The day started for me at 4 o’clock in the morning when I went down to the Wellington waterfront to watch a hangi being prepared on the edge of Whairepo (stingray Lagoon, in front of the Wharewaka.
However, for the men cooking the hangi it had started at 2 a.m. I hadn’t been there very long when to the dismay of all , the automatic sprinkler system to water the lawns began pumping out litres of water – not good when you have a fire going.
The fire of course is essential for cooking the food and it became scramble to protect the flames which were heating, not volcanic stones as my husband used, but pieces of iron which are also great heat conductors.
Of course a great hangi master saved the fire and the food emerged after 3 hours – a great 10am breakfast for me.
Here are my photos which tell the story from my arrival until I had the food at about 10 a.m.
Some background about this building
Wharewaka o Poneke opened on Waitangi Day 2011 – and I was there – and during the dawn opening, Wellington’s Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, said
“It’s a building you couldn’t see anywhere else in the world. Taranaki Whanui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika have delivered Wellington a wonderful asset that reminds us all of their place in the city – their history on the waterfront and their future as well.”
Here are some photos I took at the opening – just a few months after I moved to Wellington, NZ
Sir Ngatata Love, chairman of the Wharewaka o Poneke Charitable Trust, said he was excited to see the Wharewaka open. “This has been planned since the 1990s and I’m delighted we’re now able to bring waka culture to Wellington’s waterfront.”
The outside of the building is based on a korowai (cloak), which symbolises mana and prestige, and mirrors the traditional sails of the waka fleet.
Finally, those of you who follow me on social know the wharewaka and lagoon is where my U3A group meets for our Monday morning walks.
These 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.
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)
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 . . .
Historical crane/boat welcomes its new neighbor
Food is part of all Maori events – breakfast is served
People gather in the dawn
Wonderful view of the great roof line
the bronze statue is impressive
Our guide talks about the effect of change in water levels
Last week I joined a group to walk Te Ara o nga Tupuna – a Māori heritage trail through downtown Wellington, following the old 1840s shoreline.
Our section of the walk took about two hours and started at Pipitea Marae. If you cannot join such a tour, the visitor iSite Centre beside the public library has a brochure that you too can follow. (‘The path of our ancestors’ includes a driving trail around Miramar Peninsula.)
Appropriately the pou at the top of Pipitea Marae, is of Maui – the well-known trickster of Polynesian mythology. It is appropriate as Maui is credited with fishing up the North Island, and the mouth of this fish is Wellington Harbour. The first Polynesian navigators of this area were Kupe and Ngahue who camped on the southern area of the harbour. (Seatoun)
Pipitea Marae was built in the early 1980s on the site of an old village overlooking the harbour and close to fresh water supplies and pipi beds. Pipi are a popular shellfish among many Kiwi. The 1840 shoreline has changed considerably, mostly due to reclamation, which has destroyed many traditional food sources. Other changes, near Waitangi Park have been due to earthquakes which lifted the land.
Plaques set in the footpath show where the water used to reach. Walking along Lambton Quay, the main shopping area in Wellington, we hear stories about the names of many streams which were used particularly for women during pregnancy and childbirth.
In the Māori languageMatariki is both the name of the Pleiadesstar cluster and also of the season of its first rising in late May or early June—taken as the beginning of the new year. Similar words occur in most Polynesian languages, deriving from Proto-Polynesian *mataliki, meaning minute, small, and the use of the term for the Pleiades constellation is also ancient and has been reconstructed to Eastern Oceanic ( taken from Wikipedia)
Street photography & Henri Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment.”
Henri Cartier-Bresson always had his camera with him “even when I don’t plan to take photos” he is reported to have said. I love authentic street photography – candid, life as it is, interesting, real.
I know many like to ‘photo-shop’ or use some other digital technology to manipulate, or enhance their photos in some way to make them more pleasing to their eye. I prefer to show you exactly what I see – including dull skies, power-lines, and other unwanted objects. I want to portray what’s in front of me – as a travel writer I believe that’s my duty: to tell you the truth about what I see and experience so when you go there, you will not be surprised.
