Friday February 9, 2024 (New Zealand time)
Kia ora (hello in Maori)!
Imagine yourself in the area of land that will one day be called New Zealand, and it is 80 million years ago. Dinosaurs are ruling the land, a small reptile is hiding under bushes trying to survive, and a mostly herbivorous insect scurries around at night searching for food.
Now time travel forward 20 million years and the small reptile and the insect are still living in New Zealand, but the dinosaurs are now gone, wiped out by a global, cataclysmic event. The reptile is a Tuatara, a lizard-like reptile with spines along their neck, back and tail. The insect is a Tree Weta.
Once more travel forward in time to around 1330. This same area is now the home to a group of settlers from East Polynesia/Tahiti who arrived in canoes and developed their own, distinctive culture and language. And the Tuatara and Weta were still living here.
This canoe was at least 50=60 feet long, and the feathers are albatross feathers for good luck
Moving forward to the 18th century when the arrival of English, Scottish and European settlers to the area brought contagious diseases, and battles for territory to the area. The Maori do not believe they own the land, they believe they are care-takers of the land. But the new arrivals wanted to "take" large swaths of land and turn them into cities. They renamed the area New Zealand. The Moari population declined due to illness, and to the results of wars and fighting. For awhile there was a treaty enacted that allowed the two cultures (Maori and English) to co-exist for approximately 20 years. But the treaty broke down and, as a result, the Maori were forced to assimilate into the western culture and leave behind their own language and culture. And the Tuatara and Weta were still living here.
In the 1960's, the Maori protested against the injustices done to them. Slowly the people and government recognized the rights of the Maori and began to work together to build a better future. The Maori language is coming back and being recognized on buildings, currency, and in social interactions. And there is a resurgence of learning the Maori language and culture in the schools. Finally, the Tuatara and Weta were still living here.
At the Te Papa Museum, there is a Maori Meeting house that honors all the different groups of Maori in New Zealand, and also key aspects of their culture and ways of life.
And through all this the Tuatara continues to survive on the islands off the mainland of New Zealand, and in some protected reserves on the mainland; although, it is considered to be at-risk. The Tree Weta is also still living in the cool forests of New Zealand.
At the Zealandia Reserve today we saw some amazing birds, along with the tuatara, and the weta.
These birds are (from top left) Tieke/Saddlaback; Takahe (endangered); Kaka; Tui
And finally, speaking of animals, the government building in Wellington is an unusual shape and is called the bee hive.
E noho ra (Maori for goodbye) from the beautiful, windy city of Wellington.
Tomorrow we head to Napier, a coastal city on New Zealand's North Island, which is set amid the renowned wine-producing region of Hawke's Bay. We hope we're ready for a morning wine tasting adventure. Good thing we take a bus! We know we can handle the Hawke's Bay Express old train ride in the afternoon!