Maori Cul­ture

Sky High Wine & Food Fes­ti­val Slice of Heaven

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While cul­tural con­certs are im­por­tant it also cov­ers di­verse ex­pe­ri­ences like guided walks; hot pools; eco-tourism; his­tory; food, jet boats, and marae or lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion and in­clude tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary Maori life.

North­land was the first New Zealand area set­tled by Euro­peans: whalers ar­rived at the end of the 18th cen­tury, while mis­sion­ar­ies ar­rived in 1814. Most im­por­tantly it is also the place where the Treaty of Wai­tangi, was first signed be­tween the English Queen Vic­to­ria and many Maori chiefs in 1840.

Liv­ing in this long skinny land means I’ve been able to visit many Maori tourism en­ter­prises – too many to in­clude in this story but here’s a taste for you to con­sider. Let’s start at the birth­place of ‘mod­ern’ New Zealand – the Wai­tangi Treaty Grounds; it’s our na­tion’s most im­por­tant his­toric site with guided tours and cul­tural per­for­mances night and day.

It’s been years since I last vis­ited and my mem­ory of walk­ing up a grassy slope to a white house and flag pole, alone on the top of the small rise, now presents a dif­fer­ent pic­ture as the na­tive bush has grown, and it was through this, with its bird­song, I walked ear­lier this year.

Their guided tours and ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude “In­tro­duc­ing the Birth­place of our Na­tion” through to a fun work­shop with na­tive flax, and “Liv­ing with Na­ture’ which ex­plores New Zealand’s na­tive plants and trees and their re­la­tion­ship to Maori legend.

I val­ued hear­ing per­sonal sto­ries and his­tor­i­cal ac­counts from peo­ple whose an­ces­tors had been in­volved in shap­ing our na­tion back in those early days and, talk­ing to other trav­ellers, it seems hear­ing th­ese sto­ries are popular. ‘I love how they take it out of his­tory books and tell me about their an­ces­tors’ an Amer­i­can tourist tells me.

There dur­ing our an­nual cel­e­bra­tions of the Treaty (Fe­bru­ary 6th) I en­joyed see­ing Nga­toki­matawhaorua, one of the world’s largest carved war ca­noes, and many other waka, as well as ex­pe­ri­enc­ing all the other events, mu­sic and food.

The Bay of Is­lands is home to the Nga­puhi tribe and while there I spent time with Ta­ia­mai Tours who pro­vide waka (tra­di­tional ca­noe) ex­pe­ri­ences. They share their an­cient his­to­ries and sto­ries as you learn tra­di­tional pad­dling tech­niques, chants and

Maori cul­ture, unique to New Zealand, may be the fastest grow­ing part of our tourism

mar­ket and is the sec­ond rea­son vis­i­tors give for trav­el­ling here. Sur­veys tell us our nat­u­ral land­scape is num­ber one and luck­ily for trav­ellers, many Maori tourism

ex­pe­ri­ences com­bine those top two rea­sons.

the replica 17th cen­tury vil­lage and see­ing the arts and crafts, vis­i­tors love it.

An evening visit, the Starlight Tour, in­cludes a tra­di­tional wel­come (powhiri) and hangi and ends with a spine tin­gling cul­tural per­for­mance and guided tour through the lit vil­lage.

Te Hana also has ac­com­mo­da­tion where manuhiri (guests) sleep on sep­a­rate mat­tresses ar­ranged inside the car­peted wharenui (meet­ing hall). As with all com­mu­nal sleep­ing, and the usual snor­ing, many of you may need to takes earplugs. I’ve been told “a quiet marae is a sad marae”, and us­ing that stan­dard . . . I’ve never slept on a ‘sad’ marae!

Fur­ther south, Ro­torua Maori have been wel­com­ing tourists for about 165 years and when­ever I ar­rive I’m re­minded it’s dif­fer­ent. New Zealand is part of the Pa­cific Ring of Fire and here steam bil­lows from cracks in the ground and the air smells like old eggs and I love the pun­gent geo­ther­mal mist!

On my re­cent trip I stayed at the fab­u­lous Pounamu Lodge on the shel­tered western edge of Lake Tarawera. There is some­thing mag­i­cal about sit­ting around the ta­ble with great food and good con­ver­sa­tion: hear­ing fam­ily sto­ries.

And, when the fam­ily his­tory in­cludes Guide Sophie Hin­erangi - who was guid­ing peo­ple to the pink and white ter­races be­fore the 1886 Tarawera erup­tion – it’s no won­der lo­cal knowl­edge and be­ing proud of guid­ing is ev­i­dent when David and Karen Walm­s­ley are your hosts. A home-away-from-home is what they aim for but they pro­vide much more than that in this lux­ury lodge.

