Tauranga (Rotorua), New Zealand
Kohutapu: The Tides of Change
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Approximately 8½ Hours
Tauranga is steeped in fascinating Maori legend, beginning with the Polynesian explorer named Kupe, who arrived by canoe from the homeland of Hawaiki in AD 950. The fleet of the Great Migration, considered to be the first mass arrival of Maori settlers, arrived about 400 years later.
Spend the day with the Ngati Manawa tribe to gain a deeper understanding of Maori history, culture and relationship to the Earth.
Board a coach and leave the city behind. You'll notice the landscape quickly change as you travel through the Kaingaroa Forest -- the largest planted forest in the world. As you pass the town of Rotorua, you'll notice the pungent aroma of sulfur surrounding this geothermal region.
On the outskirts of the tribal lands, an esteemed elder (kaumatua) provides a traditional Maori welcome. He'll share stories and legends as you journey past historical sites and you'll learn how his ancestors protected the land and its resources.
Back on the coach, travel a short distance to a rock shelter that holds a number of ancient cave drawings believed to pre-date the Great Migration.
Then, a Maori family warmly welcomes you to a hangi lunch -- a traditional bake of meats and vegetables cooked underground in a pit lined with hot stones and covered in vegetation. Chicken, pork, lamb, potatoes, kumara (sweet potato), and other vegetables are placed in the pit, covered with dirt and left to steam for several hours. After the food is unearthed, everyone feasts on a delicious meal. As you eat, you will learn of the hugely positive impact your visit is making on this small community.
After lunch, the kaumatua will lead you to a nearby waterfall and regale you with the important role the longfin eel plays in Maori culture.
As the day draws to a close, bid your hosts goodbye and rejoin the coach, charmed and enlightened by this treasured experience.
Wear comfortable walking shoes. Bring a hat and sunscreen. The hangi lunch is not suitable for vegans or vegetarians as the vegetables are cooked with the meat.