Thursday, March 29, 2012

Rotorua - Tamaki Hangi and Stinky Egg Smells

That's right. We went from one stinky town to another!

Rotorua was a bit closer to Auckland and offered some more variety of thermal related activities for us, so we moved there for our second to last night. After arriving, we wandered around town checking out a farmer's market (disappointing, lots of things from Dole boxes), the local thermal park (more stinky, bubbly, smelly pits) and ended at the Rotorua Museum.

We were followed by the wind, as you can see. At the museum we learned a great deal about the role thermal baths have played in the town's history and, in a separate exhibit, about the Maori people. The exhibit was a good primer for what we had planned that night: an evening at a Maori village with Tamaki Tours.

Since they describe it so well, I will share their words with you to explain the progression of the evening.
Te Wero - The Challenge!

You arrive at the outskirts of the fortified village, but nobody may enter the tribal grounds until the Powhiri, a formal welcome ceremony, has been performed.

Powerful haka challenges are performed by a series of warriors from the village, every one more intimidating than the last!

Eventually, a peace offering (teka) is laid at the feet of your appointed Chief. Your groups signals their peaceful intent in the village by accepting this token.

The spine-tingling Karanga or welcome call echoes across the forest, as the women sing to announce your arrival to the villagers. The Powhiri (welcome dance) follows, and you are welcomed into the fold.

At that time you cease to be a ‘guest’, but are considered to be Tangata Whenua - one of our people.

Te Marae - Exploring the Village

Step through the fortification and be transported from one world into another...

You will be spirited back in time, to an era before the arrival of the European to capture the essence of a very proud people.

The entire village comes to life, and as you walk around each small dwelling, you’ll see and learn about various art forms, traditions and ways of life for Maori.

Hear fires crackling, songs being sung, and talk openly to the village people.

See warriors training for war with traditional weapons, watch women weaving and making Maori crafts, hear villagers tell stories of their ancestors and history, experience traditional Maori tattoo, ancient horticultural practices and so much more.
In the village, I was able to get a one on one demonstration of how they strip the flax plants and use the fiber. They have a technique for spinning and plying the fibers that is done against their legs. I think it was probably my favorite part of the night!

Te Hangi – Lifting your Meal from the Earth Oven

After some time exploring the village, your Maori hosts now invite you into the fully-covered hangi pit area – where you will view the lifting of your authentic hangi meal!

Your appointed Chiefs are invited to step forward. They are each given a spade, and together with assistance from your guides they dig away the dirt, pull back the hessian sacks and reveal the sumptuous hangi meal that has been cooking for more than 3 hours already on the hot stones beneath the ground!

The hangi baskets, laden with piping hot chicken and lamb, kumara, potatoes, carrots and delicious stuffing, are pulled from the pit. Your hosts deliver an interactive commentary on how the meal was prepared and cooked, the origin of the hangi and provide a brief history of how Maori hangis were cooked in ancient times. And for those interested in putting a hangi down in their very own backyard when they get home, we also provide a few handy tips!

Our hangi only contained chicken and potatoes.

Wharenui - The Sacred Meeting House

After some time exploring, the sound of a conch (shell-like horn) cuts across the village grounds and you are called into our sacred meeting house.

This building represents an ancestor, and the massive carvings on its wall tell stories of our direct history.

After speeches of welcome, let us take you on a journey into our world and share our culture through song and dance.

The roof of the meeting house feels as though it may lift off through the power of our voices.

Hangi & Wharekai - Dining together on traditional Hangi food

Celebration of life and togetherness, and the enjoyment and sharing of food is an important part of Maori Life – so we now invite you to join us for a relaxed 3 course dinner.

The traditional hangi has been steaming under the earth on hot rocks for a number of hours, ready for your arrival.

This is the age-old traditional cooking method of the Maori, and your hosts will share this method in detail with you.

Enjoy succulent New Zealand meats with a lovely, slightly-smoked flavour and fresh vegetables.

As well as hangi, you will enjoy Maori bread, fresh salads and seafood, mouth-watering desserts and a range of other yummy dishes.

Feast on as much as you like – it is our honour to fill your belly and your heart. Vegetarians are happily catered for upon request – just let us know when you book.

After your meal, as bonfires roar and the stars provide a canopy, relax and share stories and laughter with your hosts, or wander around the tribal marketplace and find something special to take home with you.

I didn't take any pictures of my food because it was gross. This vegetarian was given nasty, mini, fried egg rolls for her entree. The potatoes were good, though. They tasted like campfire potatoes.

This was, hands down, the most touristy thing we did in New Zealand. It was interesting to learn more about the Maori people and the theatrics of the evening were entertaining. However, I found it hard to look past the tourist trap vibe. I think they choreographed it well, but this isn't really my kind of tourism.

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