Te Wairoa Falls (also called Wairere Falls) was our waterfalling excuse to check out the tragic Buried Village of Te Wairoa. Like the ancient Roman city of Pompeii being buried by the pyroclastic flow of Mt Vesuvius, Te Wairoa was buried by the fatal 1886 eruption of Mt Tarawera. In addition to the tragic loss of human life, the famous Pink and White Terraces (once deemed the Eighth Wonder of the World at over 250m in height) were also destroyed. During its heyday, the terraces (said to like a much larger version of what the Minerva Terrace in Yellowstone was like) had attracted artists and visitors from around the world. Reportedly two separate boatload of tourists traveling between Lake Tarawera and Te Wairoa village had reported seeing a ghostly war canoe with mourning Maoris on the morning of 31 May 1886. A tohunga (Maori priest) had correctly interpreted this as an omen of the volcanic eruption that eleven days later would come to fruition.
Julie and I paid the $20 NZD per person (which was the price of admission during our rainy visit in November 2004), then strolled through the museum-like displays and outdoor exhibits that displayed the lifestyle of the villagers before being buried that fateful day. Te Wairoa Falls, which was towards the end of our one-way stroll through the village, was merely a side attraction even though it was the primary reason why we came for a visit. Once we had gotten past the ruins and displays, we then found a fork in the path where we choose the one that took us on a boardwalk with wooden steps descending into the thick bush. That path then descended alongside the impressive 30m waterfall (of which maybe only 20m of it could be seen at any given time due to the thick foliage) where we got the views you see on this page.
After the waterfall detour was over, there was a lookout that was supposed to be towards the imposing Mt Tarawera. Unfortunately, it was raining during our visit and the clouds stubbornly kept the mountain from our sight. It took us a little over an hour to go through the village, but we very easily could have taken more time here to slowly go through the exhibits and better understand what Maori life was like back then.
From the town centre of Rotorua, we headed east on SH30A, then continued east along SH30 for another kilometre past its junction with SH30A. At that point, we turned right to go onto Tarawera Rd, and we followed it for about 12km to the well-signed Buried Village.
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