2008-01-26. Waitomo to Taupo. Day Ten.

Today I began to travel south through the hills into the Volcano fields of crater lakes and hot springs of the Taupo area.

Breaking camp was easy. The Marae caretakers made it a point to wish me luck on my journeys to the south.

According to the local tour guide operation owners I was gifted with the opportunity to fish Moakurua Stream as the Maori food rights do not have a clause in them for white people, especially people from the States. The person I spoke with at the bar was amazed that I was granted the right of passage to fish where I fished. Given that my conversations with Hue and Puki were generally long however short in that when they would ask me about my fishing adventures and how I cooked my fish. My answers, numerous times, that I did not eat the fish were always responded to with uncontrollable laughter from the two of them. They would pause, then they would ask me again and laugh at me uncontrollably. They just did not understand that I traveled all across the world just to catch and release the golden coloured Brown Trout.

The three hour hike down the road, on the ridge, over the mountain and into the next valley was an experience that only the determined would partake. Even though I never landed any fish I appreciate those hardy stocks of resident Rainbows and Browns that are the top of the food chain in their remote jungle mountain freestone creek.

This morning Dave asked Hue about what he had heard said to me the night before at the pub. Hue said simply that I deserve everything that I get.

I deserve everything that I get is not something that I am used to hearing in a positive way. Typicallly in the States this phrase is use in a derogatory way. “Well, if she is going to talk about me that way – then she deserves evrything she gets.” Its not that context at all. Hue, a tribal elder, meant it in a way that resounded respect. A thing that is not easily commandered from New Zealand’s indigenious founders. This is a thing that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

I deserve everything that I get.

As we drove the winding roads along crater lakes I found the time to think about the thing that I was doing. the pride that my family and friends instill in me and how thankful I am of them. It not that they have me its that I have them in my heart and in my mind, touched deeply by even the thought of the joys that I have spent with them.

THE KAITUNA.

The Kaituna River or River of Death claims to be host to the largest commercially run waterfall in the world. I believe that it is something like 21-feet however it is dependant upon the water level at any given day that it is ran.

I have never whitewater rafted before and was only partially prepared for it. After a brief instruction session from our guide we walked to the river and got on our way. The Kaituna cuts through a steep gorge and drops quickly creating lots of waterfalls and fast rapids. The raft lasted about an hour. The waterfall was great, plunging underwater for several seconds after dropping several feet was really fun. I never fell out of the boat however I did manage to take a paddle to the jaw as the photo to the right shows clearly. It hurt like hell but after going over the next waterfall I was over it.

As a group we bought the photos that the rafting outfitter’s photographer captured. Erika also captured images, so there will be more pictures, eventually.

The Hangi.

We arrived at the Tapuekura Marae early and were allowed to enjoy the lake beach.

A Hangi is a typical Maori greeting. It is something like a lua in Hawaii. Hawaiians and Maori and Somoans are all related as they descended from the same civilization in the south Pacific hundreds of years ago. The Hangi begins when our chief reaches the gates of the other tribe’s Marae. Our chief is challanged by a warrior from the Marae and then places a leaf from a silver fern on the ground indicating that we are welcome. The chief’s tribe is lined up behind him, women in front of the warrior men. Once our tribe’s chief picks up the fern we are allowed to enter the Marae and are greeted by song from the women of the tribe we are visiting.

The show continues for nearly an hour where we are taught the Huka and other traditional song and dance from the Maori culture and ends with a meal cooked in the ground, the traditional Maori cooking method.

Basically a hole is dug into the ground and rocks are placed into the hole, a fire is started and is meant to warm the rocks, when the fire goes out the food is place in the hole on the rocks then covered with a heavy canvas and soil, the rocks smoke the food and in about an hour the food is prepared and ready to eat. We appreciated having two and some of us three plates of smoke chicken, pork, and beef roast, with sweet potatoes, red potatoes, and carrots, amongst other things.

After dinner we traveled several hours to the Tiki Lodge Hostel in Taupo. We got in late. It was Saturday and everyone went to bed early worn out from the days float down the river of death and from the traveling.

Click on the image below to see the album from the day. The rafting photos were not taken by me.