Thursday 22 October 2015

New Zealand Adventures : 1. Kia-Ora Auckland, Introducing Maori, Saving Whales with Project Jonah and Sea Cleaning Waiheke Island...

Kia - Ora! 

That's 'Hello!' in Maoritanga (Maori Culture), the indigenous race and language of Aotearoa 'The Land of the Long White Cloud' or as the white man 'Pakeha' calls it 'New Zealand'....

I will try and keep a blog of my explorations as much as I can, however long I'm here here goes with some early days of my first two weeks of travel in this land far, far away....

Auckland City!

So...I have arrived back in the western world of this very distant land and in the biggest city on 'Te Ika a Maui' (the fish of Mui) better known as New Zealand's North Island...named after the Maori myth that Maui dropped his magic fishhook over the side of his waka (canoe) in the ocean and pulled up a mighty fish which exists today as the North Island....pretty cool story hey. I find the Maori culture fascinating here so I intend to discover more about this indigenous and sacred civilisation...who's ancestors came many years ago crossing oceans on canoes from the Polynesian Islands.  So..... Auckland I'm told is the 'big city' of the South Pacific and is the largest Polynesian city in the world of about 1.4 million New Zealanders and Expats live in Auckland (which is just a fraction of home in London!). The most prominant figure in the skyline is of course the Sky Tower which has been named the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere of 1,076 feet. 
I really spent my time in the city getting to know life in the Western world again (and the jump in prices too), I have a work visa for a year so I was busy resolving nitty gritty necessities like bank accounts, post, new clothes, opportunity hunting and the like....but have had a chance to explore some of the city while I could...

View of the active volcano Mount Rangitoto meaning 'Blood in the Sky' its a relatively young dormant volcano only 600 years its not extinct....just to tell you folks... 

Maori influences are everywhere in the city...
Albert Park

Queen Vic herself....

The Auckland Museum 


Introducing Maori....pronounced 'Mouldy' 'mouldy bread'

Maori's pronounce their vowels and some letters differently from the English pronunciation so the name of a place in New Zealand may seem completely different to the way its pronounced....i.e 'wh' is prounonced 'f' its easy to make mistakes! 

The Auckland Museum I have found probably the most interesting attraction as far as tourist point of view goes....I'm keen to learn about Maori Culture so I went to the best place in Auckland to get an education and nice introduction by exploring the ancient carvings and artifacts of 'Maori Court' and witness the Maori Cultural Performance of the Ngati Whatua (I have no idea how to pronounce that, just that 'wh' is pronounced 'f') where they sang traditional calling songs, swung poi balls (soft white balls with tassels) and demonstrated tools and weapons used in ancient battle..

A famous. well know dance by the Maori which dates back to Maori primitive times in the 'Haka' which was performed as a traditional ancestry war cry to proclaim a tribes strength and prowess with vigorous movements, feet stamping with rhythmic shouting and cries. It was also a way to intimidate the opposition in battle and the sticking out of the tongue during and at the end of the dance pretty much means 'I will devour you!' yikes!

....And even centuries later, the Haka is still demonstrated in the New Zealand Sports World by the All Blacks Rugby Team as their pre-match ritual dance (who have been doing very well in this years Rugby World Cup, so the Kiwi's are very pleased as they LOVE their Rugby)

Even meeting them afterwards....they didn't devour me!

Maori carvings are incredible pieces of work and the totems belonging to different tribes each have their own story and show their connections to other tribes. The black tattooing 'Ta Moko' on the males faces and on the females chins show status and importance in the tribes rank of hierarchy, aswell as green jade stone jewellery and necklaces worn by chiefs of the villages....

Have a looky at what I found....

A Maori chiefs storage house...

