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"He Ao! He Ao! He Ao Tea! He Ao Tea Roa!"
"A cloud! A cloud! A white cloud! A long white cloud!"

This, according to the legend, is what the Maoris said when they saw New Zealand for the first time. In fact they call it Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud.

I will not bother you with the history of the Maoris and their fight against the Europeans, but I will briefly describe what surprised me of this population

  • They did not have writing. This is the main reason why their language was getting lost, together with their roots and traditions. Only in 1970 a movement was started to save this language, and a few years later the Maori language was considered official together with English
  • Wood carving and painting were their way to pass on history together with oral tales. In almost all Maori wood carvings, great importance has the tongue, because that was the only way for them to pass on their knowledge. Outside their houses you can see entire genealogical trees carved in the wood.
  • Only the men do wood carving. The women only decorate, with the paua shells used to make the eyes and the other coloured parts. The paua shells are only found here and are protected and collected in a sustainable way
  • The Maoris’ tattoos are not like ours... they are actual cuts in the skin! Inside which the ink is poured. Maybe today they also moved to needle tattooing :-)
  • Still today, in cities like Auckland, there are Maori’s holy sites respected as such by all the inhabitants. You can find some of them in the Auckland coast to coast path and also in the Taranaki mount and through the Tongariro Crossing

If you want to know more you should visit the Te Papa, a fantastic museum in Wellington. We do not recommend watching the Maoris’ dancing, singing and cultural shows because they have become too touristy.

In Rotorua there are a few Maoris’ villages that you can visit on your own or with a Maori guide to discover some of their daily life in a village with a lot of geothermal activity.

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