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 . . .

 

 

Maori tour ‘tour of a lifetime’ says National Geographic Traveler

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.

“Great – now let’s try that again then we will head for Pihia and our waka”‘ says Hone

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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).

If you are unable to take part in the Waitangi Day events, you are still able to paddle a waka with them – up to Haruru Falls .. see their website or find Taiamai Tours on Facebook

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.”

Maori waka (war canoes) focus on Waitangi Day

As well as the NZ Navy, ceremonial waka  (war canoes) gather in the harbour every year (6th February) to commemorate the 1840 signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. (NZ’s founding document betweem the Crown and Maori tribes) These waka are often from many parts of New Zealand and the men who carve them are well-respected.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For a chance to learn to paddle one of these canoes (in the Bay of Islands, Northland) contact Hone Mihaka of Taiamai Heritage Journeys

%d bloggers like this: