Saturday, April 12, 2014

Kia Ora (Hello!)

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.
However, the pa has an interesting history to it. The land had been part of a contentious land deal between settlers and Maori in the mid-19th century, with the settlers eventually taking control of it. More recently, in the 1970's, the government gave the land back to the Maori, to honour the original agreement. However, the Maori chief (who happened to be Morris's grandfather), decided to give a small part of the pa back to the town as a gesture of goodwill, and created a small park.
While we were at the pa, we also learned a traditional Maori greeting, including introducing yourself according to your mountain, river, and canoe, and the Inuit-like gesture of touching noses (hongi).

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.
Our next stop was teatime, hosted by Morris and his wife in their home. This gave us a chance to introduce ourselves in Maori fashion, while enjoying tea made from forest leaves. After finishing our tea, we wove a flower out of flax leaves we had cut earlier; mine ended up looking a little strange, since weaving with only one hand proved a bit challenging, but it was still a fun activity to try.

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.


  1. How interesting! I haven't hear of the Maori before. You all always give me something new to google. =)

  2. Such beautiful landscape in all these pictures!

  3. Very interesting. I too had no knowledge of the Maori although I suspect that all of the Pacific rim islands have influenced one another through trading and seafaring travelers so it doesn't surprise me about the god Maui. The Maori seemed to live similarly to the native Hawaiians too which are the only Pacific islanders I have encountered. :-)


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