Sunday, March 30, 2008

March 21, 2008 - East Cape

The East Cape is one of the least densely populated regions in this sparsely populated country. Those who do live here are primarily of Maori descent. The only other pakeha (non-Maori) we saw during the two days we spent out here were the few other travelers we ran into and people who work in or run the lodgings we stayed at. We regularly saw Maori youths riding along the roads on horseback. The heart of each village is the local marae. Although it wasn't the most exciting place we've visited on this trip, we were glad that we took the time to check out a bit of the Maori world - beyond the Disney version tourists typically experience at hangi nights and concerts in Rotorua. For a look at Maori culture, check out the movie Whale Rider, which is a story about a modern Maori tribe living on the East Cape. The film incorporates the legend of Paikea, the ancestor of the East Cape Maori tribe of Ngati Porou, who (according to legend) arrived in New Zealand on the back of a whale.

Our cozy cabin at Brian's Place - the shell shape seemed to amplify the sound of the surf.

The view from the deck our cabin across Tokomaru Bay.

The East Cape is dotted with towns that time and progress have passed by.

This perfectly mundane looking Anglican church contains a treasure trove of Maori carving, weaving and imagery.
Can you see all the tikis with their paua shell eyes staring out at you?

The stained glass window over the alter beautifully interweaves Christian and Maori imagery. Note the World War I uniforms on the Maori youths flanking Jesus. Entire regiments of Maori men fought overseas in that conflict, primarily in Galipoli and North Africa.

Another postcard perfect church.

Although it provided us with brief glimpse into modern Maori life, the drive around the East Cape of the North Island was not as satisfying as the drive along the Catlin's Coast at the bottom of the South Island. In the Catlin's, every 30 kms or so there is another geologic wonder to check out. There, we were able to break up the driving with lots of short walks. The East Cape has beautiful scenery, but there are no hiking trails or anywhere else to get out and stretch your legs, except by going to the beach. And neither of us is really interested in getting salty and sandy in the middle of a long day of driving.

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