Walking tour: Wellington’s hidden Maori treasures

20160519_102430These tours leave daily from Te Raukura where the waka are housed within Te Wharewaka o Poneke: a place I know quite well as I not only attended the dawn opening of this building (2011) but also where my weekly social walking group meets, at Karaka (cafe), for breakfast or coffee before we head off on a city walk.

People gather in the dawn
People gather in the dawn

Tuparahuia, our guide for the morning walk introduced himself while standing beside the four waka – including the largest, a single hull carved waka taua, Te Rerenga Kotare, which is used for ceremonial events and which, in the past, would have been a war canoe. Another way to experience the rich culture and history of Te Whanganui-a-Tara and the Te Atiawa people is to join a waka tour of the harbour on one of these traditional boats. (Bookings essential)

the bronze statue is impressive
the bronze statue is impressive

Alongside the water of Te Whanganui a Tara (Wellington Harbour) we hear the story of Maui and his brothers fishing up the North Island, otherwise known as Te Ika A Maui -the fish of Maui. Turning back towards the building we stand under the fabulous statue -made in the late 1930s by Christchurch sculptor William Trethewy – which depicts the legendary Polynesian explorer Kupe, his wife, and tohunga. Originally built in plaster, and for decades sitting in the Wellington railway station, in 1999 it was cast in bronze and placed on the waterfront to celebrate the millennium and as a tribute to all who have come to these shores. Under the gaze of these majestic, heroic looking, figures our walking tour continues and we hear the stories of Kupe and his discovery of Aotearoa New Zealand.

In front of the meeting house, on the atea (usually considered a sacred area of ground) is a stylised compass of the stars and constellations used by those early Pacific navigators: it was interesting to hear how those early waka had the 360° horizon marked around the canoe railings for easy navigation when they added their knowledge about the time of the year – something I’d not heard before.

Te Aro Pa (pa = community or village) was once one of the largest Māori communities in Wellington until the 1880s. It is often acknowledged that those early settlers would never have survived without the support of local Māori.

I recommend you take the tour yourself and hear all these stories, myths, and legends. We also examined the uncovered remains of two whare (buildings) which were uncovered during the demolition, then construction of an apartment block, in 2005. This tour, and others Te Atiawa provide, are a great way to understand the city’s history as you discover Wellington’s hidden Māori treasures.

Note: in Māori, as in many other languages, you do not add an ‘s’ to a word to describe more than on as there is no letter s in the language. Just as we say one sheep or 1000 sheep the same is for waka, kiwi, and Māori (etc) when being used as New Zealand English. In te reo Māori it would be te waka (the waka, ie one) or nga waka to show more that one. For more information about the language please see other blogs I’ve written, including this one I wrote for NileGuide Maori is one of three official languages in New Zealand – check it out here

Some photos for you . . .

 

 

Buggy rides, sand dunes & history – the Hokianga has it all!

Lonely Planet raved about Footprints Waipoua and now, after last night’s adventure I will too. Our local Maori guide, Koro, really did guide us through the forest and introduced us to the biggest, and oldest of the kauri trees in the Waipoua Forest but now it’s not a lush forest I’m off to see but sand dunes.

View of the sand hills a few hours before I explore them on a dune buggy
View of the sand hills a few hours before I explore them on a dune buggy

After a cooked breakfast at the Copthorne, I check out, then catch the Hokianga Express boat over to the sand dunes for a Sandtrails Hokianga dune buggy trip around the sand hills I could see from my hotel room.  The others on the water taxi are heading off to ride the dunes on body boards!

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Once over the harbour, waiting at the bottom of the dunes for me is Andrew Kendall of Sandtrails Hokianga with his dune buggy, ready to take me around the sand hills and natural sculptures.

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The Hokianga is not just blue skies, massive sand dunes and ancient trees – it’s also the cradle of not only Ngapuhi, but also of the European settlers in the early 1800s. Andrew Kendall’s tribal history, his whakapapa, like that of my deceased husband, includes their ancestor, Kupe, the Polynesian navigator who named this area when he left to return to the Islands north of New Zealand.

sandtrails hokianga Andrew .docx

Andrew stands with me on top of the giant sand dunes, canyons,  and sculptures on the north of the Hokianga Harbour  – where Kupe first arrived – and regaled me with stories of the past with its intrigues, strife and wars, deception and fun. One of the great things about this trip, in a dune buggy, is that it’s pretty exclusive as only three people can do it at a time so I recommend you book in advance. (You can even stay at his Homestay B&B in Mitimiti.)

No matter where you are over the length of New Zealand, Maori culture, and a diversity of enterprises and activities are just around the next corner and Sandtrails is one of a kind!

Amazingly, one of Andrews other ancestors, Atama Paparangi, had his portrait painted seven times by the famous New Zealand –born artist, Charles Frederick Goldie (1870-1947)

 

Note: my trip around Northland was taken in my favourite car rental company NZ Rent A Car!

hokianga heads

Hokianga Heads
Amazing windblown shapes and gulleys
Amazing windblown shapes and gulley’s

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