At the visitor’s Center in Rotorua, buying the $100 tickets for the Maori experience at Te Puia also included entrance to Hell’s Gate Thermal Park.
So we bought the tickets, knowing we’d have a unique cultural experience (learning about the Maori for the evening) and also getting to see the thermal park.
Our biggest disappointment of the evening was that we didn’t actually get to hear the creation story told by the Maori, when walking through the Heketanga-a-Rangi (heavenly origins), a representation of the creation story, to get to and from our evening.
We were really glad that we had heard the Maori creation story (how everything came into being) at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, because otherwise we wouldn’t have known the story at all.
There’s a giant greenstone/pounamu (jade) at the center representing mother earth, with father sky being represented above, and the children of this union (war, water, earth, fire, etc.) being represented all around the stone. It’s a very cool piece of living art.
From there, we assembled at the waharoa (gateway/entrance) to the traditional marae. A marae is the space of land a particular Maori tribe or family live on.
A chief was selected from our group of tourists (our tribe for the evening) who got a challenge from one of the Maori warriors, before being welcomed onto the Marae with a karanga (a call out) from the women and a whaikorero (a welcome speech).
The warrior was awesome in his portrayal of the Maori challenge. I found his whole demeanor quite animalistic, and it reminded me that at the core of our civility, we really aren’t that far away from our natural roots.
Many places and peoples of the world are still very much in touch with their connection to the plants and animals around them.
Following the welcome, we sat in the gathering hall of the Maori at Te Puia, where we heard songs and got to participate.
Carrie participated in the elegant poi dance, and I got to learn the Haka (the war challenge).
We saw traditional Maori weapons, instruments, and clothing.
One of the most fascinating instruments was a long tube with a conch shell on the end of it. It made a really cool sound and looked quite elegant as an instrument.
From there, we walked around the kai (food) steaming in the hangi (food prepared by steaming it in the ground), before being seated. We tried all kinds of foods, both traditional Maori and European.
There was enough food to feed a small army.
I learned that I like mussels, but really dislike oysters.
After dessert (which included traditional English trifle and cream puffs), we walked about three minutes down to a geyser.
This geyser is known as Pohutu and erupts every hour or so… one of the only places in the world where it’s possible to see this type of geyser erupting so predictably.
Apparently three different companies offer this kind of tour in Rotorua. I don’t know about the other two companies, but I definitely can recommend participating in a Maori evening at Te Puia.
By booking Te Puia through the Visitor’s Center in Rotorua, you may also be able to get another event or experience as part of your price, as we were able to with Hell’s Gate Thermal Park.