Traditional Maori Totem patterns for placing over a burial site

The 'Ta Moko' markings on the Maori male, likely to be of a mighty chief

A baby cradling bowl

The green jade stone carvings for sacred jewellery

A ceremonial staff carving with dog hair

The Polynesian Goddess Kave....apparently the museum are lucky to have her presence as she's quite a force to be reckoned with and was a highly respected goddess in the Polynesian world

Fur cloaks were the most precious and prestigious items in Maori Culture and a huge hand-made wooden canoe that held 100 men with beautiful carvings and decoration was swapped for this one cloak!

and thrown in is a bit of Pakeha history....probably the most famous Aucklander to come out of New Zealand....a portrait of the late Sir Edmund Hillary after his descent from conquering the summit of Mount Everest - with the pick axe he used on Everest too!

 you have to remember his words echoing through the portrait....and off the $5 note too,,,

'It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.
People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.
You don't have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things -- to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals'

Marae - The Meeting Place of Maori

Now, the indigenous traditional meeting place of the Maori is called a Marae and I've seen two here in Auckland; one at the museum and the other at the University of Auckland.

These Maraes would have been used for ceremonial activites, shelter and a large meeting room for chiefs and superiors to discuss affairs of the tribe or welcome visiting guests. Traditional protocol involves being invited and welcomed into a Marae as a guest or seeking permission to enter from the chiefs or superiors, where there is a welcome ceremony in front of the Marae to greet guests. But seeing as these were public, open Maraes, I was allowed to take a peek inside (providing I take my shoes off in respect of the Maori gods and ancestors)

The primitive ancestor is depicted at the front of the rooftop with their arms stretching down the front of the roof with open arms and finger tips at the ends, their backbone is the spine of the roof with their ribs supporting the roof inside with decorative Maori symbols and patterns....pretty cool hey..

A look inside a Marae....take your shoes off...  

The Marae itself is a large grand room supported by chief totem poles in the centre. Adorning the walls are beautiful totem carvings of Maori significance and earth coloured patterns of tribal symbols supporting the roof, 'the ribcage' as it were, of the primitive ancestor the Marae is in worship of.

Each beautifully carved totem inside the Maori has its own unique story to Maori myths and relevance in the Marae. Sticks that join the carved figures together indicate their connections to their ancestors and other tribes...kinda like a family tree...

A Maori female carving with 'Ta Moko' on her chin, a sign of prestige and importance

Saving Whales with Project Jonah

I knew coming to New Zealand, that the Pacific was a mecca for marine life and was keen to learn more about them while I had the opportunity in this part of the world -  so I decided to seize the opportunity of training to become a Marine Mammal Medic, a unique skill to learn in New Zealand with a non profit organisation called Project Jonah.

Project Jonah is a non-profit organisation focusing on the protection and welfare of marine species in New Zealand which has been saving whales since 1974. Based in Auckland, they train thousands of volunteers - New Zealanders and curious international visitors (like me) all over the country who want to learn a new skill of rescuing stranded whales and dolphins and educate themselves of marine life around the Islands of New Zealand.

The course itself at Browns Bay, one of Aucklands Northern Beaches consisted of theory in the classroom about anatomy's of whales and dolphins, their behaviour and habitual patterns and why they find themselves stranded on beaches.

Over 300 whales and dolphins find themselves stranded on New Zealand's long coastlines where deep water of the high tide quickly turn to shallow water and low tide at the shore - the whales and dolphins think they are happily swimming along in deep water and then before they know it they've been swept up on to the beach.

Like this....(I stole this photo of a stranding)

The poor darlings! 

Whales or 'Tohora' in Maori are respected mammals in indigenous culture and have a deep connection and significance in their history; the whale Tohora saved a Maori man who's boat sank and brought him safely to the land of New Zealand.

Almost half the worlds species of whale and dolphins are found in New Zealand including the Blue Whale, Sperm Whale, Humpback Whale and the Orca 'Killer' Whale (who actually isn't really a whale at all but a rather large member of the Dolphin family)...kind of like a distant cousin or something....

