The Travelling Series
One of my favourite nights on the North Island came very early on in the trip - it was the Maori Culture Night overnight stay in Mourea. This is where our Stray bus got to learn all about New Zealand's indigenous Maori heritage, the people and their history through staying at a Marae (a traditional Maori meeting house).
As we entered the lands of the people of the local tribe, we had to be blessed and welcomed in the traditional Maori way. This is where you hold right hands with the locals, touch noses twice and say 'Kia Ora' (which literally means 'be well' in Maori, or informally means 'hello'/'goodbye').
We were then cooked for before the owners put on a show. This consisted of musical performances of the Haka - the men's war dance made world famous by the fact that the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team perform it before every game - and the Poi - the women's storytelling dance using balls on a string. Then came the time of the night where audience participation was required! The boys learned the Haka, the girls learned the Poi dance and then we performed for each other. It was actually the most fun I'd had in ages and we got some really amusing videos out of it!
One of our fellow Strays, Olly, had brought a guitar with him and so a little jamming session followed between him and the other performers. We were all singing along by the end and swaying - it was great!
After you are welcomed to the Marae, blessed and cooked for, you are then classed as 'whanau' (which means 'family' in Maori). I personally think the whole night aided our bus in becoming more of a whanau. The whole night was definitely a bonding experience and one that I will never forget.
The next night we stayed in a lodge overlooking the beautiful Lake Aniwhenua. We were cooked a 'hangi' which is a traditional Maori meal where the food is slow roasted in the ground. The meat literally melted in your mouth - it was so delicious!
We were then treated to a few more performances from Olly where we sang along, held hands and did the Kum Ba Yah. No, not quite, but it did feel a bit like that! One of the German girls, who sings in a band back home, joined Olly at one point and they sang a Kings of Leon song together. KOL are one of my favourite bands and we had no idea this girl could sing so, when they sang together, it was so good - a really special moment with some very special people.
The next day we went to Taupo and had a mooch around before heading to the famous Blue Duck Lodge, where we were to spend two days.
To be continued...