Sunday, 25 May 2014

Mount Taranaki & Tongaporutu

Tēnā koutou katoa! (Hello everyone)

The other weekend my friends and I took a quick trip to the Cape Egmont region of New Zealand - the little piece of land that juts out on the west coast into the Tasman Sea.

It was the four of us from the South Island (Maria, Lisa, Bridget, and myself) and we started late on Saturday (May 10th). We drove out to Egmont National Park with just enough time to find a place to camp and make our classic soup dinner. We took a little while getting set up because as we were unpacking the tent, we found out we were missing a pole!!! It must have fallen out in the garage after we last packed it up, but yes, it was missing. We debated sleeping out in the open, but it's fall here and the temperature drops pretty low at night (about 45° F). We could have also slept underneath the roof of the Visitor's Center nearby, but we didn't want to get in trouble in the morning and the concrete didn't look too inviting anyways. Finally, we rigged it up with the pole for the awning, which is a few feet shorter. It was slightly crumpled, but it served its purpose.

We started the day on Sunday with a short hike towards Mount Taranaki. Taranaki is an active stratovolcano that measures 2,518 meters. Its most recent volcanic activity was the production of a lava dome in the crater that collapsed around 1860. We were so lucky to have this view before the hike because Mt. Taranaki is known for its consistent cloud cover. We had only hiked about 45 minutes and the view was already obscured by clouds.


Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu in the distance

Back in mythological times when mountains lived and loved, many mountains dwelt in the centre of the North Island -- Mt. Taranaki ("gliding peak") among them. 
While Tongariro was away, Taranaki wooed and won Tongariro's wife, the graceful Pihanga. Tongariro returned at sunrise to find the guilty pair and in the struggle that followed, Taranaki was banished. The depression under Fanthams Peak was caused by a kick from Tongariro, and the coup de grace caused the cleft in Taranaki's summit.
Taranaki retreated ignominiously to the west coast of the North Island, carving the course of the Wanganui River as he went and filling it with his tears, and then moved North to his present position.  While resting near Stratford, his weight caused the depression which became known as Te Ngaere Swamp. When he paused to rest again near the coast, the Pouakai Range threw out a spur and when Taranaki awoke he was forever a prisoner.
To this day Taranaki gazes silently at his lover and his rival. Pihanga still loves Taranaki and sighs occasionally when she thinks of him, while Taranaki, when covered in mist, is said to be weeping for his lost love. Meanwhile, Tongariro, the enraged and jealous husband, still smoulders with fury.

Our hike at Taranaki was short because we really wanted to make it over to Tongaporutu for low tide. This is site of the "Three Sisters" and is right on the Tasman Sea. We explored the sea caves, took lots of pictures, and wenting swimming in the sea! It was my first time actually swimming in the ocean!! It was not as warm as I imagined and verrry salty. I was scared I was going to get stung by a jellyfish, but I didn't see any :)

A cool face carved into the rock! It looked like Yoda

Elephant Rock with a little Taranaki in the background

Sea Cave

My Friends ♥

Playing around by the sea

He tino pai rawa atu te mutunga wiki!
It was a great weekend!

-- Katie

Rangitāne Tangata Rau Kapa Haka Festival

Tēnā koutou katoa,

Today I went to the Rangitāne Tangata Rau Kapa Haka Festival in Palmerston North, which is a competition of Māori Performing Arts. The festival celebrates the Māori culture by expressing traditional Māori pastimes:

  • Waiata tira - warm up choral piece introducing the group
I got these pictures from the Festival Facebook page, check it out!

  • Whakaeke - choral piece about a particular issue, individual, or another element of the culture
  • Haka - best described as a challenge. This is a really powerful chant done with men in the front and women in the back. It's very loud and aggressive. The men stomp and make grimacing facial expressions and body positions. They are meant to look as intimidating as possible, as this was a traditional war dance. It's also very rhythmic. The men chant, stomp their feet, and smack their bodies in 3/4 time. I literally got goosebumps.