Pur­pose built to ac­com­mo­date up to four guests, and over­look­ing Mount Tarawera and the lake, this home has been de­signed with many Maori ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures and look­ing up at it from the lake I was im­pressed at its wharenui (meet­ing house) shape.

They of­fer guided tours, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Karen’s an­ces­tors along or across the lake. I did the Lake Tarawera Wa­ter Taxi Eco-Tour to the hot wa­ter beach and a hot pool set in na­tive bush – fancy a pic­nic while soaking in that pool – I can well-rec­om­mend that!. You can choose from hik­ing to the Tarawera Falls, or re­trac­ing an his­toric boat trip taken the day be­fore the erup­tion that changed the land­scape for­ever.

Soaking in the hot pool and ex­plor­ing the lakes hot wa­ter beach (where you can even cook your just-caught trout in the hot sand) were high­lights for me. I also en­joyed see­ing the Buried Vil­lage and the site of Guide Sophie’s lit­tle house where so many peo­ple shel­tered from the erup­tions de­bris – they all sur­vived but sadly many oth­ers died.

Karen also took me to Te Whakaw­er­aw­er­atanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao Vil­lage which is usu­ally, and thank­fully, short­ened to “Whakare­warewa or Whaka” by the home peo­ple.

Peo­ple have lived in this harsh en­vi­ron­ment for over three hun­dred years, us­ing the gush­ing gey­sers, steam vents, and boil­ing wa­ter to pro­vide cook­ing and bathing fa­cil­i­ties.

In­ter­pre­ta­tion and sto­ry­telling such as the bou­tique Pounamu Lodge pro­vide are com­bin­ing the best of New Zealand’s spec­tac­u­lar land­scape with Maori sto­ries and leg­ends - and

started and now nearly all our sports teams wear the sil­ver fern.’ Many kiwi think it should be on our flag too.

Over a cup of tea or cof­fee in his home, his friendly, fam­ily fo­cused tour is just the place to ask ev­ery­thing you were too afraid to ask about Maori and Maori life to­day!

In Christchurch, the South Is­lands largest city, is Ko Tane at Wil­low­bank, which gives you yet another chance to see Maori cul­ture. A conch shell blows, a chill runs down my spine and the evening starts. Walk­ing in the park as we pause to lis­ten to how manuka wood is used to smoke fish and we’re sud­denly star­tled. Maori war­riors run from be­hind us, their cries sound threat­en­ing. A women be­side me screams and her hus­band laughs ner­vously. They chal­lenge us – do we come in peace or war? When our des­ig­nated ‘chief’ ac­cepts the chal­lenge, the women karanga, (calls of wel­come) and we con­tinue into the model vil­lage where soon we’re watch­ing a haka per­formed by young men and women.

‘That is scary’ an Aus­tralian woman says, ‘You see it on TV but you don’t know it’s so loud.’ Her hus­band replies ‘Did you see how red the guys’ chests and thighs were? They re­ally slap them hard.’

The women, in sway­ing flax skirts, also dance with poi - their grace­ful move­ments and in­tri­cate hand ac­tions mak­ing the balls twirl rhyth­mi­cally. Then it’s our turn. We’re not good stu­dents; most of us tan­gle the poi around our own, and each other’s arms: as well as this show, one of the rea­sons I al­ways rec­om­mend Wil­low­bank is that you can see kiwi up close - not be­hind glass.

My first time on a gon­dola was in Queen­stown – and in those days the view was as great as it still is to­day and now, as well as other things, at the top you can also ex­pe­ri­ence the Kiwi Haka Show and their tra­di­tional Maori songs, dances and sto­ries.

After a for­mal, tra­di­tional wel­com­ing cer­e­mony guests are taken through a jour­ney that demon­strates and ex­plains the use of poi, weaponry and the haka.

Did you know the haka is not a ‘war dance’ and is usu­ally danced with­out weapons in con­trast to war dances (tutu ngaruhu or pe­ru­peru) which are danced with spears, clubs, or other weapons - Kiwi Haka shows you both.

All over New Zealand new haka are per­formed ev­ery year and ex­press a va­ri­ety of emo­tions such as joy, anger, and sor­row, or com­ment on so­cial is­sues: here at Sky­line it’s used to retell Maori his­tory – I rec­om­mend you com­plete the 30 min show by stay­ing for a meal.

No mat­ter where you are trav­el­ling, from Rak­iura (Ste­wart Is­land) the an­chor of Maui’s ca­noe in the south up to Cape Reinga, the-leap­ing-off­place at the top of the North Is­land where the spir­its of the dead leave for Hawai­iki, Maori tourism ini­tia­tives can be ex­pe­ri­enced.

Maori Tele­vi­sion also has a masterchef type show, and with all the great Maori food around, I sus­pect yet even more cul­tural and food tourism ac­tiv­i­ties will be added to sto­ries such as this.

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