I’m almost in Waiotahi, my jandals are off and I’m driving bare feet. The smell of the ocean is swirling through my car. This is how I like it. Waiotahi is where part of me comes from, I’m a half-caste. Maori/German.
I’m here for a family reunion on my Maori side, my Great Grandparents Mariana & Te Waihirere. Our Kaumatua (Maori elders), including my mum, tell us stories in Te Reo (Maori Language) as we visit the pa and the house my mum grew up in.
My ancestors roamed this land, they had food, water and each other. Some lived on a pa, like this one I stand on. A pa was not always a village though, they were often used to spot the enemy and defend their land.
When they didn’t have to fight for their land, I’d like to think they had time to look at the view. I’m also pleased to say that most pa sites in NZ are protected so no one can build a house on them. They are for people to visit and to learn the history.
In Maori Culture, the land is regarded as ‘mother to the people’, the placenta.
One story was about the women and their significance to the land. Women did not wear underwear, this is so the placenta will be closer to the mother earth. She (the land) will nurture and provide for us if we look after her. So I stand here on the land that my ancestors once stood (wearing underwear, and leggings).
From the pa we head inland to Te Huinga (Jacks) house, my Grandad.
My mum grew up in this house. It looks a lot different now, it use to be full of life and well maintained. I remember playing in this room as a kid, I’m not sure I was allowed to be in there. My mum remembers the great times she had growing up here with her 6 siblings and many cousins that lived nearby.
No one lives in the house anymore but my uncle does reside on the property at the back, him and his dog ‘Bugger’.
Nanny Rima would tell my mum and her siblings to go and get a xmas tree. Xmas wasn’t a big thing for a Maori family back then so the kids would get a Willow tree and put it on this porch in a bucket of water. They would then decorate it with newspaper cut-outs and oranges.
Mum remembers the shearing gangs that once worked here, it was a big sheep farm. I too remember those days on our farm in Nelson. The lanolin that would make my hands nice and soft, putting my hands on the sheep and telling them not to move or the shearer will cut them, picking up the wool and throwing the fleece onto the table. I can see it like my mum did.
On my drive back from the farm I passed this letterbox. I like how rural New Zealanders recycle anything.
This is my Marae ‘Maramahue’. The last time I was here was nearly 20 years ago when my Nanny Rima passed away. The Marae has been renovated since then. We no longer need to wash our clothes in the outdoor sink and then hang on the fence… the fence was electric.
We were told the story about a farmer who would drive past our Marae often. Where you see the head now, there was a carving of a dog that stood proudly. The farmer thought the dog had freaky eyes so he burnt it. Sometimes I think our Kaumatua make these stories up but I can’t help being mesmerised by their storytelling.
When you hear the stories of our ancestors and those who grew up here you appreciate the whenua (land) even more.
Waiotahi is about 4.5 hours from Auckland city. The closest town is Opotiki.