Saturday, February 9, 2013

Waitangi Day and Learning to Paddle the Waka

Doing a  Hongi (greeting by common breath) with Nga Toki, the great Waka

We were all sweating, our hearts beating quickly in our bare chests, after doing the Haka (war dance) with as much intensity as we could muster. The chief from the other iwi (tribe) was giving a speech with the ranging Haruru falls as more than two hundred of us listened, including the dozen or more Waka tied to the waterfront. The sun was out, the water flowing and the scene appeared to be no different from when the cheifs would meet here to discuss in the 1700's evenings. That was real life, and I was able to be apart of it. Such was the entire week of waka paddling training leading up to an epic paddle of Nga Toki, the 40 meter 73 year old beauty, and other waka from around the country. We were gather to celebrate the Waitangi Treaty of 1840, which marked the birth of New Zealand and coorperation between Maori and Pakeha (white foriegners) in a common land.

The only downside is that there was no room for a camera in only my tiny black shorts! So as I collect pictures from other people who were there and put them in later posts, you'll have to enjoy just stories.

Practicing the Haka (War Dance) at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (photo by Iguchi Yasuhiro)
If only for a week, we all come together in a tent city and practice Haka and paddling in unison until we are utterly exhausted. We think about nothing but Waka and being together and working hard. That kind of comraderie is what truly brings the waka themselves to life. 
Nga Toki after a lanch involving more than 200 strong.
Finally, on the day, the hundred paddlers entered the canoe, and each stroke, all together, is our strongest. No one lacks energy, we are infused with it from the "history that we are sitting on" as the Waka commander Joe Conrad had mentioned in an earlier speech. The canoe is alive, with us and through us, and she moves, in the same waters as her ancestors, with strength and courage. That was truly a life changing opportunity to be one of the paddlers.

Gavin getting ready to dive for scallops

After the celebration, a friend of mine, Gavin Cross, an expert jade carver and fishermen, invited me to skipper his marlin fishing boat for a competition. Eating fresh snapper and scallops while sleeping on his beautiful wooden Waka fishingboat was quite a way to relax before a week of lashing our 40 foot Waka back in the workshop.

1 comment:

  1. It is nice to see that you are doing well! Good luck with your journey!