Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hokey hangi

I don't really know if it was hokey or not, but the setting certainly was. Our hotel in Rotorua, the least attractive one we encountered on our trip, was a tour bus factory, where big buses disgorged and then loaded up dozens of tourists. Some were students but most were Brits of a certain age. The hotel offered a Maori hangi that evening, which we had to book within 45 minutes to get a good price. Silly, but we bit anyway.

Before dinner, we walked around. Our hotel was on the sulfurous (read, stinky) lake and right next to the Polynesian Spa, which has been in existence in one form or another since the late nineteenth century. We grabbed our suits and booked a dip. The pools were deliciously hot, and people moved from pool to pool, gently soaking and looking at the gray sky. It was very relaxing.

On to dinner! We were greeted in the lobby, where the crowd was enjoying half-priced happy hour, by a European-looking man who greeted us in Maori and proceeded by both celebrating and mocking Maori traditions to work the crowd into a good mood. We surged into the dining room for a buffet dinner that featured pork, chicken and lamb, all cooked on hot rocks in the old way. Not bad, though EAP was a bit taken aback by the greed shown by some of the guests who had to elbow her out of the way so they could get their second helpings.

After dinner came the Maori dancing. Here was our leader.

The group danced the haka together.

This man was small but had great stage presence - you couldn't take your eyes off him.

Here he is dancing.

The women did the poi dance, with musical and vocal support from the men.

Some of the dancing included the famous tongue-sticking-out gesture meant to scare off warriors.

I wish I knew how authentic it was - probably a fairly true representation of the culture, but in a terrible setting. On the whole, something we could see and then cross off our lists forever...

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