The majority of my ‘experiences’ happened in the first week of being on the Kiwi bus, if I’m honest. Right after Hobbiton, a bunch of us from the bus did an overnight stay at the Tamiki Māori Village, which involved some afternoon cakes, learning an action-movement song and learning a stick game before the evening meal guests arrived.
The Tamiki Māori Village was started in 1989 by the Tamiki brothers as an experience for tourists to learn about the Māori culture in New Zealand through cultural storytelling.
We caused a bit of a stir, as traditionally the chief of the trip is male, and we were an all female group. We had to sing a song as a gift (we decided on Queens don’t stop me now and we nailed it just saying) before usually the nominated (male) chief would make a traditional greeting with the representative of the village by pressing the noses together. As no-one volunteered, I hopped up and somehow became defacto Chief.
At the evening experience, there was a traditional Haka and peace offering between the “Chiefs” of the clans (tour buses) and the nose-pressing ceremony again (I was not allowed to be chief for this bit, a member of the village staff stood in) before we were welcomed into the village school.
There were a few sections, with things like haka, arts and crafts, weaving, building, cooking being discussed, as the Villagers told us about traditional Maori ways of completing the task. There was also another stick game. I was chief again for this bit, which seemed to provide much entertainment for the Villagers as they kept seeing my Peace Token and calling me Miss Chief in a range of delighted tones.
Then there was a performance – with different aspects of Maori music making culture being demonstrated. It was actually a really entertaining show all round. There was some Haka, some stick exercises for warriors, some games, a lot of joking around. It was great fun.
THE FOOD! It was cooked in a traditional Hāngi style, which means earth oven. A pit is dug into the ground, a fire is burning above the pit until the ashes fall into the fit then all the food is placed in the pit and the steam cooks the food. It was basically roast meat and roast veg. As it was all steam cooked, all but the gravy and the bread was gluten free and it tasted so good! Especially after weeks of eating very minimal rice and veg dishes to keep expenses down. We all ate till we felt sick.
Oh, then it turned out that action some we learnt earlier? We had to perform it. Yeah. We didn’t believe him when our host told us. But we did perform the song. Then the professionals took over and we had some after dinner songs. As dinner closed, everyone else left and we overnight guest raced back to our room to change into out swimming cozzies and into the very modern hot tubs.
It was a great evening, but I think the best thing to come out of it was the bonding experience of staying overnight. I’m still friends with some of the girls on that experience, and I’ll be seeing one of them when I get back to England in December. We could see the stars, and we discussed cultural differences. I found out that 25 is a huge year for the Danish and if you’re single they douse you in cinnamon. No idea why. At 30 (if you’re single) it’s pepper.
Then bed, we did have an early morning start after all!
This trip was a cultural experience, and it was incredibly interesting to learn about Māori society, culture and practices. From the position of women in society as being a case of “if you lose a man you lose a life, if you lose a woman you lose a generation” or something similar, to fighting practices and the carvings made into weapons and the tattoos on their skin. It was a very interesting evening all in, and learning a bit about Māori culture was useful for contextulising some of the stories and things we learnt about New Zealand on the rest of the trip.
I feel like this has been a very narration heavy post tbh. But it was a really enjoyable experience – it was interesting to learn about Māori culture and practices, the food was amazing, and it was a completely awesome bonding trip for those of us who stayed overnight. The overnight trip is a Kiwi experience add on I think – I’m not sure if other bus companies do it, but I can highly recommend the evening meal and show if you happen to be in Rotorua.
They kept telling us that they wanted us to take as many pictures as we wanted, but as a lifelong theatre goer, I felt a little uncomfortable taking photos of what was clearly a performance. So I decided to forgo the camera and just enjoy myself for the evening! And I did.