The most common Whales you find stranded in New Zealand are the Pilot Whale or Sperm Whale and Common Dolphins with many other reasons why these poor guys end up getting washed to shore - they could be sick and no longer have the strength to move themselves through the water or keep up with their pod, natural toxins and polluted seas can make them ill, old age, mothers having trouble with birthing seek sheltered bays to give birth and gets washed up on the beach instead!

Other reasons could be they have been hit by vessels or suffering trauma from net entanglements, sea quakes or other underwater incident that can affect their ability to hear, communicate or navigate through the waters making them becoming lost!

Chasing prey or even trying to escape from other predators may cause them to become disorientated and as whales are loyal creatures to eachother, if one sends a distress call out, the others will follow suit and find themselves beached too!

So the idea of the mammal medics course was to train us to know what to do in the event of a stranding and how to help keep the whales and dolphins alive and give them a helping hand back to sea.....

Out on the water...  

The fun part! zipped up in stretchy wetsuits ooo la la la (which I rented), our volunteer mentors taught us the ins and outs of loading a whale onto a pontoon in the water, teaching it to gain its balance again after hours motionless on the beach and successfully setting it free...

Well...with an inflatable Orca anyway called PJ!

Other parts of the practical were knowing how to keep a dolphin or whale alive whilst stranded on the beach (keeping it cool and comfortable are the main things) and being aware of your behaviour around them before releasing Flipper back into the sea...really, its fascinating stuff.

Official Mammal Medic Graduates!

I'm now a registered Marine Mammal Medic 8107 with Project Jonah so if there's a call out of a stranding while I am still in New Zealand I can be called upon to come help - so I can pretend I'm a Dr. for now ha! pretty cool though.

Sea Cleaning Waiheke Island

Earlier this week, I got an opportunity to go out to sea on a self-propelled barge with the Sea Cleaners who are run by the Auckland Water Care Trust as a volunteer with Blue Voluntours who operate out of Auckland City. Armed with gloves and blue bin bags, a small team of us headed out onto the Hauraki Gulf with Skipper Ben behind the wheel where we cruised past the neighbouring islands and volcano Mount Rangitoto on route to the larger island of Waiheke....

The dolphins and whales of the Gulf were keeping a low profile that early in the morning as we drifted and dropped off at different bays on the Island about 18km east of Auckland to see what treasure we could find.....its amazing what you find that has drifted out to sea...

Somebody lost a shoe?


Poloroid photo of baby????

  A wench handle??? might be good for the boat

The rubbish that we had ventured to the beaches to collect had drifted from the mainland and washed up on the shore, which is extremely bad for the wildlife and birds who think its something tasty or sea creatures that find themselves caught up in it. The winds are pretty strong around Auckland so the street rubbish or exposed bins get blown out to sea or disappear down the sewage drains and end up washed down river (I was told sometimes they come home with 30 to 40 bags full of rubbish from clean up trips to the river) yikes! please put your waste in the bins people! 

I think our ultimate find treasure hunting on the island.....

A Muscle Buoy! Maybe we should call it Wilson....

Dog on wheels???

Pie Melon Bay

Oyster Catcher Birdie

A cute Dotterel - apparently endangered in New Zealand you know!

A wooden statue of a mysterious Maori lady on the cliff top looking out to see...maybe for her long lost love????

The weather changes so much here in Auckland that you could have four seasons in one day, one minute we had glorious sunshine and a few moments later, the winds brought in storm clouds to give you a sprinkle and windswept surprises!

Got a nice welcome back to Auckland City though, armed with full bin bags and a much cleaner sea..:)

New Zealand Summer on its way!

So.....these have pretty much been the highlights that are worth sharing of my first couple of weeks travelling in The Land of The Long White Cloud, thanks for reading and ready for my chariot to take me away....

C'mon its New Zealand! when do you get to ride a Shark Bus ever???

Thanks for reading folks,


Auckland, New Zealand

With Lonely Planet Travel Guide New Zealand

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic travels and well researched blog, it seems. Any space in your suitcase for me? Shock: Maori is pronounced mouldy. Really??? Ok then.


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