Boxing Day

The day after Christmas or Boxing Day in England and English countries, Ned and I were up to see the sun rise over Lake Tarawera.  
Each morning, we woke up to the sounds of NZ’s only native animals: birds.  Their musical calls filled the lakeshore.

Our agenda that day was filled with activities that highlighted NZ’s adventurous culture.  First up: Zorbing.  What is Zorbing?  You climb in a gigantic inflated ball that is filled with water; then as the ball rolls down a hill, you slosh around inside.  The Zorb was created in NZ, and we’ve not seen it anywhere else.  The kids got Zorb tickets from their cousins and were beyond-eager to give it a go.

They zigged, zagged and sloshed their ways down the hill, eventually giggling and wiggling out of the Zorbs and jumping into the nearby hot tub.  All the kids Zorb’d as did four of the adults–Ash, Ned, and I opted to capture the moment from the shade.  Great decisions all around.

Zorbing in action:

Post-Zorbing in action.

After Zorbing, we grabbed some not-so-fast food from a nearby Wendy’s and rolled up to our next stop: Skyline.  Skyline is a giant adventure park reached by scenic gondola.

Once at the top, we had the option of zipping back down via luge and chairlifting back up; ziplining; or tackling the big swing.  Or, of course, if you were me, eyes nearly puffed shut by NZ super pollen and well aware of a tendency to motion sickness,  you could grab a seat in the shade, catch-up on podcasts, and take arty photos of the chairlift.

My only complaint about NZ so far (well, in addition to whatever prehistoric pollen has left me looking like a perma-stoner–alternately red-eyed or sunglassed): what does this country have against Diet Coke? real, honest-to-goodness Diet Coke?  It’s got to be something because DC’s evil doppleganger, Coke Zero (ugh!!!), has kicked it to the curb.  C’mon, NZ, even I wouldn’t expect you to have Tab, but Diet Coke is a dietary staple.

Everyone else ran off in search of the Kiwi adventure of their choice.

A swing with power to spare:

A luge with a view:

I’m beginning to wonder if any other Goo Goo candies cap has made it to NZ; this one gets around.

Don’t rest, yet, family … there’s more to come!

We next picked up a bus to the Tamaki Maori ceremonial hangi (barbeque).  Located on lands belonging to the Maori, the event was equal parts happy and sad.  The latter because it’s hard to see NZ’s (almost) first settlers reduced to putting on a show for flip-flopped and baseball capped tourists.  The former because the small group involved clearly appreciated the chance to share their talents and history with the crowd.  For example, before white settlers arrived on NZ, the Maori fought endless battles against each other, and they also did things that would seem to run counter to the standard narratives: burning down half of the South island forest, engaging in ritualistic (and pure starvation-based) cannibalism.  Nothing is as simple as it appears.

One part of the Hangi ceremony is to pick a “chief” on each bus.  We followed Chief Ned.

His warriors.

Throughout the small replica village, we learned about Maori traditions.  The Maori people did not have a written language, but they recounted their journeys and stories on their flesh.  Maori tattoos are quite visible–usually facial.  Men will tattoo their entire faces; women will tattoo only their chins.  Why?  It is to represent their roles as the storytellers of their tribes and to pay honor to the owl, which–like the women–keeps watch over the forest.  Ta moko, Maori tattooing, when done traditionally is completed NOT with needles but by carving into the skill.  You read that right: carving.  This goes back to its origins in the carvings on houses.  The thought was, “hey, we could do this on our bodies, too.”  Ouch.

The most famous Maori dance is the Haka.  The dance can have purposes ranging from celebration to pre-battle ceremonies.  The Haka is probably best known at present because it has been adopted by the NZ All Blacks rugby team as their pre-match ritual.  We learned that sometimes a “Haka-off” (my term) could prevent battles between Maori tribes: one side will just give in because the other side out-Haka’d (my term) them.  That hasn’t held true in rugby.

Scenes from the Haka and other dances:

And, Chief Ned gives it a go.

On the way home, our bus driver found a round-a-bout that she went ’round about a dozen times while we all sang songs from our countries and–of course–the transnational classic “Wheels on the Bus.”  To borrow another song, “Oh what a night!” … and day after Christmas 🙂

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