Flashpacking New Zealand with Stray – Day 2 – Maori Culture

Up and out by 8am this morning headed to Wiatomo for some caving.  There’s multiple options for activities today so the way it works on the bus is Mambo will tell us a bit about each option before passing back a clipboard where we sign up for what we want.  The activities are all at additional cost, but there’s always a free option if you aren’t interested in what’s available.

Caving in the Waitomo Caves

Abseiling down a hole while caving in the Waitomo Caves. Taken by our Guide Scott.

Caving Adventures

Today’s options are all through Waitomo Adventures, an adventure company operating a number of caving trips through the hills under the farmlands of Waitomo.  Two of the five options peaked my interest and fit within our four-hour window.  “Lost World” which is cave exploring with a massive 100 meter abseil and “Haggas Honing Holes” described as “Indiana Jones in a washing machine”.

I chose to do the Haggas Holes and it was quite a trip. You end up doing three abseils, two through waterfalls, and a lot of cave exploration.  The guides are great and you never quite know what’s around the next turn.  I was impressed by the attention to safety from Scott, one of our guides.  I constantly found him and Chris, our other guide, checking harnesses, ropes, chains and rigging to make sure everything was secure.  Odds are you’re probably safer doing a caving adventure than driving a car through Los Angeles.

After the various caving options, we loaded the bus and headed to the main cultural experience for the trip – our stay at a family Maori.

Traditional touching of noses after completing the challenge.

Traditional touching of noses after completing the challenge. Photo taken by Stray guide Mambo

Uncle Boy’s Family Marae

We pulled into Uncle Boy’s probably about 6:30 and had Uncle Boy welcome us and invite us into the dining hall when we arrived.  We put down our small bags, got tea or coffee and sat down for a talk.  Picture 20-24 young adults sitting around long tables getting somewhat of a stern talking to by the chief of a local tribe.

Uncle Boy told us there would be three challenges – the challenge of eating their meal, the challenge of entry into the Marae, and the challenge of sleeping under his roof.  Being the oldest of the males, I ended up in the role of Chief for the group.  In this role, I had to meet the challenge of the other “tribe” and accept their token in order to be accepted and invited to be part of the family.

I got through the challenge and our group was accepted, at which point we were shown a traditional performance of song and dance.  Half way through, they stopped and we were split so that the males could go learn the “Haka” and the women could learn the “Poi”.  The men were stripped down and taught the Haka that the All Blacks (New Zealand’s Rugby team) use.  A Haka is a traditional dance by men used to intimidate other tribes during challenges.

Performing the Haka

Performing the Haka in front of the ladies of the group. As oldest, I ended up as Chief of the group and as such had to lead my fellow warriors in the Haka. Photo taken by Nicole.

The Haka

The other main role as chief was to shout commands to the tribe during the Haka to get them to initiate certain moves.  We had about 30 minutes to learn both the chant and the dance, before performing it in front of the ladies, and I’ll freely admit I got lost during the middle section.  It was all in good fun though and a good time was had by all.

After our performances, the local group continued their show of song and dance.  The evening was completed with group photos and the tour group doing their rendition of YMCA as a tribute to the performers.  Not sure how that got going, but stranger things have happened on a bus full of travelers.

Once the performance was over, we set up our beds and scattered to email, drink and be merry.  A couple hours later, all 21 of us slept under the same roof as part of Uncle Boy’s third challenge.  Sleep was like a welcome friend after a busy day of adventure and cultural immersion.

The cultural performance before and after our participation.

The cultural performance before and after our participation.

Here’s a copy of the Haka for those interested.  The first three lines and the last line are for the Chief only.  The first line sets the stance, the second gets the palms slapping the thighs, the third gets the warriors stomping their feet and the final line tells them to give their scary faces to the enemy.  Everything in the middle is chanted by the group during the Haka.


Kia Mau
RiNga PaaKia
WaeWae TaKaHia

Ka Mate Ka Mate
Ka Ora Ka Ora

TeNei Te Tangata

Nana I TiKiMai
WhaKaWhiTi TeRa

A HuPaane A HuPaane
A HuPaane KauPane

WhiTi Te Ra   Hi

HoMai Te PuKaNa

(Tongue Out: Eyes Wide and ANGRY)

Accommodation: Uncle Boy’s (Unique to Stray)
Activities: Waitomo Caving Adventures & Uncle Boy’s Cultural Experience

Go back and read about what happened the previous day or find out what happened next.

The above is posted from the road during the middle of a month long trip through New Zealand with Stray.  If you don’t know who stray is, read the intro to the trip or check out their website.

In an attempt to give you an idea of what the trip is like I’ll be posting like I was writing a journal, but with some practical information in case you want to follow in my footsteps

Here are some additional pictures from today’s events: