We checked in at the registration office in town, told the team of our dietary requirements and waited for our coach to collect us. They do actually offer transportation from any accommodation in Rotorua but since we’d been booked in as part of the Kiwi Experience party we had to go to the main office. It wasn’t a problem as it was only a 5 minute walk from our hostel.
Upon collection, the driver explained to us what will take place throughout the evening and how we were expected to behave as part of the Powhiri. A chief was selected to represent our “tribe”.
Once we had arrived at the village we entered through beautifully carved archways which opened up into a large courtyard with terraced shelter standing platforms, the entrance to the village itself and a large river. As soon as the onlookers were settled the welcome ceremony commenced with traditional music and dance culminating in the traditional Hongi greeting.
The village itself is nestled amongst a tawa forest and the evening light and smoke from the fires gave it a mystical feel.
As we walked around the village there were a number of different stations where we learnt about traditional games and battle training techniques as well as weaving and carving and tattoos. Kelly got to show her complete lack of coordination as she took part in a Poi demonstration whilst Anthony narrowly missed out on being called up to do the Haka.
After this we were taught about the hangi, the earth oven that was used to cook all the elements of our evening meal. Before we got to enjoy our meal we were invited into the Wharenui, or meeting house, for more traditional dance and songs. One of the songs they performed, which also happened to be our favourite, is special to Rotorua as it tells the love story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai which is said to have taken place in the town.
Finally, we tucked into our delicious feast. They had kindly catered for us so we had vegetable lasagne, samosas and lentil patties and we helped ourselves to vegetables and bread that had been cooked to perfection in the hangi as well as a delicious fresh salad.
After stuffing ourselves silly with all the delicious food, the evening was brought to a close with a Poroporoaki, a traditional closing ceremony. Once all the songs were sung, the haka had been completed and the speeches were finished we all piled back onto our buses to head back into Rotorua.
We both thoroughly enjoyed our evening and are very pleased that we were able to go. Having learnt a small amount of Maori culture from our driver on our tour up to Cape Reinga we had whet our appetite and wanted to learn more.
Sadly we didn’t take many photos, just the two we’ve shared above but we do have two videos on the evening. The first, which is viewable here, shows the welcoming ceremony and around the village. The second, available here, shows the hangi, the ceremony in the Wharenui and the meal.