Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tane Mahuta - Lord of the Forest

Theme Song of the Day:
  1. "Tree Live", by Ookalah Da Moc, live at Saint Rocke Hermossa Beach

What do you say to something that has been alive for 2,000 years?

Thank you.

At least, that’s what came out for me, a little any scurrying over his roots as he stood silently watching, as he has done through the span of modern history. His presence is felt in my soul, a deep, quiet, knowing consious that permeates the surrounding forest.

My travel companion, a bright-eyed 19 year-old German WWOOFer on a gap year before commencing his studies in biology, whispers
“How can one not be moved?” 

I am glad that he too, is humbled by the simple ancient majesty rising before us.

According to Maori legend, Tane is the son of Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatuamuku, the earth mother. His birth tore the parents apart from their primal embrace, creating the rift in which came light, space, and air, allowing life to to flourish.

Tane Mahuta is the oldest known kauri tree, estimated have sprouted from its seed around the birth of Christ. His massive trunk stretches almost 14 meters in diameter, while he towers about 51 meters above the forest floor. Some 30 species of various other plants grow nestled within his branches, some of which are as thick as the younger trees growing all around in the forest.

He looks like a god with many arms, some reaching to the heavens while others hold the life growing within his embrace. There is a calm aura that radiates into the surrounding forest from within.

Lesser trunks abound throughout, still impressive in their size and age: this one probably 250 years old, that one perhaps 500… It boggles the mind to think that Waiopua Forest was once carpeted with these ancient trees from valley ridge to ocean shores. And there is a lingering sense of loss that permeates the forest here – the ancient beings that once stood tall and proud here have only recently been felled, relative to the ages housands of years that they lived in this wild corner of the world.


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Question of the Day:
  • What would you have said to Tane Mahuta?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thank You and Congratulations IndieTravelPodcast!

I am truly humbled by all the love and support shown by all of you to help me finish 5th in EntirelyKiwi's competition to win a 3-month blogging trip around New Zealand. Family, friends, and even strangers have posted updates to their Facebook pages, Tweeted in support, and even signed up fellow partygoers on their iPhone - a special shout out and big
MAHALO to everyone on Molokai!

From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.

The top 3 candidates are Aussie Niquel, South African Lindy, and intrepid Kiwi couple Craig and Linda. We closed to within 30 followers of Craig and Linda before their impressive network on Twitter kicked in to pull away. Cat from Canada, who has a shared interest in exploring sustainability through her travels, overtook us in the final hours to give the Kiwis a run for their money ... what an exciting experience!!

For the record, I'm hoping that Craig & Linda are chosen for the job - they are fun, passionate people who have been living their dream of traveling the world since 2006 - what an inspirational example of following your heart, especially in these uncertain times. And if the only thing I got out of this contest [which it isn't] was a couple of awesome new friends, then it makes it all worthwhile!

I'm still recovering from the emotional ups and downs of the last few days [what a ride!!], and am going to take some time out to figure out what's next for me. In my quest for ADVENTURE and opportunities to be of SERVICE, there is no shortage of options; I am truly blessed. There are many gifts and lessons to be learned through this experience, and I would like to take time to digest it all and let them percolate ...not to mention, the creative juices are flowing and I can feel new ideas beginning to hatch! One thing is for sure, I will listen to my heart.

Once again, Thank you for all your support.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tamaki Village

I am currently a finalist in EntirelyKiwi's competition to win a 3-month blogging trip around New Zealand.  With less than 13 hours to go, the 3 blogs with the most followers as of 12noon tomorrow will advance to the final round of interviews.  

Please take a moment to click FOLLOW at the right hand side of this blog to help me win!  

If everyone following just got one more person to join in the fun and follow these adventures, we can come home strong in the final stretch and make this dream come true!!

