A Taste of New Zealand’s Māori Culture

November 5th, 2017

The day started off with a short trek through the Ruakuri Walk which is in the Waitomo area. The loop took us along a forested gorge with plenty of lush green trees and bushes, natural sculpted cliffs and under low limestone arches. There were cave openings full of water and some that we could walk through. This place looked like a jungle.

Once we completed our walk, we made a quick stop in Hobbiton before heading south to Rotorua. The Hobbiton Movie Set is a significant location that was used for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film series. Since Sara and I had never seen the films, we weren’t interested in going to the set and it was expensive, so we decided not to participate. Instead, we had a quick lunch and continued on to Rotorua with a few other travellers. Anna,  our bus driver dropped us off at the Tamaki Centre. Sara, Rachel (from London, England) and myself (Kisa) walked around town for a couple hours. Sara and I bought really cheap bathing suits at a warehouse store as we didn’t pack any because we wanted to save on weight for our thru-hike. At one store, Rachel and I were standing there talking while sara was busy paying for a shirt. As we were chatting, I began to play with a rack of clothes and the next thing you know the whole thing falls off. Clothes everywhere! Laughing with embarrassment, I picked up the mess and the other side fell off too. I cleaned it all up and scurried out of the store.

Later that day, we pulled into the Tamaki Māori Village and we were greeted by two men which were our guides for the evening. The village was by a Tawa forest. We learned stories, rituals, and the history of the Māori culture. When we arrived, we sung them a song, Hakuna Matata, to show that we came in peace and not to battle or fight. After speeches delivered by Māori people and our “chief” (Joe from England) that we earlier had chosen on the bus, we had afternoon tea. We sat and chatted with everyone and drank hot chocolate and ate some goodies. Afterwards, we learned a song that helped us pronounce the letters of the Māori language. This catchy song also came with actions. There was a catch though, our whole group had to perform it tonight at dinner for the Māori and the other guests. When we somewhat mastered it, we grabbed our bags and put them in the big house we would spend the night in. This house fits over 20 beds!  Guests sat on the beds and our tour guides told us about the designs on the ceiling and the wood carvings of Gods on the walls.

We headed in the yard to play games hoping our physical abilities would be better than our singing. Sadly this was not the case. We played a stick throwing game, where you had to toss a stick to your neighbour while looking the other way to catch the one flying towards you from your neighbour on your left. We played for half an hour increasing the difficulty level every little while but we could not get the final-round completed.

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Next, there was a Welcoming Ceremony. We stood outside with guests that arrived later on in the day and watched Māori Warriors jumping, chanting, bulging their eyes and sticking their tongues out. You weren’t allowed to smile or laugh. It was very serious. When the Māori Warriors were done welcoming us in peace, we got to visit the different parts of the village to learn about their culture. We learned about the Warriors and how they navigate their canoes. Next, we learned about a stick game called Poi Rakau and how the Warriors would play them to gain strength. Then, we made our way to where the man in our groups were shown how to become warriors. They learned the Haka. It was fun to watch but I (Kisa) felt like I could’ve done it just as good as them. We also learned about Ta Moko, their tattoos and their meaning. 

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From here, they moved us over to this big seating area so we could watch them pull the food they prepared for our dinner out of a pit. It is called Hāngī and it smelled really good. Then, we went into a show room and they performed songs, dances and the Haka. They were amazing, we could feel their energy in the room. It was such a good performance. Now, to the Hāngī buffet. We were taken to a dining hall, where we got to eat potatoes, kumara, carrots, lamb, chicken, muscles, salad, bread, etc. The feast was “oh so delicious!”

After dinner, they sang to us and then it was our time to shine. We all stood up and performed the song they taught us when we first arrived at the village. Marina (from Switzerland) and I (Sara) couldn’t see the board with the lyrics so instead we just made up sounds and laughed at each other. Afterwards, we made another attempt at the stick game, unfortunately we can’t remember the name it). We were so close in succeeding but at every turn someone from our huge group would drop it. One time, Sara threw the stick and it hit me (Kisa) directly in the eye and cut me. “Ouch,” I kept playing. I (Sara) felt really bad. After a few trials we gave up as we couldn’t master it. Later that night, some guests relaxed in hot tubs and others sat at a bar. We sat outside, talked to a man and learned some more. Saw card tricks, met new people and danced the Cha-Cha Slide. It was around 12:30am by the time we got back to our rooms. This was truly a fun and memorable day. 

 

Cheers!

– Sara + Kisa

 

 

 

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