The radio station we were listening to as we were driving away from Piha announced the line-up for Raggamuffin festival. The final act they mentioned was... Damian Marley (apparently the one person Alice has to see before she can die happy). This caused a flurry of excitement and a rush to find somewhere with Wi-Fi so we could book our tickets (we had already used Alice's 3G on her tablet to check when and where it was). It's on 31st January and 1st February which means we can have a few days in between leaving Rotorua and returning back there to go to East Cape, which is cool as Geoffrey (the guy who gave me the road map) said East Cape was his favourite place, and when Alice read about it in the guidebook, it sounded a more authentic way of learning about Maori culture. We booked the Raggamuffin tickets in Manakou, the shopping centre we had our coffee in on the way from the airport.
Unfortunately the 2 coffees, coco and 750 ml of water I had drank in the space of a couple of hours kept making me need the toilet, so we stopped at a town that seemed to be obsessed with corrugated iron- the I-site was inside a corrugated iron sheep.
Once we got to Rotorua, and had showers at the hostel whose car park we're camping in, we went to the supermarket- I'm very excited to try my rhubarb, cream cheese and almond and cashew pesto 'triple dip'! Then I went into Dick Smith electrical to see f they knew what to do about my laptop which wouldn't switch on yesterday and displayed a 'No disc or disc cable' message. He told me to take it to a repair shop which was closed (as it's a Sunday of a long weekend). I rang the phone number on the door and spoke to Mike who said if I gave it to him tomorrow, he would take it to a HP specialist for me, and so I can probably pick it up by the time I leave Rotorua for the 2nd time after Raggamuffin- very nice of him!
When we were waiting to get picked up for the Tapaki Maori village tour, a familiar face appeared- Clair Gordon! We obviously knew she was in New Zealand, after seeing her status about Piha, but it was still a bit of a shock, although she hadn't known we were here. She is on a 3 week Kiwi experience tour, and then has to work t be a nanny in the Bay of Islands.
As the driver took us in the bus to Tapaki, he taught us some Maori words and made us pretend we were rowing. He would say a Maori phrase, and then we had to say 'hee' as we did so. Then we had to choose a chief- we chose Shaun who was on Clair's tour, and him and Dennis (the bus driver) greeted each other with a Hongi- the pressing of noses twice and then saying 'Kia Ora'.
Once we got to the village, the Maori's performed their welcoming ceremony, which we weren't allowed to laugh or smile through, and then the chief performed a hongi with the 2 chiefs of us visitors (one from each bus).
It was a shame it was raining so much as we had to go through the first part (which was outdoors) so quickly as it was the part where they demonstrate the poi (balls on the end of strings), singing, playing with weapons, etc. Then they showed us the pit where the hangi (feast) was cooked- they dig a hole, build a fire and cover it with stones until they are white hot. Meat is the put on top, followed by vegetables, and a wet cloth to steam everything.
We were then lead to the marae (meeting house) where they gave us more of an in depth explanation of what we would have seen outside. For example poi were originally used by the men to strengthen and increase the flexibility of the wrists to use their weapons with. Any facial tattoos from the eyes up were in reference to spiritual things, whereas below the eyes were about real life. The left side showed things about the mother, the right, the father. Maoris are different from Polynesians as Maoris open the skin and put ink in, and do this repeatedly, whereas the Polynesians puncture the skin, similar to how modern tattoos are done. I thought it was a shame that the 'tattoos' the staff had were all fake because it would be hard to get a job with facial tattoos- surely that shouldn't matter if it's a cultural thing? They made some of the girls, including Clair, get up and demonstrate the poi, and some boys to do a training exercise of stepping in the spaces made by lying sticks next to each other, and then a middle stick running perpendicular. They also made them do the haka.
I didn't know beforehand that Maori's came over to New Zealand 600 years ago- I find it strange that New Zealand was un-inhabitated until fairly recently.
I was starving by that point so I was glad it was time for the food- as well as the chicken, lamb, potatoes and sweet potatoes cooked in the hangi there were also carrots, stuffing, coleslaw, potato salad, beetroot, mussels, and fish cooked in a tasty coconut sauce, with tea, coffee and hot chocolate, and steamed pudding, custard, tinned peaches and pavlova for dessert. I don't think the kiwi, peach and sprite punch I brought was particularly authentic.
On the way back, Dennis made us sing songs.