  • Waiata-ā-ringa - "song of hands or arms" or action songs that are performed with women in front and men in the back. This features a wiri or shaking of the hands to represent the trembles of life in our hearts. I've also read that it represents the heat waves from the sun or the ripples in the water, because Māori have such a deep connection with nature. 
The winning group, Kairanga

There's my host mom, Helen! The second one on the left.
She performed in a group called Matua Ora

  • Poi - women's dance using a small, white ball on a cord that is swung around and hit against the body in unison. Poi were originally used by men for improving the agility of their wrists for battle, but are now used by women to display beauty and gracefulness. The sound of the poi is just as important as its movements.

  • Mōteatea - a choral piece performed in unison that tells a story about the past
  • Whakawātea - a closing choral piece used to say goodbye to the audience
Māori baby :-)

  • Te Reo - the use of the language and pronunciation

Men would dance with traditional weapons, such as patu, taiaha, and tewhatewha.

          Tewhatewha                                                        Patu

Women wore skirts called piu piu that are made with flax. Also, the tattoos that are on people's faces (some are real, some are not) are called a moko. Traditionally these were worn by people with a high-ranking status or when coming into adulthood.

Everyone wore pounamu or taonga, which means treasure. Everyone also did the grimacing facial expressions with their tongue sticking out, called pūkana, which represents defiance to one's enemies.

Here are videos from the top two groups: Kairanga - 1st place and Te Tū Mataora - 2nd place

After the festival, I went with Helen to an after-party for Te Tū Mataora. I should mention that the top two teams are entered into the National Kapa Haka that will be in Christchurch in 2015. Helen said that many people join groups just for fun so they can send the two best groups to nationals. The dinner was really fun and everyone was so nice. It was held at Rawiri's kura (school) so that was nice to see. I'll post more about it another day because I'll be taking a more detailed tour of it later. At dinner, I got to meet one of the elders and he greeted me with a hongi. It's done by pressing noses with someone and is the exchange of the breath of life and sharing of both people's souls.

Thanks, Google Images

Helen said this is the greatest respect that someone can show you. It links you together to remember that you are both part of the oneness of everything that exists. It is meant to make a visitor feel like one with the people.

I have so much admiration and respect for the Māori people and culture. Their performances today were so powerful and their emotions so tangible. It was a really amazing experience. It's such a community too. Before the festival started, I watched everyone greet everyone else with hugs and kisses and at the dinner it was the same thing. Even when meeting me, a rando American, they were so friendly and making great conversation. Everyone there knew each other because everyone takes care of all of the children and shares the burden for any problems that come up. Everyone is family.

Whāia te mātauraga hei oranga mō koutou -- Seek after learning for the sake of your wellbeing. 

Ngā mihi nui, tēnā tātou

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Pic's REALLY GOOD Peanut Butter

Kia ora tātau!

I know I have a lot of blogging to catch up on but I just have to quickly tell you that I discovered the most delicious peanut butter today and I'm really excited about it.

Pic's Peanut Butter  is made with simply peanuts and salt. Kingaroy nuts are sent over from Australia over to Nelson in the South Island where they are roasted and squashed into this divine peanut butter that I'm going to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner tomorrow. It's really that good!

Okay, that's all :)


Monday, 19 May 2014

There and Back Again: Hobbiton!

Kia ora!

I'm so sorry for my lack of blogging lately, it suddenly got really busy and then I had so many things to write about that I kept thinking ah, I'll do it tomorrow... Well here we are, weeks later..! So this happened on May 3rd. Ten of us took a tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set in Matamata! It was magical :-)

The set lies on a 1,250 acre sheep farm. It was cool to learn about all the tricks they used for filming. They used different sized hobbit holes to make people appear bigger or smaller than they actually were. Really big doors were used for scenes when the hobbits were featured and they used really small doors with children dressed as hobbits to make Gandalf appear really big.

We spent the day running around The Shire and taking pictures. Everything looked just like it does in the movie!! We ended up in the Green Dragon and enjoyed a cider by the fireplace with the lucky cat who lives there. Here are my pictures !

Mount Ruapehu on the way to Hobbiton

Mount Ngauruhoe

A tiny hobbit hole

It's cool because they grow real vegetables in the garden 
that are used for making treats in the Green Dragon

Little hobbit hole with little hobbit laundry

A big hobbit hole... Such excitement :)

Bilbo's house!!

