Friday, November 19, 2010

A Māori welcome to New Zealand

We had a pretty good 7-day passage over what can be a nasty trip.  We had two bumpy days followed by two wonderful days of flat seas and no winds and three days that were a mix of average to low seas as we neared the coast.  Several boats behind us saw 50 knots of wind, 20 foot seas and arrived with shredded sails, broken rudders and engines and salty boats.

We have spent the last two weeks in a marina and have found this to be a delightful place.  The green rolling hills remind us of northwestern Connecticut and western Massachusetts.  The temperatures are 50F in the morning and 75F during the days and very comfortable.  This is Spring on this side of the globe and in just the time we have been here it is getting warmer.  All the crew are enjoying snuggling under blankets at night and wearing blue jeans, socks and sneakers.  The captain had not worn socks for over 2 years!

The people are very friendly and we can buy almost anything we need for the boat.  The sales manager of the local chandlery loaned me his car on several days to drive around to find things and do some provisioning.  I gassed up his car but he asked for nothing in return.  We have fixed most of our broken stuff and are pushing off the dock tomorrow for some Bay of Island cruising.

Since we have good internet here, I’ll post some highlights about the Māori.  There is so much to see and explore, I’m sure we will post more in the coming weeks.

The Māori people are the indigenous people of Aotearoa (New Zealand) and first arrived here in waka hourua (voyaging canoes) from their ancestral homeland of Hawaiki over 1000 years ago. Today, Māori make up over 14 percent of the population. Their language and culture has a major impact on all facets of New Zealand life. 

Māori culture is a rich and varied one, and includes traditional and contemporary arts. Traditional arts such as carving, weaving, kapa haka (group performance), whaikorero (oratory) and moko (tattoo) are practised throughout the country. Practitioners following in the footsteps of their tipuna (ancestors) replicate the techniques used hundreds of years ago, yet also develop exciting new techniques and forms. Today Māori culture also includes art, film, television, poetry, theatre, and hip-hop.

Māori is an oral culture rich with stories and legends. The Māori creation story describes the world being formed by the violent separation of Ranginui, the Sky Father, and Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, by their children. Many Māori carvings and artworks graphically depict this struggle.

The creation of New Zealand is described by the legend of Maui. This god managed, among other things, to harness the sun in order to make the days longer. However, his biggest claim to fame was his fishing up of the North Island, which is described as Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui). A look at an aerial map of the North Island will show how closely it resembles a fish. Māori believe the far north to be the tail of the fish and Wellington Harbour the mouth. Māori describe the South Island as Maui’s waka (canoe) and Stewart Island (Rakiura) as his punga (anchor).

Being a tribal Polynesian people, Māori have a unique protocol. The best place to observe it is on a marae (Māori meeting grounds).   We went to the most important marae in New Zealand…the The Waitangi Treaty House.  It was here on February 6th, 1840, that the Treaty of Waitangi was first signed between Maori and the British Crown.
A powhiri (formal welcome) at a marae begins with wero (challenge) A warrior from the tangata whenua (hosts) will challenge the manuhiri (guests). He may carry a spear (taiaha) then lay down a token (often a small branch) that the manuhiri will pick up to show they come in peace. Some kuia (women) from the tangata whenua (hosts) will perform a karanga (call/chant) to the manuhiri. Women from the manuhiri will then respond as they move onto the marae in front of their men.
Once inside the wharenui (meeting house) on the marae, mihimihi (greetings) and whaikorero (speeches) are made. To reinforce the good wishes of the speeches, waiata (songs) may be sung. It is usual for the manuhiri then present a koha (gift) to the tangata whenua after greeting the hosts with a hongi — the ceremonial touching of noses. After the powhiri, kai (food) may be shared.

Māori used chants, song, and dance to record their history, to convey feelings, to express ideas, to tell stories, to celebrate important events, and to protest and persuade. Kapa haka, which combines movement, song, and chant, forms an integral part of Māori culture and ways of life. It plays a critical role within whānau (family) and iwi (tribal) customs and lifestyle, including ceremonial events such as pōwhiri (welcoming of visitors) and tangihanga (funerals).

Kapa haka is useful for developing coordination and skills in manipulating props (for example, weapons). Many of the dance movements involve gestures of the hands, arms, and face and originate from warrior training or images of nature (for example, the movement of wiri originated from the shimmer of heat on the land).

"Haka" is a Maori war dance. The words are chanted loudly in a menacing way accompanied by arm actions and foot stamping. A haka was traditionally performed before charging into battle.

From earliest times, the haka has inspired and energised generations of Maori in both peace and war. The haka was part of the Maori warrior's conditioning for war and battle. There are many types of haka however some were specifically intended for battle. Today the haka is an aspect of the Maori culture of New Zealand that has become very much a national expression of New Zealand identity.

