While Natasha was off walking around peninsulas and meeting seals, I went on a three-hour Maori cultural tour. The entire tour group consisted of me, Donny, a middle-aged woman from Denver, and our friendly tour guide, Morris.
Our first stop on the tour was a pa, or fortified Maori settlement. This pa had been abandoned for quite some time, so all that remained were grassy mounds and depressions that showed where palisades and homes had been.
After the pa, we headed to the seashore, where we saw carvings of Maori deities, and heard some of myths. One surprising tidbit was that the god Maui plays a key role in these myths, and this god is a part of Pacific cultures from Hawaii to Tahiti through to New Zealand.
We also spent some time learning a song in Maori. At first I assumed it was some traditional song that had been passed down over hundreds of years; it turned out that the song was written by Morris's sister, specifically for this tour. So, although it was neat to have a chance to sing something in Maori, the fact that the song was written so tourists would have something to sing lessened the authenticity of the experience.
The final part of the tour took us to a forest a little ways out of town. Morris led us on a brief hike, giving us a chance to sample edible plants (some of which were tastier than others, shall we say), describing the ways that the Maori used plants for everything from deoderant and salad greens to ropes and canoes, and pointing out notable trees. A couple of the trees were many hundreds of years old, and were very impressive indeed. Unfortunately, it had started raining by this part of the tour, and I had to choose between taking pictures and staying dry... so there are no pictures, sorry :(
All in all, I really liked this tour and it gave me a chance to experience Maori culture and history in a direct, personal way.