The apples are real too!

The Party Tree

The Green Dragon


The lucky kitty that lives here

The Shire :)

Haere rā,

Te Waipounamu - South Island (part 2)

Tēnā koutou!

I think I forgot to mention in the last blog - Te Waipounamu means "The Greenstone Waters" because greenstone is found in the South Island and it is very precious to the Māori culture.

So I last left you in Queenstown...

Our route for the second half

Friday, April 18 cont.
The first thing we did when we arrived was walk around and find a nice place to play. We stopped in front of a cafe called Patagonia (on our favorite waterfront street). Then we ran into our Australian friend that we met in Wanaka! He was with his daughter and her friend so we all had coffee together and talked about life. After we caught up with them, we set up again to play ukes. It hadn't been very long at all before we attracted two random Italians who sat down to jam and then ALL of our American friends (the boys plus 3 other girls from school) and then our other friend from Zimbabwe who we met in Wanaka walked by and joined us. It was one big, funny reunion. We all jammed for a while and enjoyed the crisp night under the street lights with great people.

Reasons why we love Queenstown

Saturday, April 19
We always have leisurely mornings and make beautiful oatmeal breakfasts with tea and/or coffee+hot chocolate. We had camped next to the boys again and they took off as soon as they could. We eventually made our way to the Saturday Market in town where lots of artists were selling jewelry, pictures, pottery, scarves, etc. I bought a greenstone necklace that was carved by some Māori kids and blessed by a Māori elder. Since pounamu is so precious to the Māori, it's important for it to be blessed after it is taken from the river. We ate lunch in the grass by a rugby field and then decided to hike up to this place called the Skyline - a real tourist trap where you can take the Gondola up the mountain and buy ice cream at the top and ride the Luge (like go-carts). The hike was really beautiful and the view at the top was stunning.

After the hike, we met up with our friend, Lisa, who would be joining us for the rest of the trip. We decided to treat ourselves at Fergburger since everybody who talks about Queenstown RAVES about it. And for good reason! It's DELICIOUS. It was the only meal we treated ourselves to (excluding coffee) the whole trip. Fergburger specializes in gourmet hamburgers and they are HUGE. I ate the whole thing and it was hard work. I got the "Southern Swine" which had Prime NZ beef, American streaky bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, avocado, aioli, and tomato relish. So yum.
After that, the four of us busked for a little while and ran into our French friend, Gilles, who we saw busking in Wanaka! We invited him to have coffee with us at Patagonia to warm up. It was a good time :)

Upgrading to BOWLS of coffee

Sunday, April 20 ~ Easter
We had another leisurely morning with oatmeal for breakfast. We also tried to wash up and wash some of our clothes in the river by the campsite. This was my first time bathing in EIGHT DAYS (and the only bath I would have for the whole trip). It was the dirtiest I'd ever been and the river was freezing but it felt so nice to have somewhat clean hair. We hung our laundry out of the car windows and got such funny looks as we drove through the bustling town center. We drove up to the Remarkables Ski Field and have lunch and a 6 km high view of Queenstown - so gorgeous! But let's be honest - you could be anywhere in NZ and snap a random picture and it would be gorgeous. 

The plan was to get to Milford Sound by sunset, but first one more quick 'cuppa' at Patagonia. And the rest is history... "Milford at sunset" turned into a street concert by a group of Brazilian buskers. And of course, we ran into Gilles again, and his friend Antoine. We danced and sang all night and then finally had dinner around 10 pm with our French friends in the parking lot. We cooked soup and pesto and had bread and tea and chocolate; it was divine! We listened to French techno radio and played with poi. It was definitely an Easter unlike any other. Before we left, we passed on our letter from the Rawhiti Cave to Gilles.

Brazilian Street Band

Gilles reading the letter

Group photo :) (minus Maria)

Monday, April 21
We had camped about 45 minutes outside of Queenstown and woke up next to a beautiful lake with more mountains and someone boating around. It was always fun when we set up camp in the dark and were able to wake up in the morning to an amazing surprise.