For your enjoyment, a video of the powhiri, the haka and the traditional woman’s dance is below.  The fluttering hands simulated rising heat, a higher spirit and alertness.  I found that to be a little disturbing and particularly during the singing of beautiful love ballads.

The Māori’s tattoo their face as a sign of identity. The Māori term for tattoo is Ta Moko. Each Moko tells a unique story.
For men, the Moko showed their rank, their status and their ferocity. The which is generally divided into eight sections :
1. Ngakaipikirau (rank). The center forehead area
2. Ngunga (position). Around the brows
3. Uirere (hapu rank). The eyes and nose area
4. Uma (first or second marriage). The temples
5. Raurau (signature). The area under the nose
6. Taiohou (work). The cheek area
7. Wairua (mana). The chin
8. Taitoto (birth status). The jaw

Ancestry is indicated on each side of the face. The left side is generally (but not always, depending on the tribe) the father's side, while the right hand side indicates the mother's ancestry. If one side of a person's ancestry was not of rank, that side of the face would have no Moko design.

Come along, Dear reader, as we wander New Zealand for the next five months and enjoy what this county has to offer.

Kia ora —(goodbye)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Kingdom of Tonga - Nuku'alofa

Tonga sits on such a longitude to have given it the honor of being the first nation to welcome in the new millennium. Tonga is also the only Pacific kingdom. The local tourist board will try to convince you that theirs are the Friendly Islands, but this is a distinction that is a little more doubtful: Tongans were historically a war-like people who looked down on pacifists, and the person who originally dubbed them the Friendly Islands, the venerable Captain Cook, was unaware of the Tongan plot on his life.
Our short trip to the Island of Nuku'alofa where the Tongan King lives was calm and uneventful. We arrived ahead of stronger winds that gave those that followed us a much rougher and uncomfortable trip. We anchored in front of Big Mama's bar and white sand beach in Pangaimotu, a small island near the main harbor.
On Monday morning, we took a small ferry to Nuku'alofa and did the customs, health and immigration two-step and the three hours that it took were softened by the fact that we checked into and out of Nuku'alofa during the same visits. We assured them that we would leave at the first available weather window. Checking out was also necessary before we could get the 500 gallons of duty free fuel.
Big Mama with all her cruising Kids
Big Mama invited all the yachties in her harbor to a free Tongan feast to close the cruising season and also to mark her birthday. She had games for the kids and adults and prizes for all. In addition, every cruising boat received a large basket of fruit and Tongan treats for their upcoming passage. Truly the Tongans are a generous people.
We saw some of the town and bought a few trinkets and food at the open market. We borrowed a cell phone to call the family and tell them that we had arrived with presents from their American Samoan son. They took a taxi to meet us at the market and we arranged for them to meet us at the fuel dock the next morning to collect the bags. We later met the entire family and I showed them a black and white print of Penitani and his family from American Samoa. Penitani's mother, Fine, had not seen her son in 3 years and only one of his three children. She kissed the photo and tears welled in her eyes.

One of the uncles had a touring car and one day drove us all around the island as a private tour. We saw the main king's palace built in 1867 that was being renovated and 3 other palaces in which the King could live. This was only the 5th King and we saw the tomb where the first 4 were buried. The kingdom goes to the first male son, but since this king has never married, the crown will go to his brother who already has a son to keep the tradition alive.
We saw more flying foxes and saw the only forked palm tree in Tonga. The Mapu'a 'a Vaca Blowholes ('Mapu'a 'a Vaca' means 'Chief's Whistles') stretch for 5 kilometers along the southern shore of the island of Tongatapu. The Blowholes are best viewed on days when there is a strong wind and at high tide. Then the maximum amount of water is forced up through natural vents in the coral limestone, thus forming geyser-like fountains of seawater up to 90 feet high.
We continued eastward and also encountered Captain Cook's landing place. He anchored his ship almost exactly where we had anchored Emily Grace and he landed near Mu'a by long boat to pay homage to the King. The capital was first located here and then moved to Nuku'alofa. We also saw the enormous 300 year old stone burial tomb of Lord Lalaniuvalu.

Our final destination before heading back was the Tongan Stonehenge, the most famous Tongan monument. The Ha'amonga 'a Maui Trilithon is a large gate of stone. There are marks on this gate which function as a way to see when the sun sets and rises and when the longest and shortest days of the year are. This means people living here in the past were already aware of the presence of a certain form of time and were actually quite developed back then.
As the land tour ended, we were invited to their church on Sunday and a feast in honor of Fine's 65th birthday. They also prepared the standard Tongan fare including pig in an umu. We enjoyed a lazy Sunday with the family and within 2 hours of our return to the boat, we lifted anchor and headed off on the 1032 mile trip to Opua. We had been watching the weather and all indications were that it was a good time to move on.
Follow our red dots on shiptrak. Time will tell whether we made the right choice of when to leave.
A food chain lesson- The LIVE pigs in the bags became our dinner

Posted by SSB
On passage to New Zealand - 385 miles to go