Le Grand Détour

Rotorua et village Maori – Rotorua and Maori village

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france_french_flag [15 mars 2016]

Après deux soirées et deux nuits très sympas au Lodge de Tony, nous quittons nos hôtes au matin sous les nuages pour rejoindre Rotorua, la capitale géothermique et Maori de Nouvelle-Zélande, à environ une heure et demi de route. Ce trajet nous montre une nouvelle fois l’intensité de l’activité souterraine dans cette région : la terre fume de toutes parts. Dans n’importe quel autre pays du monde nous y verrions des incendies mais ici, ces « fumées » de vapeur d’eau omniprésentes sur les collines témoignent du sous-sol qui respire et des geysers qui menacent de sourdre à tout moment.

Nous arrivons bientôt au village Maori de Whakarewarewa, l’abréviation de « Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao » qui signifie « Le lieu de rassemblement des armées de Wahiao ». Il s’agit d’un village où habite toujours une communauté bien vivante de maoris, descendants des premiers colons maoris, et qui a à cœur de faire découvrir sa culture. Ce village est en outre situé sur une zone géothermique incroyable, trouée de geysers et parsemée de bains de boue bouillonnants et de sources dont l’eau est en ébullition constante. Nous choisissons de vivre une expérience complète avec le tour guidé du village, le spectacle de danse et le repas traditionnel avec ses plats préparés dans le hangi, ce « four » naturel qui utilise l’énergie de la terre et des sources.

Nous commençons par le concert/spectacle que donnent deux fois par jour les habitants du village à base de danses et de chants traditionnels dont le fameux haka, avec les yeux globuleux et la langue tirée. Il y a aussi la danse des bâtons qui tient du jonglage dansé ou encore le maniement des « poi », ces cordes terminées de boules de tissus que les femmes font tourner autour d’elles et qu’elles frappent sur différentes parties de leur corps pour donner le rythme. A un moment nous sommes invités à nous joindre à la danse et Susie s’offre une petite photo avec un beau guerrier Maori 😉

Nous faisons ensuite la connaissance de Manawa, notre guide autour du village. Cette maori descend d’une longue lignée de femmes-guides ayant accueilli de nombreuses célébrités depuis que le tourisme de la géothermie s’est développé à la fin du 19ème siècle à Rotorua, comme la reine Elizabeth et plusieurs princes et ducs.

Manawa nous transmet énormément d’informations sur la culture maori que nous essayons de retenir. Elle nous parle de la religion qui est plutôt une affaire intime chez les maoris, même si la colonisation a forcé l’adoption du christianisme. Elle nous parle des relations sociales de cette société où l’on est fier de sa lignée et où il est très important de savoir d’où l’on vient. C’est d’ailleurs pour cela que pendant le salut maori on décline son ascendance sur plusieurs générations. Nous apprenons aussi que ce sont les missionnaires qui ont donné un alphabet et une translittération de la langue qui ne s’écrivait pas, permettant ainsi une transmission plus large de la culture. Manawa nous explique également le rôle de ces maisons communales où les maoris se réunissent pour célébrer leurs ancêtres et prendre des décisions pour la communauté ou encore la signification des gravures qui décrivent la lignée des anciens et racontent l’histoire de la tribu. Nous apprenons ensuite comment les maoris vivent ici en communion avec la nature qui leur fournit plusieurs « services intégrés » tels que le chauffage gratuit, l’eau chaude gratuite ou encore les fours de cuissons naturels. Bref nous en prenons plein le cerveau mais c’est génial, d’autant plus que c’est une véritable maori locale qui nous parle et pas un guide qui a appris ces informations par cœur.

En parlant de cuisson et de hangi, nous commençons à avoir une sacré dalle vers 13h… Il est temps d’aller goûter la fameuse cuisine maoris cuite à la vapeur. Nous nous asseyons dans le restaurant et quelques minutes plus tard nous voyons arriver deux énormes assiettes de viandes (bœuf et poulet) et de légumes (maïs, choux, carottes, patate douce) et nous nous faisons péter la panse, y compris avec le dessert, un gâteau spongieux comme du pain d’épice avec de la crème et des fruits. C’est relativement simple mais délicieux.

