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Full Circle

Day 147: Kaikoura

Kaikoura, New Zealand 
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The Maori challenge.
Michael Palin - Full CircleWe progress a little further toward the tall, intricately-carved gable end of the Council House. One of the women on the home side issues a call to us - a long wail with high rising and falling cadences, which is responded to by a woman on my side. After this exchange we move a little further still, onto a green sward where benches are laid out for us fifty yards from the welcoming group. Then the mihi - speeches of welcome, interspersed with song - begin. A Maori with Irish and English blood called Taare Bradshaw tells me of the history of the place. I give a short speech, preceded by a couple of sentences in Maori I've been up all night learning, and then it's time for the song. Had toyed with 'Every Sperm Is Sacred' from Monty Python's Meaning Of Life but on grounds of taste settle for my old school song, in Latin. As I start I realize I've never sung it with less than 500 people. The strains of 'Rex Edwarde, te canamus, Pium Fundatorem...' drift thinly across the Marae.

The Maories are genuinely, pleasantly, and completely confused. Rick gives yet another speech on my behalf and we are then allowed to cross to the home side for hongi - shaking hands and rubbing noses. Rubbing is a bit of misnomer, it's actually much closer to a pressing movement. It's an awfully good use for noses, I think. We are led indoors at that point to the final part of the ceremony, known as the Breathing. 'We breathe the air through the food we eat,' Rik explains, grabbing a sausage roll.

I must admit, I'm finding Rik increasingly difficult to understand and suspect him of having broken the no alcohol rule. But the green-lipped mussels are gorgeously, lusciously tasty, as is the local speciality, taken from the Pacific this morning, probably from the very jaws of a sperm whale. It is crayfish, or as they call it in Maori - Kaikoura.
Kaikoura, New Zealand 
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Maori acceptance.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 147
  • Country/sea: New Zealand
  • Place: Kaikoura
  • Book page no: 204

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