by Robin Rodig | March 08, 2013 | 0 Comments

That's the Maori name for New Zealand. Or literally "Land of the Long White Cloud".

You see this word everywhere as well as many other people, place, and thing names in Maori. The Maori (pronounced like cow-ree but with a M), this country's indigenous people, culture is prominent here on the North Island. Groups of school kids crossing the street together in heavily populated Maori areas. Maori symbols for new life, abundance, or the bonding or joining of people adorn public buildings and signs. Marae, the Maori communal, meeting places, are often passed on roadways. It is clear that New Zealand honors its roots.

I've really enjoyed absorbing the Maori ways and beliefs along my journey. Exploring one of the northernmost tips of New Zealand, Cape Reinga, is sacred to the Maori as they believe the spirits of the dead travel to the Cape and jump off the headlands to start their journey to the afterlife. Admiring the carving skills that go into their massive war canoes, waka (some holding upwards of 100 people). Salivating over the sweet potatoes, chicken, and lamb of the hangi, traditional Maori way of cooking food in the ground.

Most memorably, being humbled during an evening experience at a Maori village when introduced to what the Maori are renowned for: their fierce, warrior, cannibalistic ways. Let's just say this was no luau. You're not greeted with a lei from a pretty girl in a grass skirt and a little ditty on the ukulele. These people were scary. Spears and sharpened stone weapons of war were demonstrated with. Intricate facial tattoos were showcased; the facial designs of the original peoples created by slicing the skin, putting ink in the wound, and letting it heal over on its own. Chants and songs were loud, aggressive and intimidating often including bulging eyes and wagging tongues. I speculate that the scrappy, pelt and fur-wearing Maori women, with their mouth-to-chin tattoos, were the mean girls of Polynesia back in the day.

All very interesting. And the Maori people I've met along the way are proud to share their heritage and customs. My goal is to experience a hongi, a formal Maori greeting where you press noses. A tame interaction, for sure, by Maori standards!

Haere ra! (Goodbye!)

Cape Reinga lighthouse, Northland, New Zealand Cape Reinga, where Maori legend claims the dead's spirits leap off the headlands to start their journey to the afterlife.

Maori marae, New Zealand A Maori marae

Maori marae wall design, New Zealand

                                                                      Marae wall design

Maori carving, New Zealand Maori carving

Maori waka (war canoe), New Zealand

                                                             Maori waka, war canoe



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