Friday, February 6, 2015

Maori people welcome travelers with art, stories, beautiful landscape


Okains Bay encourages families to live there, providing cheap lodging
in exchange for children learning the Maori language.
We left historic Akaroa, founded in 1840 by the French, for a 50-mile plus drive.  We were met by a group of school children who welcomed us with song and dance.  Some of us tried temporary tattoos, and the Maori tongue greeting.

THE MAORI people we met during our New Zealand idyll were sensitive, welcoming, smart and funny.  We felt at home.
"I'm hungry," our guide said on the return to our ship after a long day. When she commented again that she'd love a cookie, I pulled one from my satchel, an extra from morning tea.
This young man was the student leader who welcomed us.
"Yum.  That hits the spot," she said, setting her microphone on her lap to munch for a moment.
OUR TIME with the Maori included the trip with Denise, to her family's village near Napier (previous blog), and a day at another, more remote Maori village, Okains Bay, whose nearest town is Akaroa.
Here, the Maori people are cultivating non-Maori people to their town.  They offer cottages with modest rentals to families with children who agree to enroll their young in the village school there. With that proviso, the children learn the language, customs, history and music of the Maori, assuring the preservation of the culture.
Early settlers lived fairly elaborately,
even in remote New Zealand villages. 
The Maori were world class fishermen as Okains Museum notes.
AKAROA'S HARBOR is one of the prettiest in New Zealand, and attracts French visitors because of its preservation of the French language and its "French feel" in the bistros, shops and outdoor markets. Many signs are in French, and the food and wine are French. As we climbed a mountain past gorges and farm land, we left the coast behind.  Approaching the village, we saw signs of both bygone Colonial life and Maori culture.

Okains Bay School preserves Maori culture.

WE WERE greeted at the village by a young man and soon we heard songs from younger children. Adults offered homemade pastries, then we were ushered into the astonishing Okains Bay Maori and Colonial Museum, with its carved war canoes, tapestries and entire rooms preserved with trappings of the early settlers' lives. The history in this museum is known internationally -- with fine marine and fishing exhibits and world class bird life displays, beautifully documented.

Dunedin's train station is the second most photographed
building in the Southern Hemisphere (the first is
the famed Sydney Opera House, featured in earlier blogs.)
NEXT UP:  Look to our new blog,
for theater and book features, keying off the upcoming paperback publication of our novel "Lilian's Last Dance." continues its look at international travel and adventure, with a ride on New Zealand and Australia's classy trains and a visit to New Zealand's famous Dunedin Train Station. Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us at

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