New Zealand is unforgettable for many, many reasons. In short, it’s unlike anything else we’ve ever seen before. The breathtaking scenery with its majestic mountains, endless skies, winding roads, blue lakes covered in mystical clouds of mist that begin as suddenly as they end, turquoise lakes with milky-smooth, calm waters and windy lakes dotted with dozens of black swans.
In just one single day, you can go for a walk among giant redwood trees, tour the original Lord of the Rings film set of Hobbiton and dine on top of a mountain admiring the city lights below.
We’ll talk a little more about all these experiences in our upcoming posts, but for now, we’ll have to give a dedicated space for the beautiful Tamaki Māori dinner experience we did with our winning Gish group.
The Tamaki Māori Village was one of our favorite experiences in New Zealand. It’s something you simply shouldn’t miss if you’re anywhere near, even worth a longer trip by car and staying the night somewhere nearby. But what exactly happens in the village? What’s this about?
During the cultural experience (which is a 3,5 hour thing), you’ll learn about the Māori culture via music, performances and stories. The experience starts with a fun and sort of loud bus trip, during which a chief of your very own tribe will be chosen based on several traditional requirements. You’ll also be given a short lesson on the Māori ways and the importance of being respectful about them.
Once you get to the Tamaki village, you’re rounded up into a circular arena with a few busloads of people, each group there as their own tribe. But instead of getting that touristy feeling that you get whenever you’re surrounded by other travelers, you simply feel a little nervous and excited about what’s to come. And you might also feel a little thankful that you’re not there alone.
And that’s when the experience really kicks off. There’s darkness, there’s lights, there’s the smell of earth and forest, and soon a boat arrives along the narrow river next to the arena. In the boat, you’ll see a group of Māori men arriving, with their tongues sticking out, faces covered in traditional tattoos and no fear in their eyes.
You know it’s all for show, but again: you’re a little thankful for the crowd that’s currently surrounding you.
A stunning display of traditional warrior poses and dance takes place, and then the chief arrives. He says a few words and wow, this one’s a pretty charismatic dude.
Nose-to-nose greetings are exchanged, and you get to enter the actual village with all your other tribe mates.
Once the opening ceremony is over, you’ll be guided through pathways in between huge old trees, which remind you of ancient woodlands you’ve read about in fantasy literature. Which is no surprise, since you’re actually surrounded by a 200 year old ancient Tawa forest. There are little huts and structures here and there forming the historical pre-European village, and fires burning everywhere to light up the place.
Next, your tribes are taken around to watch performances and listen to stories at different spots in the village area, and some of you are invited to participate in the activities like the Haka and the Poi dance.
Poi is a performance art or the tools which are used for it. It’s a Māori word for “ball”. The special utensil consists of two strings joined to weighted balls of different materials and shapes, modern poi are usually made with unnatural materials. While storytelling or dancing, performer rhythmically swings tied weights according to geometric patterns.TheMaori.com
After the short introduction to several Māori traditions, you’ll get to experience fantastic performances and enjoy a traditional Hangi dinner. In traditional hangi cooking, food such as fish and chicken, and root vegetables such as kumara (sweet potato), are cooked in a pit dug in the ground.
The buffet type dinner takes place in a huge hall and you’ll be entertained throughout the whole meal with songs and stories.
The atmosphere and the whole night were simply unforgettable and so, so unique. Some of us got teary-eyed at one point just taking it all in — our lovely Team Scrumtrulescent all there together witnessing all these beautiful performances taking place, with our plates and tummies full of delicious food.
The night ended with goodbyes and a very happy looking crowd. Me & Satu did a quick stop at the gift shop too and left with a pair of kiwi earrings and a few stickers to remember the evening by.
But honestly, I don’t think this is something we could ever forget — even without the souvenirs.
See more photos below!