The Marae stay was one of the most rewarding experiences on our trip so far. I learned some geology and biology as well as some insight to the culture of the Maori people. On the geology and biology side, I saw a mud flat for the first time. During low tide, no water covered the mud flat and all the plant and animal life there was exposed. You could find species of crab and oyster on the mud flat and a plethora of mangroves. During high tide, the nearby river overflows and floods the mud flat giving fish and other species access to the area. Another feature I learned during the Marae stay was the way step terraces are formed in the nearby hills of the Marae. When sheep and cows graze on steep hills they move up the hill in an orderly fashion which eventually creates steps in the hills for them to walk and graze on. These steps are created just form these animals standings on the hills in certain spots.
Culturally, the experience of staying at the Marae was a great one. Before arriving I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical of the stay and did not know what to expect, especially since our welcome involved us singing Hakuna Matata. However, after realizing how hospitable and genuine the people were, I got over my initial doubt about the stay. On a side note, I really enjoyed when the priest told us he did not know us from a bar of soap. I thought it was hilarious and showed me how down to Earth they were.
The trip up to the church speaks for itself. The priest had some interesting stories to say the least and made me appreciate just how important religion is to the Maori culture. After all, he traveled all the way to France to unbury the man who brought them Christianity and brought him back to the Marae.
Checking out the mud flat with Jr. and the scary looking guy was another cool experience of the trip. They were interesting guys. The work out they were talking about through the mud flats sounded borderline life threatening. To quote Jr., "Yea, we tie a boulder on our back and sprint through the mud. Then we jump in the river and swim all the way down with the current and then back against the current before running through the mud flats again." I had a great time running through the mud flats, but doing it with boulders tied to me sounds crazy. Those workouts are probably the reason those guys can play professional rugby.
And of course, who could forget learning the haka. Now that was a memorable moment! Jr. and scary looking guy looked possessed when showing us how to do it. However, I would probably use a different word to describe our haka. It was all in good fun and was a good way to hang out and get to know the guys. That was until we had to go shirtless. Anyway, It was a great experience to learn some insight into Maori culture and was a good chance for everyone in our group to get to know each other a little better.
Overall, it was a great experience that I would not trade for much. We learned a lot about geology and biology, but mostly about the unique culture of the Maori people and a great time in the process.