With a day of caving done we headed off to stay the night with a Maori tribe at their traditional Wharenui (ritual big house) to learn about their culture and way of life in New Zealand.
After exiting the bus, performing some ritual greetings were we touch nose to nose and dropping our bags in the Wharenui we headed off to dinner. When the meal was finished the tribe performed a couple traditional dances for us one of them being the famous Haka.
The Haka as it’s known to the Maori people of New Zealand is a traditional war cry/ group dance. The Haka is a combination of tribal dance, chanting, angry/scary facial expressions that is performed by Maori warriors before they went to battle to intimidate their opponents. It was not only used for battle but also for amusement, as a welcome to distinguished guests, acknowledge great achievements, and funerals.
When their performance was complete we split up into two groups one male one female and we quickly found out that the men would be learning and performing the Haka. After 15 mins of rushed practicing we headed back to the dining hall to watch the girls do the “Poi” which is dance involving swinging a weighted ball on a rope around in a variety patterns. Shortly after it was our turn and walking to the front of the room we removed our shirts to show our manly bare chests and started the Haka. Chanting,pounding our feet,slapping our chest/arms, and making the most scary faces we could possible muster we performed the ancient dance the best we could for only getting 15 minutes to learn it. As I said before the dance was used by Maori for intimidating and scaring their enemies and I couldn’t tell whether we were 1: scaring the Ladies with our fierce warrior faces or 2: performing a very comical version of the Haka but the laughs, smiles, and pointing coming from the crowd of women had me leaning towards the latter of the two 🙂
The New Zealand All Blacks rugby team performs the haka before matches and is considered by some the greatest ritual in world sports. Here is a video of them performing it before the 2011 Rugby world Cup final match were they defeated France 8-7 to win the cup.
Next Stray Bus Post: Christmas in Lake Taupo
The beaches were definitely nice but it was time to start doing some adventure travel which New Zealand is famous for. That being said I decided to pay for my first Stray bus excursion which happen to be spelunking at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves.
I ended up going with the Tumi Tumi tubing option which ran around 110 US. Once I payed my cold hard cash we donned our wetsuits, geared up with hard hats with lights and put on a pair of rubber boats. We looked like a couple of salty miners ready for action. It was about 10 min walk to the cave which had me sweating to death in the thick 7Mil wetsuit but it was short lived because as soon as we entered the small hole into the dark underworld the temperature drop drastically.
Right off bat we started seeing the glowworms on the ceiling of the cave. When we turned out the head lights the ceiling of the cave looked like a clear night sky beaming full of stars. It was beautiful! Funny fact: the glowworms are not actually glowworms but MAGGOTS! Guess if you named them “glowing maggots” it would really rune the appeal to come see them.
Its pretty amazing how they glow. The glowworm actually does not poo for lack of better word but converts its waste product into light by chemical reaction. Which in turn attracts its prey who fly towards the light and get stuck in the glow worm’s hanging silky beads on the ceiling of the cave. This makes for a pretty efficient cycle of eating, glowing, prey, eating, etc.
After admiring the glow worms for a while we finely got down to some spelunking. The name of this excursion is pretty deceiving being that you only tube through 2 short areas and most of the time you spend crawling, swimming, climbing, scooting your way through dark wet muddy areas of the cave. In one spot we crawled through a small tunnel about 15 ft (4.5 meters) in length that was just big enough for me to fit through on my belly! Talk about claustrophobic and we did it in complete darkness as well!
By the time we got to the end of the cave 2 hours had passed and my adventurous side was still wanting more. I think if I had more time to stay in the area I would have done the full day tour! All in all it was blasty blast time!!!
Stray recommendations: If you are looking for something out of the norm to do on the North Island this is it. Tumi Tumi tubing was well worth it and the guides were great!
Next Travel Post: The Haka
Right before I arrived at the Macadamia Nut farm one of Virginia’s Pigs gave birth to 5 little piggies and during my stay I probably took at least 50 to 100 pics of these cute little porkers. Here are some of my favorite shots. Enjoy!
After about 2 months of debating how to travel around New Zealand I decided to go with the Hop on Hop off bus. The company I ended up booking with was Stray, purely on the fact that they had a half price deal at the time and they hit all the spots I wanted to see. From the Farm I headed back to Auckland for a day then caught the Stray bus off to our first two stops Hahei Beach and Raglan.
Hahei is a small East coast beach town of 300 people situated on the Coramandial Peninsula. The beach itself is sheltered which makes for nice swimming were you’re not getting pounded by waves every 3 seconds. There is also a trail from the beach that heads northwest up the coast and leads to Cathedral cove. The cove is named after a large cavern cave that links it with Mares Leg Cove. Both coves are absolutely beautiful and it’s no wonder they used it for a scene in the movie Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian.
So after arriving in Hahei some of my newly made friends and I busted out the hiking shoes and headed up to the coves. Took us about 1 hour 15 round trip and when we returned it was time to jump into some swimming shorts, grab some beers, and head back to the white/pink sand beach for some relaxing. Later that night our bus driver Rob cooked us up some yummy food on the grill followed by some tasty alcoholic beverages that gave us liquid courage to try the tree swings down by the beach. All in all it was a great way to start out my bus tour of New Zealand
The next day we headed off to Raglan, another small beach town located on the West coast. I was super excited for Raglan being it has one of the longest left hand breaks in the world. The break was featured in the movie Endless summer which is a classic surf movie of the 1960’s. I was hoping to rent a board and paddle out to redeem myself after my failed attempt in El Salvador because of not being in surfing shape. Unfortunately my excitement soon drained because when I caught site of the ocean it was as flat as a pancake.
Also Stray’s accommodation for the night was far out of town and away from the good beaches so for me Raglan was kind of a bust but I made the best of it and I ended up hiking down to a little cove for swim and back up to the lodge for some Thai green curry over rice courtesy of Rob the bus driver.
Stray recommendations: Don’t do the kayaking trip for 80 bucks. Save your money because there are way better places like Abel Tasmen on the stray route to kayak than Hahei.
Next travel post: Spelunking
During my stay at the Macadamia nut farm in New Zealand I figured out how to send a pig off to dream land. Enjoy!
Having my fill of Auckland I decided to switch things up a bit by doing a volunteer help exchange at a Macadamia Nut farm. Some of you may or may not know what this is. Basically you work for your room and board and sometimes food as well. I go through an organization called Helpx (www.helpx.net) which simply is a classified ad system for help exchange hosts and volunteers to get in contact with each other.
After an hour train ride from Auckland south to the small town of Pukekohe I met up with my Host Virginia at the train station and we drove to the farm located ruffly 20 minutes outside of town. When I arrived I soon found out there were two very nice German guys volunteering as well. Being said all the beds were taken so I had to sleep in a nice little cozy caravan which I had all to myself.
For the next two weeks my daily routine was wake up around 7:00 a.m. go eat breakfast (we had the full range of the kitchen minus beer), start work at 8:00, Morning tea around 9:30-10:00 and quit around 1:00. The kind of work we were doing was pretty random. For the first couple days we sorted and bagged nuts, after that we picked weeds,cleared the swamp, cleaned the rental house, fertilized the trees, landscaped, weed wacked, etc…. The work was easy and fulfilling. It felt good to have a purpose after six months of being a backpacker bum.
As for the experience I absolutely enjoyed myself while staying with Virginia and Charles for two weeks. From the moment I arrived they made me feel like I was part of the family. From Charles taking me for rides in his classic British Alvis to Virginia showing me how to make bread the entire experience was so rewarding. I’m definitely going to make time in my travels to volunteer more!
Next travel post: Beach Bum