Mokoia New Zealand is a small island found in Lake Rotorua, which is in the North Island of the country. The island was formerly called “Te Motu-tapu-a-Tinirau,” and is accessible through a boat trip that takes a very short time, coming from the township of Rotura. Mokoia is proud of its fertile soil, one which was put to very good use for by Te Arawa, for the cultivation of “kūmara” or sweet potato. Mokoia Island got its present name from the slaying of “Arorangi,” a Maori warrior who was defeated by “Uenukukōpako” using a “kō” or a digging stick as a weapon. The blow that led to Arorangi’s demise caught him on his forehead that was tattooed; hence the name, “moko” or tattoo, and “kō” for digging stick.
The island is also the setting for the very famous New Zealand love story of “Hinemoa” and “Tutanekai,” similar to the Greek tale, “Hero and Leander.” The story however ends on a happier note. Based on the legend, the lovers were not allowed to marry. “Umukaria,” who was chief of the lake’s shores and Hinemoa’s father, forbade her to travel to the tribal village of Tutanekai by canoe. This did not stop her from finding a way to get to her lover, which she did by swimming across a distance of 3.2 kilometers to get to her lover’s island. Using the sound coming from the flute-playing of Tutanekai as her guide, and wrapping reeds around her body as a means to float, Hinemoa made it to safely to Tutanekai’s village. After discovering where Hinemoa was, her family accepted Tutanekai as her husband, and both tribes were permanently united.
The Maori Culture
The Maori are locals of “Aotearoa,” New Zealand. These people have a history that is both long and interesting. Based on oral records, the various archaeological discoveries, and genetic studies, it is believed that the Maori arrived in New Zealand during the 13th century AD. Their origin has been traced back to the Eastern Polynesian Islands, and their voyage towards New Zealand happened mostly in legendary “waka” or canoe trips within a considerable amount of time. It was these voyages that established the Maori as brave and ingenious travellers, as well as ranked them among the best navigators in the world’s history.
The culture of the modern Maori has been the result of the traditions practiced by their ancestors, along with the external view of what challenges indigenous people encounter in today’s world. The significant aspects of the Maori culture are its art, “moko” or tattoo, its legends, customs, warmth, and sense of community. During the early 80s, the Maori culture experienced a rebirth, with the revival of interest in its culture extending towards its language. In fact, the number of “kohanga reo” or language programs in Maori, have significantly increased.
Rotorua is seat of the culture of Maori. The region is enriched by the character and legacy of the native Maori. The people here are also referred to as “Te Arawa” derived from the great waka that transported the tribe leader, Tamatekapua, together with the people to “Ohinemutu,” in Rotorua Lake. “Te Arawa” has also been frequently used when referring to Tamatekapua’s descendants and extended tribes. Among them are the “Ngati Whakaue,” who are described to be warm and generous. These traits find their roots in the early visits of Europeans to New Zealand, with tribes serving as guides around the beautiful landscapes of their country. It is this warmth of the locals that make Rotorua the perfect tourist destination, with visitors sharing in its rich culture as well as its magnificent landscape.
Delectable Maori Food
In Rotorua, visitors will surely get the chance to partake of the “Hangi,” a traditional feast of the Maori. The technique for cooking is quite similar to the “Umu” of Hawaii. The earthy oven method produces a distinct earthy and smoky taste that is something any tourist should try. “Hangi” is readily available at a number of places located in Rotorua. Cafes are also visible, though it has only been during the last few years that they have been around.
Maori cooking is founded on seafood, wild pork, young birds, lamb, wild fowl and “kumara.” With the hangi method, food is prepared and served to the Maori during meetings and gatherings. Visitors are now able to enjoy the same. The Mokoia restaurant Rotorua is a bit scarcer, although there are numerous major hotels here that offer great dining experiences. Locals and tourist alike flock to “Tutanakei” Street or “Eat Street” as it is known among locals. However, food usually runs out quite early here with the number of people who come to eat.
Visitors will not run out of things they can do while visiting. One of the most enjoyable activities here is bird watching, as there are numerous endangered species to be found, such as the “weka” or wood hen, and the “tieke” or saddleback, to name a few. Taking a boat cruise to the island and around it is another pleasurable experience. One can also try the bush walk and get a guided tour around the island to discover more of the its beautiful trees and flowers. “Hinemoa’s Pool” is believed to be the pool where the legendary Hinemoa had warmed herself in after swimming to her beloved Tutanekai. This is also where visitors may be able to soak in and relax after all of the day’s activities.
Mokoia Island, New Zealand is considered to be one among the most beautiful gems of Rotorua. Lying at the centre of the lake, the site appears seemingly untouched by today’s modern technology. It is a sacred island, a location of beauty and tranquillity, and enriched by the Maori culture and long history.