New Zealand is a very special place for culture celebration, they have a deep connection with life and nature and a vast knowledge of subjects we just don't learn about anymore. I have always been fascinated by indigenous cultures, last year I travelled across the North and South Islands of New Zealand to visit sacred mountains, lakes and land of the Maori tribes. The places and people I came by made me want to learn more about the Maori culture, and I wonder what might be different if we followed these cultures more closely, rather than the European. Would our lives be the same?
Words & photos by Coni Flores | @the_wanderer_photographer
As soon as we arrived in New Zealand we were keen to uncover more about the Maori culture, our first destination was to the Waitangi Treaty grounds. We were warmly invited to a Wharenui (Maori communal house) and had the chance to see traditional dances and hear traditional songs of the Maori tribes. This inspired us to head to the Whangarei Tribes' ancestral mountain, Mt Manaia, south to Waitangi. We hiked up the mountain at dawn and I could feel special energy all around. It is so beautiful on Mt Manaia and amazing views from the summit. I knew I would be outdoors all day, hiking and camping, so took my Fraser 32L with me - good quality, durable and weatherproof - ideal for an unpredictable adventure in New Zealand.
We travelled further south on the North Island to Waiotapu, ’sacred waters’ - one of the most incredible places I’ve ever had the opportunity to visit. A geothermal paradise that the Maori people would have enjoyed the hot spring pools and cook traditional Hangi underground with the volcanic stone. A few miles from Waiotapu is the small town Rotorua, home to the Whakarewarewa Redwood forest. The colour of the water here is affected by the geothermal activity - so bright, so strong.
It was time for us to head down to the South Island. We passed through Otepatotu ‘place of the fairies’ and the Fiordland National Park, to end up in Queenstown. There is a 4-day walk, 'Greenstone and Caples' from Queenstown, an excellent opportunity to see the sacred Greenstone or ‘Pounamu’ found in the rivers. The stone is important to the Maori culture used to make jewellery and tools. The 60km trek was a great adventure with friends, we returned to Queenstown ready for pizza and ice cream - plus a beautiful moment watching the sunset and then the stars appear.
We continued to explore the South Island, from the hidden gem of Lake Mirian to Milford Sound (where it snowed for two days), and Mt Cook for an evening hike and sleep under the stars, to Lake Tekapo with the Mt John Observatory. We had been amazed by this island, but we needed to make our way North again and head to Mt Taranaki in Egmont National Park and hiked up to catch the sunrise. It was so quiet and peaceful, we enjoyed playing with the summit’s reflections in the tarns. Taranaki, in Maori legend, is said to be a peaceful mountain, to its west sits three other mountains at the Tongariro National Park, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu. We made our way across to see the other mountains and set up camp by the lakes. It was really windy everywhere but we found the perfect spot to pitch out tents - it had the most amazing view of the lake and as night fell and the clouds rolled in we were able to capture some great long exposure shots. Because my Fraser the Rucksack is very spacious I was able to carry my camera and all my lenses. I could store camera batteries and memory cards in the different compartments meaning I had enough power and digital storage for the whole trip.
We had been hiking for so long that we chose to relax and chill by the river at Taupo - what a way to finish this first part of the of our New Zealand adventure… more to come.