Once we got ourselves collected, we began our drive towards Milford Sound (Piopiotahi). Driving in was the coolest thing because it was a little foggy and we were listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and the mountains were so majestic. The Sounds themselves were also very majestic and misty and mysterious. While we were there, we met two brothers from Michigan!!! They're from Bay City and one currently lives in Washington DC and the other in Japan. They were just travelling together in NZ for two weeks. Small world eh! 

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Tuesday, April 22
Waking up in Fiordland was really cool. We were in a tall, grassy field with misty mountains all around us. The only thing was that the sandflies were really bad and we couldn't stand in one spot for very long otherwise we'd get attacked. Our plan for the day was to get up into the mountains, so we started on the Routeburn Track, which is a 3-4 day long Great Walk but we vered off to do the Key Summit hike, because we only had one day. We also did another secret, obscure side hike, courtesy of Scott Cook. Fiordland is absolutely beautiful. It was so green and there were little ponds because we were walking through a bog and there were squiggly trees with brown moss that looked like they came straight of the LOTR movies and of course, mountains, mountains, mountains. And it was no surprise that we ran into the Michigan brothers again because it's New Zealand and so we walked all the way back to the parking lot with them and talked about America and Michigan and Vernors and Enya and traveling. It was a really great day!

That night we had a hard decision to make. We only had a couple of days left and we could have continued driving south and have long days of driving ahead of us, or start going north and see some things along the way. We chose the latter and drove towards Mount Cook (Aoraki) that night.

Wednesday, April 23
Good morning!

We had lots of driving to do on this day but we still were able to see the Mount Cook/Aoraki, the Tasman Glacier (Haupapa), and Lake Punakaki. We didn't stay long, just made our way up to the glacier viewing point and got to see the lake while driving. I'm running out of adjectives to describe NZ without saying everything is beautiful and stunning... The drive towards Mount Cook was magnificent and the lake was a dazzling teal blue. The glacier was superb and my eyes were delighted to see such wonders.


We drove until we reached our destination for the next day: Arthur's Pass. We found a picnic shelter, set up camp, and cooked delicious soup. I love soup.

Thursday, April 24 ~ Maria's 21st Birthday!!!!!!
We woke up and had a lovely birthday oatmeal breakfast and I gave Maria a card that I'd made for her and a CD of all the songs that we've been singing in New Zealand so she can listen to it whenever she wants to reminisce. 

Our morning campsite surprise

Our first stop along Arthur's Pass was Castle Hill, the land of the large limestone. These limestone were formed 30 - 40 million years ago when New Zealand was covered by water. It's cool having a Geology major (Bridget) with you because she knows so much about the landscapes. 

Boulder Yoga

We climbed around the rocks for a while and played ukulele and enjoyed the sunshine. Next, we stopped at some caves along the pass and explored those too. 

Caves always have cool acoustics. After all this exploring we were starving so we stopped to have food in a pretty spot :)

So obscure, eating pineapple chunks out of avocado shells - always laughing

Shortly after, it began to rain... So we stopped at a cafe for coffee and it didn't really let up. But that was alright, because we had a busy day while the sun was out! We drove until we found our next campsite and set up. In honor of Maria's birthday we made more delicious soup with allll the veggies and hot chocolate and wine and a really nice banana+nutella+carmello chocolate+peanut butter dessert. Mmmmm that was a fun night, so much laughter, so much love ♥

Watch out for Kiwi!

Friday, April 25
Our last day..... 
We had a guest for breakfast that morning - a curious, little weka was drinking out of our dishes that we left out for the rain to wash. Then he felt comfortable enough to sneak inside our tent to see what was up. We let him eat some dry oats and then he tried to take off with our entire loaf of bread!!! We scared him away but he was back shortly after and ran away with our sponge. Silly weka... That sponge was gross anyways.

It was a beautiful day for driving, the sun shining again as we passed by countless vineyards and rolling green hills. We got to Picton pretty early, so we met up with the boys who were camping nearby with the other Americans. It was fun to have one final night all together on the South Island. Our ferry left from Picton at 10:30 pm and we arrived in Wellington at 1:30 am, with still a two-hour drive back to Palmy. We were sad that our journey was over, but we felt content because it was a really fulfilling trip.

I love New Zealand.

and these goofballs

Thanks for reading :)
Ngā mihi rā