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Marlborough Sounds and Queen Charlotte Track Meet

This is the place where you wind back history in time as you take a walk along the rails.

By i.c Golina

Located on the north coast of the South Island in New Zealand is the small picturesque town of Picton. For many tourists and locals, it’s known as a gateway to the islands and inlets of the Marlborough Sounds. It has the The Edwin Fox Maritime Museum, a 19th-century former convict and cargo ship. The EcoWorld Aquarium shelters and rehabilitates native animals such as tuatara reptiles and blue penguins. Nearby, the Queen Charlotte Track traverses coastal forest, skyline ridges and bays.

Picton's main beach front

It was late April 2017, when I visited Picton and the climate was supposed to be perfect during that month but as I stepped off the boat. I could feel the coolness straight down my entire body. Considering it wasn’t a winter month in New Zealand, it was very cold for me. Living in the warmer tropical climate most of my life, I knew I had to wear something warmer to maintain my body temperature to certain level. I had to explore this beautiful seaside town even though it was freezing cold for me. Even though it was 15 degrees, for locals, it was just another ordinary beautiful and perfect day.

As an experienced traveller, I always tried to pack my luggage with gears for all-seasons. I thought to myself, I wonder it is like to be living here during winter periods. Even just the thought of that, made me even more colder. Before I headed out, I put on my favourite “Paul & Shark” coloured sweater before exploring this beautiful town.

Like any other tourists, we are embedded with confusing on lot of things. Whether, it is the directions that we try to work out on the street maps, the location of the hotels or simply, constantly changing our minds and deciding what to do, what to see and where to go, unless we are frequent visitors to the area. Like most places that I visit, I always try to do my research prior to visiting a particular area or place. In that way, I know in advance, what I will be doing for my sightseeing and it also decreases my adrenaline to an acceptable level where stress is non-existence in my system.

Since I am always fascinated about cultures, history and the way local people or indigenous people live and without any hesitation, I decided to visit a Maori village outside Picton town which was about 1.5 hours drive south. Though, it was cold, with cool breeze passing my way but with a little bit of sunshine made it a perfect day to explore this unique part of New Zealand. The drive out of Picton was easily accessible and the smooth high-way with clear visible signed posts made it very friendly for any visitors for the first time visiting the area. The drive along the road was even more scenic – The lush green hills, landscapes and miles and miles of vineyards was just mesmerising. I tried to avoid taking photographs as this could be a “high distraction” for me and stopping was not an option for me.

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At a Maori village in Picton

Finally, I arrived at my destination with the help of modern technologies which are now installed in every hire vehicles – GPS. As I drove into the carpark, I was greeted by this friendly warriors of the village and it was certainly most welcoming experience I ever had. I was guided through on a journey learning about local Maori history through storytelling with other hundreds of visitors from all over the world, mostly Americans. The guided tour tells about sharing of the Maori values and knowledge of practices such as Kaitiakitanga (Maori way of guardianship) and Rongoa Maori (Maori medicinal plants). This tour not only fascinated me but was having some comparison with some of the values and knowledge of practices back in the village in Papua New Guinea before the missionaries concreted their ideology.

The village was very different to what I expected, compared to where I came from but the present native Maori form of village was a bit more modern style due to the past historical aspects. They still practiced their traditions but the location of the village was in a section allocated for their traditional sacred practices not far from the town . However, ignoring my observation I tend to focus on the history of the native people. With New Zealand’s dark history towards the native people and their land, I understood and accepted what was presented to me. I was so impressed that they were now able to bring back their traditional ways and so proud of it but with the touch of modernity. After seeing the Maori village, I started to reflect on my past and thinking and bring back memories of where I come from. I started to think that my traditional ways, lifestyle and language is slowly fading away and people are not taking pride of it. These concept of “bring back the traditional values, knowledge, beliefs of the indigenous people” is well recognised and acknowledged in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and slowly happening in America.

After the guided tour, we were finally, entertained by the indigenous dancers, singing and food. After 3 hours of entertainment in this native Maori village, I headed back to Picton, but decided to take a long way drive home, which was a scenic route. I thought to myself, I might never come back to this beautiful part of the world again and while I have the opportunity visiting the area, I might as well enjoy the long drive which I could see more of the region. The region is renowned for its winery and I knew why, after seeing the area. The vineyards went for miles and miles away and as far as the eye can see. It was late afternoon and it was starting to get very cold and I felt like it was winter to me but for the locals it was just another ordinary beautiful day.

It was certainly an experience, that no one should miss. Without a doubt, many visitors who have walked out of that village after having a profound understanding of the native people, it makes you think a lot more broader with understanding of where they are coming from.

From my personal perspective: Prior to visiting the native Maori village, I was expecting a similar type of village style back home in Papua New Guinea. I thought it was going to in an isolated area, away from modern style living standard but I was wrong. However, after going through this guided tour, learning about the history, New Zealand has a dark history like Australia but at a lenient level compared to Australia. When we travel, we need to be aware that our expectations won’t be met at every level. We sometimes need to assess why our expectations weren’t met, especially visiting indigenous places and poor countries. Remember #travel does broaden your mind#.

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