Maori evening

Friday night, after ziplining, we went out to a nearby Maori cultural center to have dinner and learn more about the Maori traditions. We were led down a small ravine to the banks of a crystal-clear stream that flowed from a nearby freshwater spring. The Maori men rowed up the river in a traditional boat and traditional dress . . .

. . . and from there led us into a covered area, where they performed for us some of the traditional Maori dances, songs, games, and the famous haka, with its intimidating shouts and gestures. I particularly liked the explanation of how many of the dances, performed by both men and women, had originated in exercises designed to develop reflexes, coordination, and skills that helped in battle and life in general. It made me realise how connected we still are, through our arts and sports, to a distant past that was much more practical and even violent than our day-to-day existence.

Our dinner was cooked in a buried pit, unearthed before our eyes in great baskets of potatoes, kumara (a Polynesian sweet potato) and lots of succulent lamb and chicken.

As our hosts prepared the dinner for serving, we were led on a walk through the nearby forest to see the head of the freshwater spring and see a reconstruction of traditional Maori working village.

My favorite thing of all was seeing the tiny pricks of light from the glow worms peeping out from the cavities of tree stumps, and muddy overhangs. As with fireflies in the American midwest and south, these glowing creatures filled me with a sense of magic and otherworldly delight. It’s no wonder, with creatures such as these, that humans have told stories for centuries about fairies and sprites and a world just beyond our own.

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