Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Aoatearoa means the Island of the Long Cloud (also known as New Zealand) (Day 63)

After a couple of days of decent weather I get the chance to discover the true natural beauty of NZ and understand a bit more about the magical Maori culture.

(Where I am now: The Mousetrap, last night in the cool hostel in the little town of Paihia, pop 6452)
Date: Wed26Nov- What time is it: 23:03pm.
What am I listening to: Bob Marley – So much trouble in the world)

This is where New Zealand was born.
I woke up yesterday very early from the birds singing on the trees outside the hostel – they had every reason to do it, it was a nice sunny day outside and the night before this “monsoon” type rain was falling non-stop until I went to bed.

I booked over the phone a trip to the Hole in the Rock, it’s a wonderful boat trip around the Bay of Islands where you get to pass with the boat through a “Hole in the Rock” (how predictable) but also to see dolphins swimming around the bays– that was around noon.

I had plenty of time so I decided to walk around Paihia and visit the Whatanangi historical site. This is where New Zealand was born. Some history: Captain Cook arrived in the ship Endeavor in 1770. The Polynesian people, predominantly the Maori where already there for about 400 years. In 1840 the treaty of Whatanangi was signed between Britain and Maori chiefs and NZ fell under British rule. That’s the place I visited. Lovely maintained grounds and a mixture of British colonial images with Maori culture, the impression I’ve had so far from NZ is that the Maori have had it far better than the Aborigines in Australia that had been systematically exterminated and oppressed. Maori language is everywhere, spreading and used even by “whites”.
Among other things you get to see there is a giant “waka” (that’s Maori for war canoe), a Maori guest house (like a temple) and a tree planted in 1836 by the wife of James Busby, one of the men that negotiated the treaty. You will see me leaning against that tree – it’s “only” 172 years old this year…

Dolphins and bad weather… and your life through a viewfinder or screen.
Hole in the Rock was more like a hole in the water (as the greek expression goes) since the weather was quite bad and pretty windy – we could not approach the Hole in the Rock I did get however to see dolphins, 6 of them, a big family just swimming next to us playfully. It’s a nice boat ride, on a catamaran that takes you around the islands in search for dolphins. I was already happy to be in the sea again with some reasonable sunshine. And then we spotted them. Oh the excitement, everybody running on the one side of the boat, digital camera at hand, arm extended into the water to try and “capture the moment”. I followed, just for one minute.

“You are missing the point!” I thought to myself completely cut off from the side of the boat where the dolphins were swimming. I have seen it before, the past 2 months, I have even done it myself. We go to this place (no matter what it is), this site or landscape and the first thing we try to do is take a photo. Keep that camera in your pocket damn it and understand the through your own eyes, not the viewfinder what you are looking at. I remember it in Iguazu at the waterfalls. A show of roaring sound and wonderful mist caressing your face and all people wanted to do is protect the lenses of their cameras and get “in position” for the right shot. And again in Sydney, I remember it clearly happening to myself, the moment I made that turn at the Bridge to see the Opera House right in front of me, I wept from happiness and only then did I take the camera out and film those few seconds of video. I know it takes practice and determination, but it’s not the photo that lasts forever, it’s the fact that you were there. You, not your camera. You can always send someone else to take that picture or download one from the internet (just like I did for you here to see the Hole in the Rock). More on this on the trip I did today to Cape Reinga… I got back home in the afternoon and after shopping for some postcards I ended up at the hostel eating (the backpackers’ staple food) instant noodles and watching Minority Report.

Another trip, the last one in NZ: Cape Reinga.
Another early wake up today – bus picked me up at 07:15 to take us to Cape Reinga. Please get a map or look at the little one I’ve attached. We started at Paihia (bottom right) and ended up in the most northern tip of New Zealand – a 250km ride (one way) out of which half was on a gravel road and IN a river (no joke). The bus was actually a modified truck, with a bus cubicle on it, that could take us off road, on road, any road…

We passed on the way fabulous places with wondful Maori names Kerikeri (which means DigDig, because this was very fertile land in the past) and the Huhury (noisy water) waterfalls. First stop Manginangina and (what remains) of a Kauri forest. Kauri trees are the oldest trees on Earth. Some are more than 4000 years old. I kid you not, the one I am proudly leaning against is only a bit more than 500 years old and 40 meters high and you cannot understand its size or how majestic it is unless you see it with your own eyes. Again my point about the camera…

Our driver’s joke talking about sheep in NZ: These sheep you see here are a cross-breed for meat and wool. They also are special because they can eat the weeds without getting sick. We have also tried although unsuccessfully, with the Australians, to cross-breed our sheep with their Kangaroos to get some wooly jumpers…

A story for Vasilis (and not only) – love the forest, it will love you back
Once upon a time, the famous Maori chief Rata called upon all his warriors and asked for help to get the remains of his father that had died in a battle with another tribe. He said he would go and ask for the remains but if they weren’t given to him, everybody would have to fight to the death to get them back. Everyone agreed. Chief Rata undertook the responsibility to build a mighty “waka” (war canoe), so he went into the forest and found the greatest, biggest Kauri tree to make the waka. He spent the whole day trying to chop it down, an incredibly difficult task since the tree was enormous. Finally at the end of the day, the tree fell down. Exhausted, he staggered out of the forest back to his village to rest. The next day, he took all his tools with him to start working on the waka and he went into the forest but he could not find the tree he had cut. He looked and looked without success, only to decide that he made a mistake and lost the path he had originally taken the previous day.

