When someone mentions a Maori tour, it usually brings to mind thoughts of mass tours in Rotorua that consist of a performance following a hangi. Maurice’s Maori Tour in Kaikoura is completely different from these tours. Rather than being performed for, you are brought into the culture. Rather than being treated like a tourist, you are treated like family. It is a personal, entertaining, and informative tour that everyone I’ve talked to in Kaikoura (and even a Twitter follower in Singapore) has raved about, and I am going to too.
I could tell that Maurice was going to be an interesting guide from the get go. He’s full of life and you can tell that he loves what he does because he’s having fun. Just one instance of him having fun? He proudly introduced our second guide, Karen, as being from the “troublemaker tribe.”
The first place that they took us was to the Maori pa on the Kaikoura peninsula. Here, rather than just telling us about the traditions of the Maori, we were able to witness them in action. One of the highlights was learning how to introduce ourselves.
Introducing yourself isn’t simply a case of shaking hands and saying your name. Instead, you first talk about your mountain — either the mountain closest to your home or the one you identify with the most strongly. Then you tell of your river, then your canoe (or whatever mode of transport you feel most strongly about), then your tribe, and then your first name. This resulted in the following introduction for me:
“My mountain is Mt. Coot-tha in the inner suburbs of Brisbane. My river is the Brisbane River, so beautiful and muddy. My canoe is the Qantas flight that brought me to Australia when I moved there four years ago. My tribe is Repsher, originally Rebscher, which loosely means person that picks grapes off vines in German. My name is Kristin.”
During a thoroughly entertaining discussion that included all of us being given our own Maori names, Maurice introduced us to the song that we were going to learn by the end of the tour. This was written out with English pronunciations on a laminated card for each of us. We all took a few stumbling steps towards learning it before heading back to the van to briefly stop at the marae, the traditional meeting house for Maurice and Karen’s tribe. We then continued on to the carvings at South Bay.
The carvings, including one of Maui pulling the North Island from the water, brought with them another round of stories. Then we got to do what turned out to be a highlight for many: the weaving. While Maurice was telling us about the carvings, Karen was collecting flax for weaving into flowers. Her deft fingers nimbly moved the leaves around, and we all clumsily followed along until we all had pretty flowers too. Everyone was incredibly proud of their artwork!
Our next stop was for morning tea at Maurice’s house, where we all introduced ourselves in the proper way to his wife Heather and his two grandsons, who introduced themselves completely in Maori (as Maurice and Karen had done). Being there and sharing their food really added to the feeling that we really were being treated as family.
Every time we had been in the van, we practiced the song that Maurice gave us at the pa. His living room was where we got to put on our grand performance; we all sat in a circle singing as Maurice strummed his guitar. It was yet another thing for us to be proud of, especially because Heather said we were the best group she’d heard today!
Our final stop was in the Puhi Puhi Valley to the north of Kaikoura. This valley was a target of loggers in the early 1900s but some parts, such as the forest near the children’s school (the only evidence of which is a foundation) are still just as they were. It was here that we got to immerse ourselves in the natural side of Maori culture, learning about leaves and trees and their significance to the Maori people. We saw some very impressive trees, including totaras that were hundreds of years old. At the base of a few of these trees, we stopped and sang our song again.
I can’t, in a single blog entry, give justice to just what a great tour this was. The details we were given about all sorts of events and legends would easily be three or four times the length of this post if I wrote them down — and that’s just the ones I can remember! Yet the tour was great not because we were given all this information, but because of the way it was imparted. Maurice and Karen are very proud of their culture and are very willing to share it with everyone and they should be proud of the way they do it.