Written By George
At the start of this week we were still at the Hart family farm. We said our goodbyes on the 11th and woke up and headed straight for Ragland after picking up a massive van for the group to travel in over the next two weeks. After our painstakingly long 3 hour drive to Raglan, we ended up at an awesome backpackers hostel right up the road from the black sand beaches of Raglan. The next day and a half had no activities planned, allowing everyone to explore the tiny surf town, go to the beach, take surf lessons and catch up on some long needed personal time. The following day we meet up with our Maori contact Tiaki in town. He was tasked with introducing us to the Maori culture and growing our group dynamic in the process. We introduced ourselves in proper Maori fashion, stating land markers such as rivers and mountains to define where we lived and then headed straight to our next place of residence. We were greeted by Rob and his wife Tongmadia, two New Zealand locals who also happened to be Indigenous to North America, and their 7 dogs and horse George. We were awoken early the next morning in order to participate in a Native American sweat lodge ceremony in order to cleanse our mind, body and soul for the rest of the journey. Part of Tiaki’s plan for the week was to get the group better connected with our native roots and not just his New Zealand ones, and Rob and Tongmadia were instrumental in this. Later that night he brought over two local Maori that happened to be our age, Maddie and Elijah. They taught us the proper Maori way to do our introduction, as well as a beautiful song and many other various things about the Maori. The next morning we woke up to hear the horrible news of the Christchurch shooting, killing 50 victims and damaging the hearts of many more. This ripple of pain was felt by all of us, and Rob allowed us to participate in a Native American ceremony in order to honor all those that were hurt by this tragic incident. Later that day we were talking to a sacred Maori waterfall in order to cleanse ourselves of this great pain and make amends with those who had fallen. The next day we said our goodbyes to Rob, Tongmodia, Maddie, and Elijah and headed off to our hostel for the rest of the week, Solscape. It sat on the hillside overlooking the beautiful Raglan coast line. We stayed in tipis deep in the forest behind the hostel with no electricity or hot water. Over the next two days we went on a hike with Tiaki, connecting us back to the connectedness of the entire world, and were taught about the tragic injustice that the Maori people have suffered over the years. That about sums up the entire week. The group is looking forward to the next week of student directed travel to Rotorua and Tauranga. I can speak on everyone’s behalf that we are excited to see how the rest of this journey unfolds with each week seeming better than the last!