Une promenade dans les environs du village n’est pas de trop pour digérer ce festin ! Nous voilà à sillonner à travers une colline boisée, le long d’un chemin qui serpente autour de petits lacs, des bains de boue et de sources en ébullition. Sur le retour nous avons la chance d’assister à l’éruption des geysers principaux, le Te Puia et le Prince de Galles » comme ils s’appellent ici. Puis nous regardons une démonstration de tissage d’une jupe maori, à partir d’une plante locale dont les fibres sont récupérées avec une coquille de moule Paua. Le tissage complet avec la coloration demande jusqu’à 6 semaines de travail, entièrement à base d’ingrédients naturels.

Pour étancher encore plus notre soif de connaissance nous partons ensuite pour le musée de Rotorua, situé dans une superbe bâtisse victorienne. Nous commençons par un excellent film qui raconte l’arrivée des premiers explorateurs européens, l’histoire de la ville et l’essor du tourisme qui a permis à la région de se développer, avec ses cures thermales et ses visites géothermiques. La suite du musée est tout aussi excellente et nous permet de plonger encore plus loin dans la culture Maori, en particulier celle des « locaux », depuis leur premier voyage de Polynésie jusqu’à nos jours. Nous retrouvons de nombreux aspects évoqués par Manawa. Nous apprenons les légendes et lisons les récits. Le second film est quant à lui extrêmement émouvant. Il est consacré au bataillon des maoris pendant la seconde guerre mondiale, un bataillon à la réputation héroïque mais un bataillon qui a subi de très lourdes pertes, décimant toute une génération de maoris. Le film comporte des témoignages qui nous mettent les larmes aux yeux. Nous finissons la visite du musée par les sous-sols où des soins de bains de boue étaient proposés à une époque. Malheureusement, à cause des éléments chimiques contenus dans l’eau et dans la boue, ce projet de cure thermale n’était pas maintenable en terme de plomberie, laissant des pièces et des équipements fantômes…

La fin de l’après-midi se profile et nous optons pour balade le long du lac Rotorua, tandis que le soleil daigne enfin à se montrer, lui qui s’est caché presque toute la journée.

Il est bientôt temps de découvrir notre nouvel AirBnB situé sur les hauteurs de la ville. Nous faisons ainsi la connaissance d’un couple adorable, Ian et Kathy qui habitent une superbe maison et proposent, sans conteste, la plus belle chambre de notre séjour en Nouvelle-Zélande, pour ne pas dire de tout notre voyage ! Cool !

Le dîner quant à lui se passera en ville, à base de délicieux tapas arrosés de vin, dans un restaurant au nom exotique d’Atticus Finch, le héros du classique de la littérature américaine « To Kill a Mockingbird » d’Harper Lee (en français « Ne tirez pas sur l’oiseau moqueur », « Alouette, je te plumerai » ou « Quand meurt le rossignol » selon l’édition) – livre que j’ai depuis acheté et lu avec grand plaisir.

La fin de soirée est des plus classiques, à ce détail près que notre dernier hôtel à Auckland est réservé et ça fait peur… Heureusement qu’il reste encore quelques belles escapades mais n’en disons pas plus pour le moment… Bonne nuit !

english_flag [15th March 2016]

We chatted with Tony again over breakfast before settling our bill. Cash only. Despite what’s written on AirBNB…grrr! Another lovely breakfast with a guy who is dedicated to making a success of his little business and whose aim is to keep his guests happy. It’s lovely to be a part of his little world and to be able to confirm that all his efforts are appreciated!

But now it’s time to leave because today we have a plan which means we can’t hang around for long goodbyes. Today we head north, to the town of Rotorua, where we will discover the geothermal activity up there, up close and personal. The good news is that it’s not too far from Taupo and within a couple of hours drive from Tony’s place.

So, after the pleasant drive, waving goodbye to the impressive Taupo lake, we arrive at a Maori village called Whakarewarewa (real name “Te Whakarewarewatanga O Te Ope Taua A Wahiao” — a.k.a. “The gathering place for the war parties of Wahiao” or “Whaka” to the locals ^_- ).

