Kaikohe Library, Far North
Sunday, 6th February, was Waitangi Day. And, our campsite happened to be just a half hour’s drive from Waitangi and the Treaty Grounds there, where the day’s festivities and celebrations would be held. So we set the alarm and got up at 7 AM, packed up and ate breakfast on the go, and made it through the crowds to the carparks on the treaty grounds with little hastle. We arrived in time for the 8:30 Waka Karakia at Te Tii beach, as was our intention. Waka are Maori canoes, and karakia means prayer or incantation. On Waitangi Day, the ceremonial waka are launched from the beach in the early morning, to the chanting of the karakias, and make a cermonial parade around the harbour. One of the waka that was used was the enormous Ngatokimatawhaorua, a traditional waka taua (war canoe) that was built in 1940 for the centennial of the Treaty of Waitangi. It is 35 metres in length and is propelled by 80 paddlers and carries up to 120 with passengers. It was absolutely phenomenally huge, and you can imagine the kind of intimidation one might have felt had you seen this waka full of Maori warriors paddling at your island! All of the wakas paraded around on the harbour, 8 traditional waka in all, with many outrigger waka and sailing waka in addition.
(Click on photos to enlarge)
Beautiful double waka.
Note the sailing waka behind the traditional one. The front waka was paddled by a girls' school team.
Launching a waka.
Such an incredible scene.
Several smaller outrigger waka, including the one that was at the Wetlands Day event we attended!
Another sailing waka.
The boy at the front raises and lowers his paddle to indicate to the paddlers when to stroke. The crews of the larger wakas also included two young boys whose sole job it was to bail!
One of many intricately carved prow pieces.
This waka was paddled by a girls' school team.
Ngatokimatawhaorua in profile. Unbelievable.
After the waka karakia, we spent the rest of the day exploring the many vendors' stands set up around the treaty grounds, and watched some incredible kapa haka (traditional dance and haka teams) and pipe band performances and watched all the boats on the harbour. We even ran into the prime minister! Here's some photos from the rest of the afternoon:
This kapa haka group is called Hatea, and they held us spellbound for their entire performance. They were the most cohesive performance group I've ever seen, and their singing and dancing were absolutely flawless. They're headed to the national kapa haka championships in a few weeks, and for good reason. It was such an honor to watch them perform.
The guys performing a haka.
Poi, a traditional womens' dancing style (the white balls, as well as the style, are known as poi)
Close up of the haka. The Maori have the intimidation thing down really well!
The man in the white shirt behind Matt is John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand!
Local kids jumping off the bridge.
Me with the Spirit of New Zealand.
Spirit of New Zealand is a dedicated sail training vessel, and it's huge!
The Treaty House at Waitangi
A carving on the visitors centre at the treaty grounds.
Whare Waka, or Canoe House, where the massive war canoe is usually stored.
A pipe band performing by the Waitangi flag pole.
A small protest march. The Treaty of Waitangi is a focal point for a lot of Maori grievances against the crown and parliament.
Te Whare Runanga, the meeting house at Waitangi that was built in 1940 for the treaty's centennial.
We were so pleased that our timing just happened to allow us to attend the celebrations on Waitangi Day, and that we got to see so many amazing traditional performances and things for free. We are really lucky to have been able to have such a day, and to help celebrate the history of New Zealand, our home for these 8 months.