We overnighted in Rotorua on our way back to Auckland from Gisborne and decided to go see the The Buried Village before relaxing in the natural hot springs at the Polynesian Spa.
The Buried Village (Te Wairoa) is located close to the shore of Lake Tarawera, 14 kilometres southeast of Rotorua. On 10 June 1886, Mount Tarawera erupted violently and unexpectedly, the village was destroyed by the eruption, becoming one of New Zealand’s greatest natural disasters. The Buried Village is open to the public and recovered relics as well as the devastating story of Te Wairoa are on display in the museum, along with the history and timeline of the eruption.
After wondering through the museum and seeing how the Tarawera eruption drastically changed the land and lives of the people of Te Wairoa, we entered the grounds to explore the archeological site and see the excavated ruins.
Although the archeological site is now green and peaceful, the site still reveals the devastation from the eruption. Excavations into the volcanic mud show just how deep the mud was and signboards along the way give insight as to what the ruins used to be, as well as stories of the people who once lived there.
Te Wairoa Village was a Māori and European settlement founded in 1848 by the Christian missionary Reverend Seymour Mills Spencer as a “model Maori village”, however Te Wairoa survived for fewer than 40 years before it, and the nearby Pink and White Terraces were obliterated by the eruption of Mt Tarawera.
“Considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, tourists came from all over the world to view the geological treasures called the Pink and White Terraces. The Pink Terraces were known by Maori as Otukapuarangi (“fountain of the clouded sky”), and the White Terraces or Te Tararata (“the tattood Rock”). Separated by 800 metres, the Terraces were a layered formation of silica acid and sodium chloride, created over a long period of time.” (from http://www.buriedvillage.co.nz)
“On the 10th June 1886, the violent and unexpected volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera shook the peaceful village of Te Wairoa for more than four terrifying hours. Rocks, ash and mud bombarded the village and ended more than 150 lives and many livelihoods, as well as destroying the eighth wonder of the world, the Pink and White Terraces, and buried the staging post for travellers to the terraces, Te Wairoa Village, under two meters of thick volcanic material. In the gloom of the day the wreckage of the hotels and houses, and the burial of 8,000 square kilometres of countryside brought awe and dismay to survivors and rescuers.” (taken from the information brochure “Buried Village of Te Wairoa”)
To end our visit at Te Wairoa, we took the Waterfall Trail and descended down some really steep stairs to the base of the 30 metre Wairere Falls. There is so much more to the story of this Buried Village than what I have written above and there was far too much information for me to try and memorise. It’s definitely a must see if you’re in Rotorua.
To read more about the Pink and White Terraces and watch a short documentary video clip on the eruption and the search for the terraces after the eruption, click on this link: www.stuff.co.nz