Christmas Eve Evening

For this evening, we chose to book an excursion to Rainbow Springs Mitai Maori Village with the Kiwi Wildlife Park. The people at the hostel registration told us this was the best of those offered. Our transportation was here at 6pm to collect us and then some others along the way. After giving our names at the village, we were sent to a large tent where we were assigned to seating. Thinking the show would take place there, we took the prime seats being the first at the table. As it turned out, it did not matter. There were only four of us at our table and we were not there for long.

We were greeted by a Maori entertainer who it turns out was one of the shuttle drivers. He basically did a comedy routine, before shuffling us off to the food pit, where our dinner was roasting. They dig into the earth similar to a Hawaiian luau, but here were dozens of chickens, lamb, white potatoes, and their version of sweet potatoes. Moving us forward, we followed a trail that wound through what looked like a tropical forest. The greenery was lush, with a high umbrella of foliage protecting the delicate ferns at eye level. We lined a wooden post fence along the river waiting for the Maori warriors to paddle their canoe downstream. Just as we were waiting, one of the fathers went to grab his kid from going down the embankment, slid, and went into the water himself. It was little over ankle deep, but still mortifying. Only a few of us held back our guffaws. Once the warriors arrived, we were then shepherded into the entertainment hall.

As I entered the hall, Ron and I had become separated, so I went to save good seats for us. The strangest thing happened; my pants ripped. What was so strange is that these are cargo pants with a dozen pockets and zippers that I only wear on vacations to warm spots. They did not rip on a seam where one would expect a pressure point to be, but completely away from any stress area. The material just shredded. It was funny that the only reason I realized it was because we sat on plastic seats and one part of me felt a bit colder than the rest. When I reached back, I was horrified, but totally thankful I had a sweatshirt on. I took it off to wrap it around my waist to cover up. Then of course, I had to wonder how many people had spotted my southern exposure, but never mentioned a thing. Thinking back, I don’t recall any snickering. Maybe this was my punishment for finding the humor in the guy falling in the water.   

 Ten Maori men along with 6 Maori women performed various ritual dances, war songs, shared some of their mythology, and the ways they are trying to maintain their culture and language. Each one had ‘tattoos’ on their face, both the men and women. It was not until the end that we learned that for most of them, it was only cosmetics. However, many Maori have their faces tattooed for real, women also. There are four bird symbols used. The bat is the first, though not a bird, when the Maori first encountered one, they thought it was since it could fly. The owl, the parrot, and the kiwi are the remaining three. Each has their own significance for home, hearth, wisdom, courage and so on. This performance was very similar to that at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii, but Ron had never seen it anywhere. For me, it is always enjoyable.

Finally, we had dinner, a buffet consisting of over a dozen dishes. The main courses were chicken and lamb. Both were melt in your mouth tender and delectable. The unexpected treat was a cauliflower salad with mayonnaise and sesame seeds. The cauliflower was minced finely; raw I think. It was so delicious both of us had to have seconds. Dessert was fruit salad, trifle, and chocolate Yule log.
All of this and yet the night was not over. We were taken on a tour to see glow worms.   Glow worms are not worms at all, but are the larvae (maggots) of a particular type of fly known as a fungus gnat. A small group of fungus gnats are carnivores; therefore, larvae of these species use their glowing lights to attract small flying insects into a snare of sticky threads. One species, Arachnocampa luminosa, is found throughout New Zealand, and others occur in Australia. When hundreds live together, on damp sheltered surfaces or caves, their lights resemble the stars in the night sky. The Maori call them titiwai, which refers to lights reflected in water.

Our continued nature tour included learning about kiwi and finally visiting a couple of them in their protected habitat. Being on the verge of extinction, they are heavily protected here. From here we were deposited into the gift shop, but our shuttle drivers were anxiously waiting for us by their vans.  
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