The next day we were heading to Maketu for our overnight Maori stop. This is set on the east coast in the Bay of Plenty. Home to Maketu's pies and it is named after an ancient kumara (sweet potato) pit in Hawaiki (where the Maori people are supposed to have originated from). On the way down we went via the Waitomo caves and me and 4 others did a spellbound tour for $61 to get and see the glow worms in the caves. Arachnocampa luminosa the proper name for NZ's very own glowworm. The glow is actually in its tail. It attracts food like flies and bugs. They go to the light and then get stuck in the sticky bit hanging on the end and then get eaten, a bit like a spider. Others were doing some fun caving experiences of abseiling and tubing but I could not. The largely unchartered network of caves under Waitomo was created by water running through the soft limestone. The water which continues to flow through the network creates Stalactites (which form downwards) as the lime in the water reforms from drips from the roof and stalagmites (which form upwards) as the water hits the floor. The Maori name 'Waitomo' means 'water hole'. Glow worms are actually maggots for starters but not great for PR. There were millions of them. 6 years ago almost to the date a massive flood almost wiped them out but luckily some survived and it took a few months to get back up to the same sort of numbers as before. When going through we switched off all our torches and it was pitch black, I could not even see my hand when I moved it in front of my face. When we went through we went on a little dingy down a bit of the stream towards a waterfall and the glow worms totally lit up the cave it was amazing. Totally different, something I never have seen before. When I got up from sitting on the side I could not feel my left leg it was completely dead and took a few mins to regain some sort of normality. It was the weirdest feeling as I could feel it was moving but there was no sensation.. not nice. The tour guide said this was normal especially with leg injuries..
We visited two caves that day. The second one we walked about 250 metres into it. It had some vegitation at the beginning of the cave which is a bit unusual. We saw what they call totems where some light comes down in some of the holes in the cave. Apparently a new cave has been discovered in Vietnam in the last 12 months which has a cathedral in it the size of the South Africa World Cup stadium 16 times over. In it there were skeltons of a goat, cow and a Oma (a destinct and flightless bird) they would have fallen or crawled in there and got lost and just lay down and died. It was a pretty cave and nice to go and check out. We then got dropped off and had some lunch and met the others from their trips.
Later on we headed to Makethu to spend some time with people from the Arawa tribe. The Arawa Waka (one of the canoes which migrated from Hawaiiki) landed on the shoresof Makethu around 1340AD. We met Uncle Boy who welcomed us and explained the plans for the next few days. We got welcomed on to the Marae with a Powhiri (traditional welcome) had a traditional group dinner which consisted of chicken, lamb, pumpkin sauce, veggies and stuffing. It was super delicious and then we had pavlova and jelly with peaches for dessert which was all good. Afterwards we entered the hall and we had to let the guys go first. Then the 'tribe' did a performance where they yelled some words and pointed and jumped around with their weapon. They then laid down a leaf as a sign of peace. The chief which was Ben then had to pick it up as a sign of peace. If he had jumped over it then he would be challenging them. Once he did that then the boys would go and greet Uncle Boy and the tribe by shaking hands and by touching each others nose to the other persons nose. Then the women followed and I was last :O Then the members of the local iwi tribe entertained us with a cultural performance and sang a few songs and played guitars. The boys then showed us an activity they do for eye hand cop-ordination when they throw each other these two sticks and when also turn around and do it backwards. The males taught the guys the haka and women the art of the poi (balls on long string) It was really good fun. Basically the Haka looked harder and the boys had to really beat themselves up and learn the words and routine. When the guys from the tribe did it one of them scratched and made their chest bleed, yuck. However they expected there to be bruises and marks on the guys thighs when they slapped it. As for us, we had these plastic balls on a rope and we had to spin it and catch it twice and then spin it a few times catching it on the third spin.. we then repeated it another 2-3 times.. then we swayed to the side and did it when turned to the side of the audience and this was to the musics beat. It ends when we move one leg forward and yell Hee. We then spent some time taking pictures of us in our headbands and robes and the boys in their 'skirts'. I took a picture with Nanna Boy who was really lovely. We slept on the mattresses on the floor all together, that was about 45 of us so a massive group. It was a really fun experience.