We arrived, thanks once again to Stéphane’s great planning, just in time to see the morning show put on by a group of Maori dancers and musicians (both men and women). They did a few different traditional dances using sticks, tongues and poi balls (small stuffed balls on long strings). My favourite dances were the Haka and the Poi dance (which is slightly weird with people slapping plastic covered soft balls on various parts of their bodies as they swing them around but which requires a great deal of coordination — see one of the videos at the end of this article).

I have to admit…ok, brag…that I’ve already seen the Haka being performed by the almighty All Blacks rugby team (including the mighty Jonah), up close and personal when they were training at WRFC, so I can’t say that this one is the best that I’ve seen ^_^ but the younger of the guys was putting in a lot of effort and I was happy to get up on stage afterwards to have my photo taken with him too! ^_-

After the show we headed back to the main entrance where we joined a guided tour of about 50 people (!!!). Our guide, Manawa, is a direct descendant of the Maori who the village is named after. She started by explaining the traditional Maori greeting of banging noses together twice, which she demonstrated with a couple of tourists (though one of them wasn’t really very willing to participate ^_-) before walking us into the village to show us the rest.

It was tricky to hear her at times and she had to shout at a group of school kids a couple of times as they were making so much noise that not even the people nearest to her could hear what she was saying! ^_^

She explained a lot more about the Maori lifestyle and the geothermal activity and how the one lived with the other and had done for many years. The village is surrounded by several hot pools, some are used for cooking (corn on the cob — fifteen minutes in the big pool; carrots (sliced) — six swings back and forth at the edge of the big pool).

There are also “ovens” which are covered by wooden crates and have steam coming up through them. They’re used to cook larger things such as chickens, whole cabbages or steaming puddings. Some of them contain burnt logs in order to give the ingredients a slightly smoked flavour. Each oven is shared by a group of families, but if their oven happens to be full then they can just use a neighbouring one as there is plenty for everyone and a real feeling of community spirit (I guess it’s a little like the bread ovens used to be here in Europe). Another advantage to these ovens is that there is no need to pre-heat them as they are always “on”.

Our tour continues into the bath area where, again, each bath is shared by a group of families. They each have a timeslot when they can use them. The baths are between 50 and 70°. Manawa explains that the people here are used to very hot water and can cope with baths that hot!! The water used in the baths has run down from the hot pools, over a series of gulleys in order to cool it off a little before it reaches the baths. The last of the gullies run over a large flat area where we are — we all crouch down and touch the rock surface…it’s actually hot to the touch. Manawa points out a nearby fenced off area that was the previous bathing area. It’s fenced off as it capsized into the ground…I start to find myself wondering how safe it is here!

It’s starting to get late and we’ve reserved a steamed lunch (hangi) at the village’s café…what with all the talk of food and the constant steam all around us I’m starting to feel a little bit funny…but the tour’s not over yet…we’re just getting to the exciting part…the geysers!!

We walk up past the grave of Manawa’s cousin (or uncle) who was the village’s family tree expert and a very knowledgable guy. She explained that he only died 28 weeks ago and is buried in a large grave near the kitchen (rather than in the main graveyard) due to his special status in the village. He died young though, only 52, hopefully not related to the sulphuric gases in the air that we’ve been breathing in since we arrived!!?

Manawa finally shows us the largest geysers which are visible from a couple of viewing platforms in the village. The Te Puia and the Prince of Wales geysers are the two largest here. Though we’re told that it’s not possible to control nature and that it’s impossible to know when they will next erupt…I can’t help but feel slightly disappointed that we might not get to see them in action, but that’s the nature of the beast!

She also explains that we can’t get any closer to the geysers as the second main family in the village has made an alliance with the local government and has now fenced off the geysers (and separated the village in two) so that people have to pay at their park to get nearer to the geysers. It’s all a bit political and she doesn’t really want to go into the details, but we can see the geysers pretty well from here anyway and, for the moment at least, there’s no real sign of activity, so we thank her and head off, quick march, to the café.

After the tour we headed to the café for our lunch. Delicious roast, corn on the cob, carrots, cabbage, sweet potato, normal potato, stuffing, beef and two chicken drumsticks and gravy. All cooked using the hot pools or the steam ovens…it’s very impressive! We both look down at the mountain of food, unsure that we’ll be able to do it justice! Plus we’ve already got our pudding too…a steamed ginger sponge pudding, some tinned fruit, cream and custard and an empty mug for free instant coffee or tea.