Fifteen minutes drive from city center of Rotorua, Tamaki Village was started in 1989 by Mike and Doug Tamaki, who sold his Harley Davidson to fund the dream that everyone said was a bad idea.  Twenty years later and the Rotorua experience now hosts 100,000 people a year, and is a powerful encounter with Maori culture in a natural forest setting. A pre-European village has been re-created, where proud, passionate, and very talented performers share the story of their people, history, and spirit.

 See if you can get on the bus that Mark is driving, he is, as he proudly pronounces: “Maori with Irish blood in his heritage”, and is flat-out one of the funniest guys I have met in a long time.  His explanation of the Maori greeting, “Kia Ora” took us to 52 countries, languages, and accents in 15 minutes that had the whole bus cracking up in stitches!  Very simply put, Kia Ora is similar to Aloha - i means 'hello',' goodbye',' I love you', 'it's all good brotha' ...KIA ORA!

Somehow during the comedy act I managed to get nominated as the ‘Chief’ of our bus group, and as we step off the buses we gather at the threshold of the village entrance, while our very solemn guide, Darren, explains to the ‘Chiefs’ what the protocol is.  We are going to be challenged by the villages warriors, who will decide if we are friend or foe.  If we are friends, one of us will be asked to accept a branch as a sign that we come in peace.  If we are foes, well then …may the best man win.  *Gulp.*

Chanting starts as a fierce warrior emerges, whirling his spear, and showing off his weaponry skills as he walks right up in our faces, eyes wide open and tongue flashing to tell us "You would taste my belly..."  Darren had made it a point to tell us not to smile or laugh during the greeting, and with the hardened wooden speartip whipping inches from my face, smiling or laughing is the last thing I was thinking of right then.  I felt so much respect for this kindred spirit, summoning his mana from his ancestors and looking me right in the eyes to feel my spirit.  We connect unspoken, and he motions for me to pick up the branch as an offering of goodwill between our parties.

Then one of his sisters launches into a beautiful, harmonic welcome song in the Maori tongue, and chills run up my spine as I close my eyes and let it wash over me.  The bond with Hawaii is obviously there, but also a deeper connection that seeps directly into the land around us - the trees, the cold ground, the moon peeking through the canopy.  We enter the village and are invited to explore, where we wander amongst the huts and speak with beautiful Maori dressed in traditional garb, learning about Ta Moko - the technique and meanings of Maori tattoo, Maori Kai [food] and the Pataka [food storehouses], and Mahi Raronga - the art of weaving flax to create garments and shelter.

Our meal that night is prepared in an authentic Hangi, or underground oven.  Similar to the Hawaiian Imu, a pit is dug in the ground and a fire built.  When the wood has burnt down hot coals, rocks are placed amongst the coals and superheated, then the food - lamb, chicken, beef, fish, potatoes, and kumara [sweet potato] are all wrapped in leaves and buried to cook all day.  The result is a smokey, tender and succulent taste that nourishes and strengthens us for our next battle - in my case, an impromptu Haka.

When the guys hear that a 'Brother from Hawaii' is in the audience, they invite me up to perform a Haka with them to honor two of the performers who will be leaving the village tonight... trouble is, I've never done the Haka in my life!!  However, it would just be plain rude to decline, so despite my nerves I straighten up as best I can and walk to the front of the room where all eyes are watching us expectantly.  Suffice to say, I did my best to keep up - eyes fierce, elbows and hands slapping, heels grinding and pounding...

Though my cheeks were burning with embarrassment at my lacklustre performance as I walked back to my seat, it was truly an honor to be accepted like a brother by these men.  For a brief moment we were connected by a shared bond, beyond all the boundaries of society and distance.  We came from the same place, connected by cultural protocol.  

To the Western eye, Maori culture can seem so aggressive and war-like, but underneath that appearance lies a warm, generous and beautiful people.  

The Maori families who have opened their hearts and homes [and offered to open their homes - thank you Darren!] to a stranger like me on this trip have truly and deeply touched me, awakening a yearning to connect with the rich, complex, yet beautifully simple island culture that I was raised in.  


