Sulfur City – Tamaki village and a Hangi

29 12 2011

Item’s I have learned today:

Hangi – earth oven and traditional form of cooking for the Maori people

Waka – Canoe – how the Maori’s got to New Zealand years and years ago

beautiful little girl at the village

beautiful little girl at the village

After our adventures in the caves it was time to head back to Rotorua.  As I discovered in my first visit there, Geo-thermal activity is a huge draw for Rotorua, that and the geysers, natural hot springs and mud pools.

Arriving late afternoon and having already been there a few weeks before with Liz  I opted to relax at the natural hot pool in our hostel rather than venturing out into the city.

That evening the majority of us went to a Maori cultural night at Tamaki Village.  We were picked up and our bus community then became a tribe.  We had to elect a chief to represent us on entry into the village.  Now I think the Powhiri – the formal welcoming ceremony at the village was one the coolest parts of the experience.

entrance

entrance

Granted the effect is a bit different with 40-50 tourists standing around watching, but we had our chief and two others go out to meet the chief of the village.  Let me back up a bit by saying that Tamaki village is built in the same style as a traditional  authentic Maori village.  So our chief (and the two others choosen by the other buses) then had to accept a peace offering from the local chief in order to be welcomed into the village.  I won’t attempt to put it into words, but it was really neat to watch.  The one thing that did make me a bit sad was that over and over the driver had to tell us to make sure we do not laugh at anything the Maori warriors do, which implies that in the past they had been laughed at by tourists visiting this village, which to be honest kind of angers me. But I’m digressing.. AGAIN.

Anyway when I asked Olly (a guy on our bus who was elected chief) what it was like he said that it was really intense and that he was still affected by it all some 20 mins later.

Olly and the local chief

Olly and the local chief

After the chiefs accepted the teka (peace offering) the woman of the village came out and sang the Karanga and we were welcomed in.  Now this might all sound a bit cheesey, and if you wanted to have that attitude you could probably see it that way as it was  a re-enactment of what might have happened in the past, but I really enjoyed the glimpse into Maori culture and traditions.

Upon arrival we had demonstrations of various Maori activities – from woman dancing with poi (which was also used as a weapon), to how Maori boys start learning warrior techniques to even the haka  (war dance) itself.

the village

the village

I will say that I did enjoy this, but 5 minute demonstrations didn’t really seem like enough time.  It was nice to see traditional techniques and learn a bit more, but it just didn’t feel like enough, and maybe thats just me and my curiosity and the fact that I am ridiculously reserved at first and neglected to ask any additional questions.

bekah, luke and I after poi dance lessons

bekah, luke and I after poi dance lessons

I later asked a local Maori how they felt about the tourist aspects of  this and he replied with the fact that they love it when ANYONE shows an interest in their culture no matter how long or how little it might be.

We then entered into the Wharenui – the sacred Maori meeting house where we as they say on their website we were taken on a journey of their world through song and dance. The Wharenui is designed to honor their ancestors – every carving and painting inside tells their stories.

inside the Wharenui

inside the Wharenui

I absolutely LOVED this, not only the performances, but being in a sacred Maori meeting house. I seriously got chills.. multiple times.  I think one of things I remember most is a woman who performed sharing her story of her grandfather who fought in WW2 to try and gain more rights, to having ancesters of Hinemoa and Tukanekai being present as well.

I was moved by her story

I was moved by her story

It was amazing and powerful. The performance ended with a brief video of what the Maori’s have been through up until the present day.

The evening ended up with a hangi – a meal that has literally been cooked under the earth with hot rocks all day long.

food.. delicious food.. straight out of the earth

food.. delicious food.. straight out of the earth

I can honestly say that it was/still is my favorite meal that I have had in New Zealand so far. They made it a point to say that it was all you can eat.. and looked at the backpacker table MULTIPLE times 🙂  haha, they must know that we are all on a budget.

The food was phenomenal and then they thanked us and sang a few parting songs of peace.  The bus ride home was complete with us singing songs from our homeland.  Guess who was the ONLY american on the bus?? Guess who had to sing “take me out to the ballgame” into the microphone to the ENTIRE bus? Not happy about that one. I tried hiding behind my seat.. but considering I was on a moving bus there was no where that I could really go.

Oh and I should mention that the local chief that night was an amazingly beautiful man..

All in all it was a fantastic evening and I’m really glad that I got to be a part of it.


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