Hone Mihaka, of Taiamai Tours says, “To classify ourselves as New Zealanders denies our cultural identity as Maori. Being Maori is our point of difference.”
Hone, of the Ngapuhi iwi (tribe) is given a lot of “mana” ( respect and prestige) and I was happy to be hosted at his marae in February as I checked out what the National Geographic Traveler named as one the 50 Tours of Lifetime 2011 –pretty good for a new venture!
Their interactive Waka experience is a unique insight into ancient customs, rituals and traditions: and once a year visitors from around the world not only learn how to paddle the ceremonial waka tau (war canoe) but also become part of the annual national commemorations that acknowledge ( and sometimes protest about) the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – NZ’s founding document – on the 6th February 1840.
This year there were guests from the USA, France, The Netherlands, Canada, and Germany staying with the extended Mihaka family at their traditional home near Lake Omapare, and I watched as they went through the last of their training in paddle techniques, waka manoeuvres, chants and haka in preparation for the next days’ celebration – out on the bay with all the other waka. These photos show some of the day, with more stories to come after they feature in print media.
As Hone says “I’m Ngapuhi, and I offer my world. Only in Tai Tokerau can you get a unique, authentic Ngapuhi experience.”
Tai Tokerau stretches from the Bay of Islands on Northlands’ east coast over to Hokianga on the west coast – which is where my Ngapuhi husband came from: Ngapuhi is New Zealand’s largest indigenous tribe of 100,000 – made up of over 100 smaller independent Hapu (clans).
In Lonely Planets‘ book “Happy” on page 105 it says ” Be Proud of your Roots. Embrace your heritage to better understand yourself.” The page is about Maori and their haka and Taiamai Tours embody this ‘secret to happiness’ and offer it to others.
As traveller, I believe learning about other cultures helps us understand and embrace our own no matter where we’re from.
“This edited extract is from Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World © Lonely Planet 2011. RRP: $25. lonelyplanet.com.”