So the third part of this Trilogy Supercharged experience was Te Puia – the largest geyser in the southern hemisphere. One of my “To Do” items was to learn and experience a little about Maori culture. They were here before the white folks and have a fascinating history that (I find IMHO) further enriches one’s view of the islands. In conjunction with learning about the geyser and the fact that you are walking over a known super volcano (like the one that resides under Old Faithful in the US), you also learn about the Maoris.
So let’s start from the beginning.
When we first arrived, we were sent to the Big Meeting House where we could partake in a tradition Maori greeting ceremony. We were to be a different tribe (we’ll call ourselves the Jets) who have come to the Shark Tribe territory (more on that later). The warrior from the Sharks would come and present a fern as a sign of peace. Our “Chief” (another guest pulled from the crowd) would accept the fern as a way of saying “We come in peace.” Then we all entered the big house where they performed different songs, the Poi Dance (named for the light ball on a string) as well as the Haka (the war dance made popular by the National Rugby Team)
While the Haka is traditional in New Zealand – don’t be surprised that Tonga performed it as well. History states that the Maori arrived in New Zealand in seven canoes, each coming different lands in Polynesia (including Tonga). The Maori, upon reaching adulthood, are expected to name all of their ancestors all the way back to the original canoe in their tradition of maintaining an oral history (in the case of the Shark Tribe – that’s 26 generation of names to remember). Technically there are more Maori tribes now but they can each trace their lineage back to a specific canoe. The Maori of Rotorua belong to the Shark Tribe – or Te Arawa.
Our guide, whose English name is Carla, was an absolute delight. After the greeting ceremony we met with her and the rest of our small group for a “Steambox lunch” tour. Carla belongs to Te Arawa but her husband is of the Rainbow Tribe – so her children have been dubbed Rainbow Trout. Hilarious, I know.
Before I continue, I have to post another short (but silly) video. You see, while T and I were in New Zealand, Peru was playing Kiwi-Land in the qualifying game to see who would get to play in the 2018 World Cup. We were in Hahei while the teams played in Wellington, and I believe we made it Wellington when New Zealand flew to Peru for the rematch (in which Peru won woo hoo! – able to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 30 years). So of course my Peruvian cousins were messaging me constantly about it. This video was posted as a “Peruvian response” to the Haka.
As I said in the video – it’s bad. Neither performance was done correctly but I definitely laughed harder than I should have when I first saw it. I am quite sure that if it came down to it – a Peruvian would not hesitate in showing their badassery through La Marinera (if you want to see how it should be done – click on this LINK)
Anyway, back to Te Puia. So that’s actually not the name of the park (anymore). This is:
Try saying that five times fast. The translation is at the bottom (The war dance of the war parties of Wahiao). About 200 years ago, there was a large group of Maori warriors who performed the Haka for their war chief Wahiao. Apparently it was so impressive that they named the park after that scene. Cool huh? I still plan on sticking with Te Puia.
Carla told us that history then took us to the kitchens where we would make our steambox lunch. We were going to take advantage of the geothermal activity to fix our food in a traditional Maori style.
But it still would take about two hours to cook, so we had some time to kill.
Carla took us around the park and told us about Maori culture, history, as well as cracking several jokes. Te Puia sits above a super volcano with only 7km of earth between us and the magma that could explode any minute (while the average distance is about 35km). Carla told us that if it did explode – it would be quick. She also said that if we found ourselves at the pearly gates of St. Peter – the tour is definitely over and there are no refunds.
Te Puia also boasts a Kiwi House – but the babies were sleeping (Kiwis are nocturnal and sleep about 20 hours a day and use the other four to eat) – Carla said it was no wonder that the Kiwi was their national bird. Life Goals! Unfortunately we didn’t get to see a Kiwi that day.
Carla also took us to the schools Te Puia also boasts for the next generation of Maoris – carving and weaving. Because it is tradition only the men can do carving and the women can do weaving. Don’t worry, there are other schools in the vicinity that allow non-Maoris to join and do whatever the hell that they want. But Te Puia prides itself on maintaining tradition so the rules are in black and white.
We walked passed the big house again to see another greeting ceremony taking place.
I asked Carla if they were relatives. Her response? “Nephew, nephew, cousin, niece, nephew. That one there with the tattoos on his back is my brother’s kid. The high school teacher with the face tattoos I told you about earlier.” Yeah, I know what that’s like.
We eventually made our way to Te Puia as well as our steambox lunch.
Luckily the timing for lunch was perfect. Te Puia decided went off just as we sat down. It was a cool sight!
The lunch itself? Honestly it was bland. We only had salt and pepper to season it, but of course it was all about the experience
Overall, it was a cool experience. I definitely recommend Te Puia to anyone visiting New Zealand. This land is not just about Lord of the Rings or adrenaline highs or even beautiful landscapes. It’s also about the people who live here and their beautiful culture.
bis naechste Woche!