I was up bright and early the next day to prepare myself for the last leg of my epic trip – a bus tour around both the north and south islands of New Zealand with Topdeck – a tour company for 18 to thirtysomethings all around the world. I joined up in Auckland, some of the trip members had been to the Bay of Islands already, but I felt like part of the group right away as I got on the bus – everyone seemed like fun, they were all my age and from a whole bunch of different countries. Our bus left Auckland immediately for Rotorua, a spa town with lots of adventure activities and attractions in store for us. We introduced ourselves to the group and met our hilarious guides, Craig and Scotty, who would entertain us for the next two weeks with their jokes, knowledge and general mayhem.
Before we got to our final destination for the night, we stopped to watch some group members Zorb down a hill, which basically means you get put in this giant plastic bubble and rolled down a hill. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it was actually hilarious to watch!!
After a quick stop in Matamata, a “Hobbit” town close to the film set of the Shire that I would be visiting, we drove on to Rotorua. We would stay in the town the next evening, but the first night we all stayed TOGETHER in a longhouse type of Maori lodge, bunked down on the floor like a giant sleepover camp! But before we could enter into the Maori Marae, we had to honor their customs and learn about the welcoming ceremony that was going to take place. First, we had to remove our hats and sunglasses and wait for the Maori woman to call out a welcome song to us and we, along with our ancestors were permitted to walk slowly into the home and community center of the New Zealand Natives. When inside, we were welcomed by our host Shawn in a speech given in his native language and treated to a song, which we had to return to them with our own song. We practiced our Maori song “Oma Rapati” on the bus beforehand, so we sounded pretty good! Then it was time for the traditional Maori handshake, which includes touching noses like Eskimos!
We had a nature walk after that, where we saw gorgeous waterfalls and learned a bit about the traditional Maori way of life. Our dinner, however, was chicken, potatoes and gravy – very North American but very tasty! After dinner we were treated to a performance by the men on our tour – the “Haka” – a war dance and song performed only by the males of the tribe meant to pump them up for battle and intimidate the other side. It was so cool! We were treated to stories and legends after that in our lodge, where we bunked down for the night, feeling like we knew each other a lot better after sharing something so special. Being the culture vulture that I am, I LOVED this part of the tour and felt like I learned a lot about New Zealand and the people who inhabit this fantastic country. I had more new adventures on my mind for the next day though – it was time to visit a movie set from one of the most epic movies ever made. Lord of the RINGS, BRO.
- New Zealand: 4 weeks in a campervan. Part 1 (yetmoreidlemusings.wordpress.com)
- One month down… (mktravelsnz.wordpress.com)
- Watch Rihanna Get a Traditional Maori Tattoo in this Unsettling Video (celebuzz.com)