Kia Ora New Zealand!

Māori Greeting and Te Pā Tū Village

Our first sign of greeting from the locals was a physical sign at the entry to the Auckland airport after we debarked our plane. There was beautiful Māori music playing, and while many people just passed by, we stayed and took it in. “Nau mai! Haere mai!” means welcome and come(in). It was a nice sentiment upon arrival in their country.

Later in Rotorua, we visited the Te Pā Tū Māori Village and Learning Center. We were greeted there as well, but it was a very serious encounter. One of the guests in our group acted as a representative of our tribe, and it was his job to negotiate with their leader to communicate that we were coming in peace. This ritual is so sacred, that it is not allowed to be filmed or photographed. It started with all the villagers coming out to see who was knocking on their door, ready for battle, but hopeful that we were friendly, which of course we were. We just had to prove it. The two leaders performed an exchange, that if satisfactory, would mean we could enter.

After being deemed worthy, we were taught Māori customs and dance. There were learning stations where different arts and crafts were taught. They also performed the Haka, which is what you see the New Zealand All Blacks do before a Rugby match. In person, it’s quite emotional to witness, and the air seemed charged with electricity. We later gathered together in a common room and had a feast of what they call Māori fusion. It was interesting…

Kia Ora is the Māori version of the Hawaiian Aloha. It is used for saying hello, goodbye, cheers, good health and probably many more sentiments. We said Kia Ora to the Māori village and really felt sad to go.

Wine Country, Matakana Estate

New Zealand produces quite a few wines and is famous for their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. I’m not a wine connoisseur, but the vineyards are lovely to visit and usually have a nice charcuterie board lunch. We visited the Matakana Estate and did just that.

Brokenwood Mysteries Police Headquarters

Alright, all serious Brokenwood Mysteries and 800 Words fans, listen up. Both these awesome shows are filmed in New Zealand around the town of Warkworth. There isn’t much to see though, but we did find the Brokenwood police station. To our disappointment, no one was there filming.

New Zealand Jade

If you want high quality jewelry made of Jade, New Zealand is the place to be. We visited Mountain Jade in Rotorua, where they give presentations and tours of their workshop. They explain the history of Jade in New Zealand, the different types and what it means to the Māori. A single amulet can take years to make using original techniques, and each precious object is passed down from parent to child. These amulets are sacred and bring luck, protection and good health.

Hobbiton

Time to get on the bus, the Hobbiton Tours Movie Set bus! The Shire is protected from just anyone wandering in, so you need a ticket and then you need to get on this bus. A personally guided walking tour will take you all over the Shire, so bring sturdy shoes. Our guide was quite entertaining, making us laugh most of the way, mostly at her, not with her, but does that really matter?

These Hobbit houses are so beautifully decorated, you feel that at any moment Bilbo will show up with some friends to take tea in the garden. Washing is hanging in the backyards. Vegetable gardens are growing an assortment of food. The word ‘idyllic’ comes to mind.

Oh, the Green Dragon Inn, where ale is flowing and negotiations with elves, dwarfs and hobbits take place. We were allotted one drink per ticket and free range of the Inn.

The National Kiwi Hatchery

A Kiwi is a national bird, a green delicious fruit that is very high in vitamin C and the collective name for New Zealanders. The Kiwi Hatchery is hatching the birds, not the others, in case there was any confusion.

It’s a very dark place, and I mean lighting-wise, not sinister. There is a self-guided tour you can take, until they let you into the hatchery. That’s where the magic happens. You will see Kiwi eggs under hot lamps and baby Kiwis beaking their way out of their shells and rolling around in the hay. Adorable doesn’t even cut it.

This diagram shows the sizes of other flightless birds compared to the tiny Kiwi. He might be small, but he scores high on cuteness.

New Zealand, first and foremost, belongs to the Māori. They are the stewards of the land and really set a tone of respect, gratitude and hospitality. The Lord of the Rings movies really shone a light on the beauty of the countryside. There is not one place that isn’t truly lovely. You will fully expect magical creatures to pop up from a valley or drink from a stream. It’s a place you will want to go back to, again and again.

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