So like Cartier-Bresson (but without his skills) I love to ‘walk and shoot.’ This sometimes means I will wait for someone to walk into a frame .. most people don’t know I have taken the photo even though I get as close to the action as possible. When it’s not possible, telephoto lens are wonderful for those candid, unnoticed pics.
So carry your camera, be observant, be patient, and recognise the decisive moment to push the shutter – after all, in photography the smallest thing can be a great subject. No wonder I’m excited to be traveling to somewhere new soon (Borneo) – where I’ll have lots of new, not posed, candid subjects to photograph – and no electronic manipulation.
As my tagline says,” real travel, real stories, real photos”
Northland has it all – you are spoilt for choice and today it’s gum diggers history, fish, swimming, and great accommodation. I check out the fabulous, add-to-your-list Kahoe Farms Hostel and head off to the historic seaside village of Mangonui – home of the famous Mangonui Fish Shop. Browse the little craft shops and walk the Heritage Trail around the village. ( for a map see here, or buy one at the little visitors centre.)
The walkway is dedicated to the men and women, Maori and European, who sailed vast oceans to make a new life. The Polynesian navigator Kupe visited the area about 900 AD and later, another canoe, the Ruakaramea, was guided into a harbour by a shark. The canoes chief, Moehuri, named the harbour Mangonui, which means ‘large shark’.
This was known as a safe harbour for whaling vessels by the late 1700s and in 1831 the first European settlers arrived. By the mid-1800s, Mangonui was a centre for whalers and traders with sawmilling, flax and gum industries flourishing.
Now, it’s better known as the home of the ‘world-famous’ fish and chip shop’ but I’m sad to say, for me, the tagline did not live up to its food on the day I was there – but as it gets many rave reviews perhaps I was just there at the wrong time!
After the disappointing lunch I continue in my rental car onto the lovely Doubtless Bay Villas in Cable Bay and where I immediately head for the golden sands and blue water.
Travelling alone it’s not always easy to go swimming: where do you put your car and accommodation keys? Mostly, in NZ, I just leave them with my towel, but when the keys belong to someone else I find it easier to pin them inside my swimming gear, or on a chain around my neck – what do you do when alone and wanting to swim at the beach?
I spend the evening, night and morning relaxing, reading, just soaking up the view and great accommodation before heading off for Kaitaia and the Mainstreet Lodge, taking a side road and stopping for lunch at the fantastic Karikari Estate. For wine buffs make sure you have a sober driver when you tackle the samples of tasting wines.
I continue along SH10 on to Awanui then turn right and head north for Gumdiggers Park , an authentic Kauri Gum digging site that’s over 100 years old.
Amazingly, 40,000 to 150,000 year old Buried Kauri Forests have been exposed by the gum diggers and the Gumdiggers’ village, equipment & recreated shelters brings the stories to life.
Newly formed tracks show extensive ancient kauri deposits and the bus tour tourists who were also visiting told me they too enjoyed the walk around the very natural park.
With the scenery around Northland, as I said in a earlier blog with other photos – no wonder TV shows like The Bachelor and Top Model have used this area for some of their programmes.
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.
One of the motivators for my 2012 road trip around Northland was to revisit the birthplace of New Zealand – the Waitangi Treaty Grounds – and in particular be there for our annual public holiday (Waitangi Day, 6th Feb.) that commemorates the 1840 event: but more of the celebrations in a later bog.
The house is not only historic and beautiful, but is set in lush native bush and has guided tours and cultural performances night and day. It’s been some years since I visited and my memory of walking up a grassy slope to a white house alone on the top of the small rise, and with the flagpole, is now presenting a different picture: the house and flag pole are still there but the (mostly) native trees have grown, and it was through this bush and forest, with its birdsong, I now walked.
There are many guided tours and activities including “Introducing the Birthplace of our Nation” through to a fun workshop with our native flax, and “Living with Nature’ which explores New Zealand’s native plants and trees and their relationship to Maori legend.
Naturally, there are Maori cultural performances during the day, and in the evening, a twilight show which can include a buffet dinner.
New Zealand residents have free access to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, while visitors’ tickets last 2 consecutive days. Open all year (closed Christmas Day) from 9am to 5pm, the off-peak season is from April to Octoberso check the website for actual dates each year.