Herbal medicines and family history combine to provide one of the great tourist ventures in
Kaikoura, New Zealand. Maori Tours takes guests sightseeing, tracing local and family history and a bush walk to explore the medicinal properties
of the native trees and bush.
"Most of, the remedies possess validity," says Dr. Raymond
Stark in his book, MAORI HERBAL REMEDIES (1979). Over the years, trial, success and failure honed the skills to treat various illnesses, along with appropriate
karakia (prayers). In pre European days, the tohunga (priest) held the knowledge of the remedies; today others have that knowledge. Early settlers found many
worthwhile uses for Maori herbal medicines: aching joints, headaches, constipation and dysentery, to name just a few.
This boutique tour is small, intimate and interactive. The first part takes in an ancient pa
(villlage) sites, introduces guests in the protocol of going onto a marae, then through stories. Maurice Manawatu introduces us to family ancestors.
Maurice is a direct descendant of Maru Kaitatea – the common ancestor of all Ngati Kuri
(the local Kaikoura tribe), and it was he and his family that took us on the tour. We started at the old pa site of Nga Niho, built in the 1700s and we were called onto the
land by one of Maurice’s sisters – the purpose of the karanga was explained and the importance of the three welcomes – body, mind and spirit.
We were also shown the flax plants, the simple weaving and the their value to the Maori. These
plants were of top value, used for baskets, mats, sandals, rope, twine and the inside of the valued korowai cloaks, which were then covered with feathers.
People on the tour were from the UK. They were impressed, rated it
as one the highlights of their travels. After taking in the views from the top and hearing more legends,
we went, via the current marae, to the site of an even older marae, just south of Kaikoura at Peketa.
Apart from oral legends passed to him, Maurice was also a wonderful resource about local and
family history in a manuscript written by one of his ancestors in 1900, a real treasure. Her writings ensure his tours are authentic.
Maurice and his wife, Heather, started the tours to create a future
for their children and a lifestyle change for themselves. "We are people people," Heather told me. This was evident when we stopped at their home for coffee and a chance to meet the rest of the whanau – nieces, nephews, sister, brothers-in-law and children.
Comments in the visitors book showed people appreciated the opportunity to see New
Zealanders in a different way. Even Kiwis report having especially enjoyed the time with the family, learning while having fun.
In the Puhi Puhi Valley, we walked in the bush – learning how to identify trees and shrubs
(manuka, miro, totara, rimu, supplejack and kotukutuku, for example) and to hear about their medicinal and cultural uses. I was pleased to be able to differentiate between the manuka and the kanuka. Until that
day, I had to wait until the kanuka was really tall to know which it was. Not any longer – kanuka has a eucalyptus smell. It peels off in long strips
while the manuka is more a citrus smell and has short strips when taken from the tree.
We valued this wonderful trip by people proud of their family history. Both locals and toursit benefited from this tour.