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Saturday, September 5, 2009

Less than 48 hours to go...

...and I'm very grateful for everyone who has supported me - THANK YOU!!

The competition closes at 12noon on this Tuesday Sept 8th, when the 3 blogs with the most followers will proceed to the round of final interviews, and possibly another challenge!

I've moved up to 5th place, and am knocking on the door of 4th place... spent yesterday hanging out with the competition - Craig & Linda - and had a great time. Everyone I've met in New Zealand is so warm and generous ...even if they are competing with me for an amazing 3-month blogging trip around the country!! Here's the vid we shot together yesterday:

Co-Opetition, what a concept!? Oh yeah, and spot the guy from Hawaii wearing 3 layers and a huge jacket while the Kiwi guy is crusing in his t-shirt!! Seriously though, if I could pick the top 3 candidates then it would surely be Craig, his lovely wife Linda, and of course me! Great people! ;-) Check out their site and consider doing the same for them.

Be sure to check out this very quick and fun little video touring Auckland City - what an amazing town. The sun is shining, the sky is blue, and the harbour is full of sailboats. Ate a delicious home-cooked meal last night: fresh green-lipped mussels steamed in coconut milk and red thai curry sauce last night,
yum! Life is great.

Don't forget to keep spreading the word through Facebook, Twitter, or any other [legal] means - if you've got an iPhone on you then don't be ashamed to sign up the person sitting next to you ;-) ...and click FOLLOW at the right side of this blog to help me win this dream job and share the wonderful people, places, and culture of AOTEAROA with you!!

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Why Choose Me

This part of the competition is strictly a #s game... and I am trailing the leaders in 6th place at the moment.

So I thought I'd take a moment to write about why I feel so passionately for this job. Yes, New Zealand is known for its spectacular scenery, amazing hiking and snowsports, and adventure sports galore...

But it is the people who truly give a place its character. There is a rich culture to dive into and experience in Aotearoa, the Polynesian culture of the Maori people. It is based on family, respect, and stewardship. It means that your home is always open for guests, and the gifts that we all have for each other if we take the time to hear each other's stories and connect. It means taking care of each other, and of the land that will take care of us.

This competition is an avenue for me to contribute. If I win the job of exploring New Zealand for 3 months, in addition to exploring and enjoying all the adventures that EntirelyKiwi has in store, I want to incorporate the cultural and Maori perspective in my blogging and reporting. Here's why:

I am born and raised in Hawaii, but am not of Polynesian decent. However, my experience of growing up with Hawaiian culture is all I know ...I dont know much about the Irish, Scottish, or Filipino cultures that comprise my ethnicity, so I feel closest to Hawaiian culture - especially, the Aloha Spirit. Our hearts and homes are always open to family, and once we are friends then you become extended family... I don't know any other way.

I've spent the last 10 years living in Hawaii, though living in an office in pursuit of the almighty dollar... missing out on so much of the beauty that surrounded me each day. I am blessed that I've been given the opportunity to re-evaluate my life's priorities, and explore how best to pursue my passion & creativity to live a happy & fulfilled life of creation and contribution.


So I have to come halfway around the world to learn more about the Polynesian culture I grew up around. I had to go all the way to Rotorua for my first WAKAAMA [outrigger canoe paddling] experience! Go figure...

My hope is that by sharing my own journeys, explorations and education about Maori culture, I will help to bridge that gap of understanding between western and indigenous cultures.

All this talk of Eco-Tourisn and Sustainability and Transition Towns and Permaculture and Slow Movements... it's all there in indigenous culture. The modern world is finally realizing that basic fundamentals like being good stewards of the resources we are blessed with, looking after your neighbours, and connecting with our fellow human beings are what is truly important - there is so much to learn from indigenous cultures.

Please take a moment to click FOLLOW, and come along with me on this journey of adventure and discovery!


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