Sunday, May 23, 2010

Maori Cultural Experience

No trip to New Zealand would be complete without experiencing the warmness of the Maori people. For my second day in Rotorua, I visited Te Puia, home of the New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. Being situated at a site of geothermal activity, it would also be a great way to see the geysers and hot springs that have attracted tourists to Rotorua for over a century.

I started my day with a couple hours hiking around the grounds. Having visited geologically active areas in Iceland and Yellowstone Park, I have a very high standard for these types of things and to be honest I think Rotorua wasn't as impressive. The geyser was relatively tame but the mudpools were rather bubbly and active. The environment wasn't barren though -- lush vegetation surrounded the park, which made for a very pleasant morning hike.

I then watched a performance by a group of Maori performers, complete with a typical greeting to the village by a Maori warrior (to see whether we came in peace) along with several songs and dances (haka). Unlike the haka performed by the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team, which are designed to intimidate the opponent, these haka were peaceful and friendly, though full of the same body-slapping, eye-bulging, and tongue theatrics.

After a traditional hangi lunch of chicken, corn, cabbage, and some other vegetables, the rain returned, so I ventured indoors to view the onsite carving and weaving schools. Te Puia also has a kiwi house to promote interest in NZ's endangered flightless national icon. Kiwis are much larger than I was expecting and awfully goofy looking, with big beaks which go poking in the dirt for worms and bugs.

1 comment:

  1. Little known fact about the haka: it actually stimulates the muscles in your legs and is actually a fantastic warm up tactic. It's also great as a method to get the all blacks excited. It's horribly referenced in the terrible coming of age film, "Forever Strong," a must see tragedy on netflix instant view...