bedraggled and unable to fly. The fisherman nursed him back to health and before long he was a familiar figure, waddling the laneways, dropping into cafes or preening in the squares for a photo opportunity.  The people of Mykonos named him Petros. Everyone, islanders and tourists alike, fell in love with him.

Petros seemed set to live happily ever after on Mykonos, and although nature designed pelicans to live in pairs, he seemed content with his bachelor life. However, a well-meaning match-maker and rather famous Mykonos visitor, called Jackie Onassis, decided that he should have a wife. She found him a partner in Louisiana. Her name was Irini.

The wedding of Petros and Irini was a big fat Greek affair, with crowns, canopies, several priests, the whole population of Mykonos and a multitude of tourists in attendance. The marriage, however, was not a match made in heaven.  Petros didn’t warm to Irini and she gave him the cold shoulder. They went their separate ways.

When Petros met with a tragic accident in 1985, Mykonos went into mourning.  Then, in May 1986, a generous German travel operator by the name of Rudolph Kaestele sent the people of Myknonos another pelican. They called him Petros II. He arrived at the airport with a tiny German/ Greek dictionary hanging from a chain around his neck. He was ferried by Mayoral limousine into Manto Square, where he was met with music, dancing, baskets of fresh fish and flowers.

Then came the moment that everyone had been waiting for,  Irini minced into the square. Would Petros II warm to Irini?  Would she give him the cold shoulder?

As soon as he saw her Petros II opened his beak and gave a long cry of approval.  Irini was unable to resist. They waddled off into the Little Venice sunset in Alefkandra. And the rest, as they say, is history.