He looked again and found yet another Kauri tree, equally big and wonderful as the previous one. He spent the whole day until sundown cutting it until it fell to the ground. This time though he decided not to make the same mistake, so as moved out of the forest the left a trail of stones behind him to make sure he finds it the next day. Again, the next day, he prepared all his tools and followed the trail he had left only to find to his great anger and surprise that the tree was back in its original place, untonuched and as big & beautiful as ever.

Furious now, he started cutting it again and the tree eventually fell but this time he wanted to see what happened to the tree, so he pretended to head back to his village and hid for the night behind some other trees to see what was going to happen. To his great amazement, he saw all the animals in the forest, even the insects and birds picking up all the little pieces of the Kauri and putting them back in place. And then he saw Tana, the forest God blow life again into the majestic Kauri tree.

“Why? Why is this happening to me?!” he cried in despair! I only want to honor my father and help my tribe. At that point a little Fantail bird came up to him (they still follow you around in the forest) and told him: “You are trying to do the right thing but you have not asked permission to cut the Kauri tree from Tana, you must respect the forest and it will help you”. Rata understood and went back and got the most precious whale bone he had that was with his family for generations and offered it to Tana. The forest God never talked to the humans but this time he told Rata that the forest will now help him. As the Kauri tree fell, all the animals in the forest gathered around to help build the waka. It was so beautiful, the birds made sure it had wonderful designs and patterns, the insects took care of the gluing, at the end it was the most wonderful waka men had ever seen.

Chief Rata and his men boarded the waka and headed for the other tribe’s village determined to win back his father’s remains. But the enemy tribe was waiting for him and ambushed him. As they approached to attack the waka, so much was their surprise and admiration for the wonderful canoe that they just stopped, captivated from the waka’s beauty and put down their weapons. The enemy chief got worried when he didn’t hear any battle cries from his men and went to see what happened only to also get enthralled by the beautiful canoe… and that’s how Rata got his father’s remains back without no one being killed… Love the forest and it will help you…

Cape Reinga: The Edge of the world and the (Underworld)
Some places are magical, you don’t need to be religious or god-fearing, they are made special by their location, their beauty or their significance. Cape Reinga is one of those. For me, simply because it represents the end of a long trek in this side of the world – by touching the most northern part of this wonderful island I am now at the “edge of the world”. Also for its beauty, the amazing green scenery and views as this is the place where the Pacific Ocean in the East and the Sea of Tasman in the West meet – it has more than purely symbolic value.

For the Maori, this is where their souls are taken. Regardless where you die, your soul is taken to Cape Reinga where it is tested to see if you were a good person or not. If you were, your soul gets wings and flies, if not it falls into the sea to be devoured by a sea monster. As the guide said:”You don’t need to believe it but you got to respect it, so no food on the Maori holy ground”. Respect.
We got there after 40km of terrible roads – this is a place only for a 4x4 vehicle (and to my great surprise for some crazy motorcycle fans!) Less than a kilometer away from the Cape, full of anticipation and excitement to be at the “edge of the world” we were completely covered by one of the most thick mists I have ever seen.
Visibility zero. Again, disappointed faces all around, ah that missed photo opportunity. Apparently what happened is very rare – it is always windy at the Cape, you get fog probably 3 days every year… I saw nothing of the great sea, nothing of the merging of the Oceans, a big white cloud had surrounded everything around me. But I didn’t care. I could hear the roaring ocean and felt the mist on my face and glasses. And at the end I was there: Latitude 34°, 25.7’ South, Longtitude 172°, 40.6’East. The edge of the world. I looked around, let the sound and humidity cover me and just imagined the deep blue sea. The rest, I can get on a postcard…

Cape Reinga - edge of the world. Latitude 34°, 25.7’ South, Longtitude 172°, 40.6’East.

A real Waka

Birthplace of New Zealand

Amazing NZ scenery

This is the most Northern toilet in this country :-)

One of the beaches on the way back(no filters or photoshop)


Cape Reinga, most northern point

This is what it looks like with goodd weather :-)

Hole in the Rock

The 90-mile beach (i need to tell you more) is a place where many people have lost their cars from the tide (this is/was a Ford Cortina)

Bay of Islands...

Maori visitor house (with visitor)


katerinak said...

Hi Kosta

Indeed your observations are correct, the Maori's have had far better treatment by the white settlers than the Aborigines in Australia. However, slowly, the wrongs of the past are being amended...our new Prime Minister K. Rudd has fundamentally and significantly apologised to the 'stolen generation'-the first time in histroy.

I recommend watching the movie 'Australia' which touches on this issue.It also showcases in epic proportions the quintessential Aussie outback. Trivia-they shot the move in 3 locations one being in Bowen, Qld, which is showcased as a town in Darwin (movie magic!). I travelled there by car last year and it is as it appears in the movie (taking the term 'small town' to a new level). If you travel a 'little further' ( you now know what that means in Aust) you have Airlie and the Whitsundays (check it out).

It appears (esp from your 20km trek) that NZ has wide ranging diversity in much closer proximity than Aust does.

When you return home read a bit about Aborigines' 'dreamtime' stories, I think you would like them.

Enjoy your Tokyo reunion, I know how much you have missed your friends.


ps-the German lighthouse had me 'in stitches'! Upload the pig snoring please, I will ignore the chicken in the background.

Cheap said...

Hi, if you want a cheaper way of travelling around, then you should travel on nakedbus. Their prices start at $1 which is why I always travel on them.