We must have really been sleeping in a Maori ancestor’s womb last night because, man, we had a good night sleep! Last night was the first night of our 365 Days: 365 Activities that we slept in a wharenui (a Maori meeting house). Marcus from the Whirikoka Pa Site welcomed us to his whanau’s (family’s) home, explaining how the structure of the wharenui symbolises a female ancestor, hence the “womb” comment.
A night in a marae
The usual protocol of staying in a wharenui, or you might more commonly hear it being called a marae, is that you sleep in a communal area and share communal facilities – yes, just like a good ol’ backpacker hostel. In the Whatatutu Marae, there is a number of mattresses stacked in the corner of the room, so last night we “doubled up” on the mattresses for extra comfort, found a spot on the floor (for us, it is near the power outlets), and piled the mattresses up with blankets. Joined by a couple of musicians touring New Zealand and a mother called Halo, who was retreating here for a while, it is like a sleepover but without the pillow fights, cookie dough and ice cream.
We wake up early as usual trying to not disturb our fellow marae-dwellers and get to work in the communal kitchen/dining area, writing yesterday’s blog post. With the amount of art put together by various guests who have retreated here in the past, as well as the walls decorated in carvings and display cases holding various Maori artifacts, the place feels like a mini museum – there are heaps of stories to be told, which is something the Maori are impeccably good at. In fact, Marcus’ father, Owen, joins us at the dinner table for a short while, sharing a idea with a well-crafted story.
Once everyone is up and out of bed, Marcus is keen to share more of the New Zealand’s story by taking us on a small trip to a place called Tarndale…