We were welcomed with a driver who enthusiastically told us about Rotorua and surrounds. He patiently answered as we peppered him with additional questions. When we arrived at the Meeting House, we were directed to read the rules for the Cultural Experience we were about to engage in.
Starting around 6.15, our chief was chosen from our assigned bus, and he performed the required duties as all visiting chiefs do. We had three chiefs in all (one from each bus). All passed the Maori test, so we could enter the village peacefully.
We were broken into smaller groups and educated on the Maori ways. The (men only – ugh) learned the Haka. We gained an understanding of the women’s role with poi. We played common games, which taught children hand/eye coordination and teamwork. Lastly, we were introduced to weaving palm leaves, but we cut that one short because the heavens decided to cry heavily down upon us.
We moved out of the rain and into an amphitheater to uncover our dinner for the night. Lamb and chicken, along with assorted vegetables, were made in the traditional Maori earth oven.
With our mouths watering, we waited for final preparations to the food in the dining area. In the meantime, we were entertained in the traditional Maori meeting hall, which we learned the significance of the house itself. We were awed by the skills of the Maori as they flung poi with precision. They sang with superiority and danced with delectation.
The haka, of course, was our favourite performance.
We finished our evening in the dining room, where we were served dinner like a well rehearsed ballet. The food held the smokiness of the pit and and the lamb was everything we hoped for.
While the Kiwis claim fame to the Pavlova (which was part of dessert), they failed to put any fruit upon the top OTHER than Kiwi. Such a disappointment. They may have invented the Pavlova, but the Aussies have since perfected it.