We agree on one thing afterwards though, we both need a walk in order to digest our huge lunch, and so opt to head down to the Anglican church next to which can be found the largest mud pool in the village. From the church there is a circuit walk that takes you around the lakes and up over the top of the hill back down towards the geysers. The mud pools are excellent, spluttering and belching their pale browny-grey contents up into the air. It reminds me of the bog of eternal stench in The Labyrinth film.

As we reach the top of the hill at the back of the village it starts to rain…and then Stéphane spots that the Te Puia geyser is erupting and so we start sprinting down to one of the viewpoints where we find a little bit of shelter from the rain and are nearly alone (as everyone else has decided to head to the café or home to escape the rain). What a shame for them!!

After a while we decided to head back towards the car too and stopped on the way at the ticket office where one of the guys there explained briefly how the grass skirts are made. The skirts are made out of several pieces of reed. The pattern is pressed onto the dull side of the reed using a pre-designed pattern template in order to be able to make each reed following the same pattern. The flesh is then removed from the reed using a large mussel shell. The women do this on a pair of reeds and then roll the stringy end down one thigh to roll each one and then back up the thigh to roll the two together in a plait. The entwined reeds are then boiled in one of the thermal pools and dried off. If required, colour is added using various rotten plants though I can’t remember all the details. The chap explains that a skirt costs 15$ per inch for a complicated design!! Well paid skirts! He didn’t show us the whole process though as he’s not a woman!! Men make string, rope and fishing nets with these reeds. Women make the skirts!

Next stop, Rotorua museum, where there was another huge Maori section which was very interesting, but once again no photography allowed! There was also a short film about the Maori army troops and WWII which was really moving and I shed a tear or two as the surviving relatives talked about their losses and the way that the Maori villages all came together during that time. Part of the film described how one brother was in charge of his little brother’s troop and had put him in a position where he thought that there was the least risk. He was wrong and the little brother got blown up…yet another example of the horrors of war. It made me realise just how many other similar stories there must have been all over the world. How many villages in how many countries must have behaved exactly as these Maori villages did? Gathering together to see whose husband, father, son wasn’t coming home and then supporting the mourning families throughout the years that followed.

The museum is housed in the old spa buildings and there are some rooms that have been left so that you can see how it was setup, with individual rooms containing bathtubs in which some people were given electric shock treatments. In the basement there are the remains of the mud baths that they tried to use to entice more visitors, but in the end it all failed and the spa was closed down and turned into the museum that it is today.

After the museum, we head to the lakeside and then onto our AirBNB where we’d be staying for the next couple of nights. Our hosts, Kathy and Ian turn out to be a lovely couple with a beautiful new house. Ian designed the house (changing the original plans quite a lot in order to get the house that he wanted — reminded me of a couple of our friends, hey Stéphanie and Nico!!).

Our room is huge and has a massive double bed and a little lounge and proves to be the best room that we’ve had in New Zealand and pretty much all the holiday!! In the hallway there are sensors that light up small nightlights low down along the walls along the corridor…very practical when you go for a tinkle in the night! Ian’s thought of everything! ^_-

After asking for recommendations from Ian and Kathy for dinner, we head back to town towards a place called Eat Street (Eats Treat ^_^). We looked at the menus in front of, pretty much, every restaurant in the street before deciding on one that offered a lovely sounding salad (despite the goats’ cheese) and other Tapas-y type dishes. The salad was a bit “light”, but the beef “slides” (miniature beef rolls) were delicious. Washed down with a nice cold glass of Sauv Blanc for me and a Reisling for Mr Mulard! We do know how to spoil ourselves! ^_-

Vidéos

Le Haka – The Haka

La danse des bâtons – The dance of the sticks

La danse des « poi » – The « poi » dance

2 reflexions sur “Rotorua et village Maori – Rotorua and Maori village

  1. yvette

    J’adooooooooore définitivement ce pays et son histoire ! le haka et leurs tatouages

    mille mercis pour ces vidéos en autres et vos récits

    biosus

  2. Brenda

    I agree that the Haka by the All Blacks is probably the most impressive, but the Stick Dance was incredible! I wonder how many hours they had to practice that!
    By the way, what did Susie say to the young male dancer?