NOTE; AS OF 23 NOV THE PHOTOS HAVE BEEN FIXED
Taupo is in the Central Plateau. The lake is New Zealand’s largest, and the 3rd largest in the southern hemisphere.
We are staying at the Point Villas – a gated community besdie the lake. We have a beautiful house, fully stocked and beautifully decorated. The weather is still not cooperating, so we will not be using the swimming pool.
Tom, our Maori guide, met us at the house to get us settled in, and Peg, the owner, stopped by too.
Tom made arrangements for us to have dinner at The Vine – the MOST happening spot in town. This is a resort community, so there are tons of restaurants and small shops. Dinner was, as usual, fabulous.
Colin, or uncle Colin as we came to know him, picked us up at 9:00 and drove us to Mt. Titirupenga. It is very rural here and the countryside is beautiful. Rolling green hills, filled with cattle and/or sheep.
This area is known by Maori to be the centre of the North Island, home to a sacred area of mature native bush, 600 year old Totara trees. The land is Maori land, cannot be visited without an invitation, and then not visited often (they told us they only make 20 trips a year to that place). Two young women greet us and we proceeded to a mystical and private setting where we are “welcomed” in a traditional powhiri. Robin has been appointed our Chief and is instructed carefully as to how he must behave. A warrior suddenly appears, as if by magic, out of the bush, dressed in a cloak, brandishing a large, long wooden weapon, and shows us how powerful he is by swinging it around, barely missing Robin. All the while he is shouting. He drops 3 different leaves on the ground, each one a little further into the bush. Robin must pick them up without losing eye contact.
Delani Brown, master carver for the local Ngati Tuwharetoa tribe, his sister Margaret, the warrior and a young 12 year old girl come out of the bush to greet us. We share traditional hongi, pressing our noses together, while touching foreheads, with each of them. There is a sharing of breath and a kiss on the cheek. (we are getting pretty good at this now). Then it is time for a sharing session. Robin gave a really nice speech, explaining who we were and why we were there. I wish we had been able to video it. The Moari welcomed us and sang us a song. Then it was, as the wife of the Chief, my turn to sing. Yikes, some of you have heard me sing!! What to sing? I remembered that Annabelle liked me singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to her to put her to sleep, so I started that. LK and Delani’s eldest daughter (who looks just like him) joined me.
Delani is gentle and spiritual. He explained Maori history, talked about myths and beliefs, showed us various trees and plants. We “sheltered” in a hollowed out Totara tree. And then, we had lunch in a small clearing In the bush.
We had typical Maori fare, cold smoked trout, (delicious), a TiTi bird (apparently quite special that we were served this). It is a bird that is “preserved” in its own juices and fat—no cooking. It is very salty and tastes a bit like anchovies. Not awful, but certainly not something I would order in a restaurant. Lots of fresh vegetables. Delani’s wife is Greek, and a good cook, so there were many other dishes as well. We ate very well.
Then, the group entertained us with singing and dancing. All in all a terrific day.
I asked if it was possible to purchase the smoked trout to have for dinner that night, but no, it is not something that is legal to purchase. Just as we were leaving, Delani handed Robin a smoked trout, so on the way home, we stopped in a small grocery store, purchased some cheese and crackers. We had a terrific meal at “home”.
Sunday. Nov. 17
Tom Loughlin picked us up at 9:00 for a Kai Waho (Kai is food) experience. It was a full day. We started with a walk in the Orakei Korako reserve. Tom talked about Maori food – harvest, storage, capture. We identified and picked leaves and fiddleheads for our lunch. We headed to a small hut on a hill where we were to “cook” lunch. A hole had been dug in the earth, and a fire had been started so there were nice wood coals remaining from a fire that had heated large stones. We placed food – lamb, beef, chicken – sweet potatoes, pumpkin, fiddleheads, carrots, - each group in a basket lined with the leaves we had collected. Robin and Rich placed the baskets on the coals, covered them with wet cloths, and then thick wet burlap. The soil was placed on top, and we headed off to Orakei Korako, NZ’s largest geyser field. We took a small ferry across the river (now a lake because it is part of the hydro electric power scheme), and walked along paths through and around the geysers. The colours were amazing.
We returned to the fire pit, Robin dug up the soil, and we had a terrific lunch. Then we headed down to the lake, boarded a beautiful old wooden boat, and went for a trip down the lake, near to where we were staying to view the Maori rock carvings – new, not old, but still beautiful.
We had so much food left over, that we again had a great meal at home.
Monday, Nov. 18
Today we drove to Wellington, a 5 hour trip, but with a stop in Napier, a walk around the lovely art déco buildings and a nice lunch, it took us quite a bit longer.
We stayed at the QT Museum Hotel, full of art – some of it quite strange. We ate in Hippopotamus, the hotel restaurant – quite French, but very good nonetheless.