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A Day Exploring Maori Culture

Thursday 8th October 2015

semi-overcast 16 °C

With three days in Rotorua we felt that we could justify spacing things out a little in order to spend some time 'at home'. This morning this resulted in us getting up late, having breakfast late, and then having the rest of the morning sorting through emails and writing this blog. By about 2:30pm I was starting to go a bit stir crazy so we decided to go and explore a bit more of Rotorua. We walked from our hotel northwards past a temporary skating rink and a strange bicycle 'tree'


towards the lake and then along the shore westwards until we reached the Maori village of Ohinemutu home to the Ngāti Whakaue tribe. As well as there being quite a large number of houses, there is a meeting house and St Faiths Anglican Church, a legacy of early missionaries.


As well as there being a number of Maori buildings there is also a large amount of geothermal activity in the area. There were cracks in part of the street with steam bubbling out of it, hot pools and the smell of sulphur everywhere. Some houses literally had boiling hot water in their back gardens, and the heat is still used for cooking. In the church yard down by the lake there was a old waka or canoe, very important in Maori culture as the vehicle for bringing people from Polynesia to New Zealand hundreds of years ago.


Once we had finished exploring we walked back towards the town continuing along by the lake shore. We then turned south past Rotorua Museum, which is housed in a very grand colonial building,


and then back towards our hotel. Once back in our room we had time to relax for about an hour or so before we needed to walk up the street in order to catch the courtesy bus that was going to take us that evening to a Hangi, or Maori feast. When we left the hotel it was raining hard and so we were glad of the canopies that overhang the shopfronts in New Zealand. When the bus arrived we were greeted by one of the women representing the Mitai family who developed the cultural village.

The evening begun with greetings by our host and the man who had been chosen to represent us as chief was introduced. He was an American guy from a travel group, and he seemed to rise to the challenge well. After these formalities we were taken to see the uncovering of our Hangi feast which had been cooking for several hours in an earth pit. We were then all taken through the forest and down to the stream to witness the arrival if the Maori warriors in their waka. This was very dramatic and even though it was obviously staged it gave a sense of what it might be like when Maori chiefs arrived in a new area.


It was then time to make the very short walk to their recreated Maori village where we watched the greeting ceremony (similar to the one we had seen at the Treaty Grounds) and a demonstration of weaponry, games that develop agility and strength and the famous Haka. It was very enjoyable with a great mix of the serious, traditional and the entertaining.


By this time the food was all served up and we were ready to eat. We had seafood chowder to start before moving on to the main course. The meat was delicious (both chicken and lamb were served) plus salad and regular and sweet potatoes both of which had been cooked in the earth oven. We had already purchased a glass of wine to wash it all down. They also provided desserts of pavlova, chocolate roll and steamed pudding and custard. I am not sure any of these are traditional food but it was all very nice nevertheless. I was amazed how much some people ate, perhaps it is something about paying for a buffet that means people want to eat as much as they can. I had plenty but there were other people on our table, including an Australian woman who must have eaten two or three times as much. I don't know where she put it all, perhaps she had a hidden 'doggy bag'. After we had all finished eating we went on short bush walk in the dark. Our guide was very entertaining, but also gave us lots of information about the area and the plants and what the Maori people use them for. We saw some glow worms by a pool and we could see in the torchlight trout swimming and massive amounts of spring water bubbling up to the surface.


The walk led us straight back to where we could get on our minibuses and it was only a short amount of time before we were back at our hotel. It has been a relaxing day, but with the added benefit of a really entertaining evening.

Posted by Gill's Travels 01:04 Archived in New Zealand

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