Ohinemutu is a suburb of Rotorua in the central North Island but was originally the name given to the region’s first Maori settlement. Here, beside the steaming lake, an elaborate marae, or Maori meeting house, was built alongside the lovely mock-Tudor church of St Faiths. Rotorua, of course, is famous for its geothermal activity and there are many places where you can see geysers, bubbling mud pools and steaming water. If you don’t like the smell of sulphur you won’t be too keen on Rotorua. This steamy lakeside area was all the more atmospheric on the day I visited because of the rainy weather which exaggerated the steam coming off the water. Early Maori chose this area for its lakeside setting and endless geothermal energy which they were able to use for cooking, bathing and heating. In pre-European times, Ohinemutu was the main centre for the Lake Rotorua region. Visitors and food arrived at this busy settlement before travelling on to the surrounding villages. Today, it’s still a hive of activity used by local Maori and visited by streams of coaches filled with tourists. Inside St Faiths, which is beautifully decorated with Maori carvings and and European stained glass, is a glass window behind the alter facing out towards the expanse of the lake. Upon the glass is etched the figure of Christ clad in a Maori cloak, or korowai, and he appears to be walking upon the water.


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