I’ve seen where the hobbits live in Hobbiton! The set was fantastic, it’s all maintained really well and felt weirdly real. We ended the tour of the set with a cider in the Green Dragon pub. I resisted buying a gold-plated copy of the ring or Gandolph’s hat…it’s actually quite scary how many people do actually buy these things! Apparently the most obsessive fan the tour guide had had was a guy from Utah who flew all the way to New Zealand just for 2 days so he could post a letter through Bilbo Baggins’ letter box….
The Tamaki Maori Village
After Hobbiton we drove onto the Tamaki Maori village to spend the night there. We had to choose our chief and the natural choice was John (the most popular person on the bus and 6′ 9″ so had a chance of feeling less intimidated by the Maoris). We learnt a few traditional Maori things – stripping grass to get the fibres out and then weaving it into a plait – stripping the grass with a shell was surprisingly difficult – I think I stripped more off my fingers than the grass!
We played the stick game as well which was all hand-eye coordination – but the hard part was you could only look where the stick was coming from that you had to catch, not the one you were throwing….so as you can imagine there were a few yelps and someone who ended up with zero or two sticks – Wilma’s throws were so dangerous the guide had to swap with her so Jamie didn’t get knocked out! Hilarious.
One of the main parts of the evening was the welcome ceremony which there were about 300 people at. All the other tour buses had to choose a chief as well so there were 5 chiefs in total. They all had to be men as that’s just Maori tradition – and they had to line up and face the Maori chief and the other warriors as they came out. The hardest part was throughout the whole ceremony no one is allowed to smile let alone laugh. Apparently a Dutch guy from the kiwi bus a few buses ago got head butted for laughing….they were pretty intimidating!
All the visiting chiefs had to say their name and where they were from – they were all pretty nervous, you could hear it in their voices! John said later he was shaking with nerves. And then he ended up being chosen to pick up the peace token – which was a silver fern lying on the floor. He had to pick it up without losing eye contact with the Maori chief. They then did the traditional nose to nose greeting (hungi I think it’s called).
After the welcome ceremony we went round the Maori village and they got all the men to learn the Haka (which was very funny for the girls to watch) and I have now learnt where the word tattoo comes from! It comes from the Maori word ‘tattau’ which comes from the noise of sticks beating together that they then use to create the tattoos. Each time they went into battle they would have another line tattooed on so the more lines, the stronger warrior they are. The guy that told us was laughing at all the people (mainly the British) that have these tattoos and have no idea what they mean.
I read recently that British people are the most tattooed nation-what’s that about? Are we trying to create an identity for ourselves in place of our lack of national identity?
A Traditional Maori Feast and into the Hot Tubs
We had a traditional feast of food that they had cooked in big pits in the ground and it was absolutely delicious-smoky potatoes, beautifully tender meat and the biggest (green-lipped) mussels I’d ever seen. We had to sing a Maori song that our group had learnt earlier in the day to everyone else having dinner which was quite funny as we were a bit tipsy and had forgotten most of the actions and the melody! Strangely though that song has been popping into my head ever since – in fact I was singing it for the entirety of a 6-hour walk I did a few days later…..
After dinner everyone else went home and our group of 30 had 3 hot tubs and the bar to ourselves – as well as a campfire where the Maoris told stories and we toasted marshmallows. Fabulous! We slept in lodges that had 15 people in each – and each bed had a carving above it that all had a special meaning and story – from the traditional gods right up to the present day. It was beautiful.
It Smells Like Eggs…
Roturua (every time I write this word I can hear Chris and Neil’s impression of Nancy, our bus driver saying it) wasn’t that special – we didn’t actually stay there but visited Te Puia, one of the most visited tourist attractions in New Zealand. It’s the geothermal park but having been to Iceland and the fact that it was pouring with rain made it not really that exciting. The best part was having boiled eggs cooked in the hot springs – yum!
Roturua is very touristy, full of hotels and motels and is apparently not very nice at night. I was hoping to see a kiwi in the enclosure there (it’s extremely rare to see one in the wild) but they were all asleep. We could only see their body shape on the thermal camera. Next stop Taupo…..