With time running out, I figure it’s high time I did one of the cultural evenings in Rotorua – there are several. I am ashamed to have not had a traditional Hangi dinner yet – I did have a hangi in Maketu but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t cooked in a hole in the ground, the traditional way.
I get picked up by John, who as well as the being the shuttle bus driver, is also our guide for the night. We go round a few hostels and some more posh accommodation, picking up a different nationality each time. On arriving we are allocated our tables, and John proceeds to find out how many nationalities are represented in the group. There are 16 nationalities in total – I’m the only one from Scotland – so we are therefore named the tribe of 16 nations. Our next task is to pick a group leader, which falls to a reluctant French guy on his honeymoon. Next we need someone willing to sing a song, a traditional part of the welcoming ceremony. An English guy volunteers with a rather unusual choice of an old but popular love song. We then procede out for the cultural part of our evening.
Next we are lead down a path through native bush. Through the trees we see Moari men dressed in traditional outfits, yelling and sticking their tongues out at us. The leader observes us through the trees before they head down to the river. They come into site, rowing down the river on their Waka (traditional Maori canoe), with a traditional song to keep the beat. They all have tattoos on display for the occasion.
We next procede to the village where we sit down for a cultural show. The show starts with an official welcome, where the leader of the Maori challenges our leader before offering up a piece offering. Our leader accepts and we get an official welcome from the tribe, followed by a speech from our leader – in French! The English man then sings his love song much to the amusement of the tribe. We are now officially welcomed to their village.
The show they put on next is fantastic! They talk us through the traditional instruments, the significance of the tattoos, some of the training exercises and games they play, and of course a lot of the songs and dance, including modern ones. The Poi dance (balls on the end of string) is particularly impressive and complex. They finish with the Haka, or war dance, before we head in for dinner.
It’s so good to eat good food! After several weeks on a backpackers diet, this is a welcome feast. You can really taste the earthy hints in the hangi food – which is enough to convince me that the previous hangi I had was definately not cooked traditionally. Alongside the Hangi are several other traditional dishes including seafood chowder and kiwi pavolova.
After dinner I join the group headed for Rainbow Springs to see the kiwi’s at night! On route we stop to look at Mitai village’s spring, welling up out of the sand, surrounded by glowworms.