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The East Cape

One of our favorite areas in New Zealand

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Our final time in New Zealand was spent on the East Cape. This is the part of the North Island that represents a fin of the creature that Maui brought up when catching the fish that is Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Because our time in New Zealand was coming to an end, we weren’t sure we wanted to take the time for this area, but were immensely glad that we did. It was one of the highlights of our whole trip.

Certainly the scenery was beautiful.


But there was virtually no place in New Zealand that didn’t have beautiful scenery. What made the region special was the chance to meet Maori people. Before that we had only met Maori as clerks in souvenir shops. We didn’t even see marae, Maori meeting places, in the South Island. Here we saw a church decorated in Maori style.


There were many well maintained marae, including this one that specially honors those who fought in the New Zealand army.


In Maraehako Bay we stayed in a backpackers lodge owned and staffed by Maoris. Maraehako means ‘meeting place of good people.’ The tranquil atmosphere was very relaxing.


Since the owner of the lodge was part of a large extended family, many of his nieces and nephews came during school holidays. Each day seemed to bring a new contingent, with some of them coming on successive days.



Vaughn recently moved to the retreat and is living there and helping the owner Pihi with all kinds of duties. He grew up in Rotorua district and is just back three weeks from Australia where he had pitched for a softball team, including Brisbane and Adelaide. Vaughn has done a lot of travel, mostly with softball teams. He played for the Tampa Bay--Clearwater team and from there went on a Cuban tour, staying a week or so. This was 20 years back when he was 18-19. He also played with a Wisconsin team near Madison. Now he just wants to give up the fast pace, go fishing and hunting and enjoy the land. There are red deer and pigs in the bush around here. He can trace his ancestry for 27 generations to the 1300's.

I asked him if modern Maori care about each other's iwi (tribe) or make a point of finding out. He said they do, and gave as an example a particular iwi that had fought alongside the English against other iwi in the 1830's. He would be cautious when meeting someone from that iwi. When Diane overheard some of the cousins introducing themselves to Vaughn, they were exchanging iwi information.

I mentioned that l was interested in what parents tell their children, since the child is basically acculturated by the age of 10 and later learning consists of refinements. He said it's still common for Maori to teach their children hatred of pakeha (foreigners, Europeans).

He explained the legend of the North Island as a huge fish hooked by Maui, an ancient Maori hero, where the Northland is the tail, the East Cape and Taranaki are the fins, Hawkes Bay is the hook by which it was caught, Lake Taupo is the water heart, Wellington is the head, Lake Wairarapa is the water eye, Cape Palliser is the jaw.

Pihi was cleaning fish for the family he's taken out on charter that day. Five or six preteen children, nieces and nephews, were dancing about excitedly. One stood close by and asked if he should collect the wood from the beach to smoke the fish. The captain gently replied to the child that he needn't do it and they might not smoke it right away. The boy replied, 'No worries, mate, it is actually my job to collect the wood.' Old and young, they use 'No worries' and 'Good as gold.'


We already had a list for our next visit to New Zealand of places we hadn’t gotten to see, and also places and people we wanted to see again. The East Cape is now high on that list. For us the Maori are a people with an enlivening and fascinating culture. We had read the Maori novel Potiki by Patricia Grace before leaving California and here we read The Bone People by Keri Hulme. Both were impressive and deeply moving. Also in Auckland we went to the Film Archive and saw Once Were Warriors which was very impactful.

We’ve been thinking recently about the possibility of contribution by indigenous peoples, such as Maori, to each other and Western young people, in a world where so many have lost touch with indigenous values. Many groups could share in this, including aborigines, Native Americans, Fijians and other islanders, Maasai and others.

We’ll be back.

Dave and Diane


From Diane:

We have had a good time. It is doesn't seem like 4 months. We have seen an amazing amount of New Zealand and we have another whole list to come back for. Maybe as visiting workers on organic farms. Room and board for approximately 4 hours work a day. And you don't need a special work visa because technically it is seen as a gift. And we could learn all this stuff about organic gardening. We'll see. If not us, maybe someone else we know.

We are on the North Island heading around back into Auckland to drop off the car and then fly to Australia on July 17th. We are slowing down with an eye to completion. Looking at what worked and didn't and what do we want out of the next leg of the journey. Dave will turn 70 in Sydney July 23. It is fun to watch people's delight when they realize that he doing all this traveling this year. I will turn 50 in Australia also on Sept 4. We thank each other for this year of turning 50 and 70.

This trip has been amazingly smooth and comfortable. And I am still able to grumble about having to move around so much. I am getting a reverence for putting things in the same place so I can find them in the same place. As Paul Theroux says, "Travel is a deliberate act." Having chosen to let the world's variables play upon us, I recognize the opportunity to see how my habits contribute to our stability.

Maybe we will get around to tales of great daring do and adventure, marking the quality of the experience by the exotic, rare, or degree of disruption, but right now we are so enjoying the act of day to day living.

There is an interesting flux between notions of travel and how it occurs to us. I've been seeing the difference between the sort of romantic notions I have from being young and reading about what was perhaps antiquated travel and the affects of a global modernization. Dave has traveling mixed with experiences of the 40's, 50's and 70's.

The New Zealand people have been wonderful. They have been gracious, intelligent, friendly and funny.


Photo gallery

Visit http://dianeanddave.net/albums/East Cape/index.html for more photos of the East Cape. Click on the first slide and then use the right and left arrows keys. The Down arrow may help in showing the caption.

Posted by dave-diane 18:35 Archived in New Zealand Tagged photography

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