Maori show

There is a giant Californian redwood forest on the outskirts of Rotorua called Whakarewarewa Forest. It is ideal for biking, horse riding and, our favourite activity, hiking. We took the short 1-hour route but even there you get to see the forest good and proper. The redwoods are massive, Lucas was dwarfed by them when he took to hugging them. Had a great morning amble, just long enough to tire the kids out but not too long so they managed to do it all themselves without any carrying (except Aisha for a bit after a nasty trip over a root).

Headed back to the campground for another dip in the pools, waiting around for our 5pm pickup; after yesterday we had decided the family should see a Maori show - we thought it would be good for the kids to see the Maori culture up close. We are not fans of ethnotourism but here they are billed as "shows", which is OK by us. It's the "come visit a real tribe" type of tours we don't like because of the sensation of human zoo.

Apart from the group size, much larger than expected, the show was really good. After an introduction in the main dining area were we chose our "chief" and singers (or rather, had them chosen for us by our host) we headed off to see how dinner was being cooked in the traditional manner (4 hours in a big hole in the ground). Then we continued down to the river to catch a glimpse of some warriors in a canoe (waka). From there we were taken to where the main show takes place.

The "stage" was a recreation of a typical Maori village. The show started off with the traditional greeting (hongi) between the local tribe and our chief (the visiting tribe). We came in peace so we exchanged speeches, leaves and songs (our chosen singers must have sung in a choir or something) and then came the dances. Some were pretty violent and warlike, others (much preferred by Aisha) were more melodic, slightly reminiscent of Hawaiian music. We had examples of warrior training, weapon demonstrations, and the facial tattoos explained to us. The grand finale was, of course, the haka. This terrified Aisha, and Lucas wasn't too chirpy either, but when it was over they were clapping as enthusiastically as everybody else. Lucas even went up to shake the chief's hand.

Dinner (hangi, not to be confused with hongi) was plentiful and delicious. Slow cooked chicken and lamb with kumara and potatoes, with less traditional fare like stuffing and mint sauce. Lucas stuffed himself with chocolate log. Then one last bit, a visit to see glowworms at the sacred stream. We have seen quite a few glowworms so that wasn't so exotic, but I was amazed with the stream's pool: the water was so clear it looked like it was 50cm deep when in fact it was 2m.

On the way back our bus driver sung us a few Maori songs and explained his role (as an old 'un) in passing on the Maori traditions and songs to the young 'uns. A great ending.

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