Jump straight in and immediately immerse yourself in the Maori ways with a traditional welcome or 'Powhiri' which will serve as a special memento to take home with you. A Powhiri begins with a challenge from the hosts, as a warrior approaches the guests to see whether they are friend or foe. He will often carry a taiaha, which is similar to a spear, and will lay down a token which when accepted is a sign of friendship.
From then on, the proceedings continue with a call of welcome, before pausing to remember their ancestors who have passed on. Once the marae grounds have been reached, speeches are made and songs are sung before guests present their hosts with a gift. Then, to finalise the formalities, a hongi (ceremonial touching of noses) is performed before food is shared in keeping with the Maori tradition of hospitality. You can experience a traditional Powhiri at any marae grounds across the country.
Head to the Bay of Islands in the north where you can take a day tour to Camp Reinga, New Zealand's northern most point, to gain an understanding of some of the Maori myths and legends. This is the most spiritually significant place in the country for the Maori people - an ancient pohutukawa tree and a lighthouse mark it. It is believed that all Maori spirits travel here up the coast and proceed to the underworld by sliding down a pohutukawa tree root into the ocean.
Alternatively, stay in the Bay of Islands and take in a Culture North Night Show for an entertaining look into the past. The production re-enacts the story of The Maori and European forefathers set in the meeting house. See history unfold in front of you with tales and stories putting you in the (hypothetical) shoes of a Maori. Songs and audience interaction prevent this from being a mere monologue and will keep you informed and entertained for a spectacular evening.
At picturesque Rotorua, you can discover the ways of the Maori currently being kept alive at Te Puia. Tour through a thermal valley full of powerful geysers and bubbling mud pools and embrace the beauty surrounding you. Then learn how the ancient arts of woodcarving and weaving are passed from generation to generation in classes. By the evening you'll have worked up an appetite, so why not take the opportunity to enjoy a traditional dinner cooked the Maori way - on hot stones underground.
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