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Tamaki Village men in Rotorua

Traveling Middle Earth {format} 10:23 Dmae Roberts

Audio snapshots of New Zealand country and culture.

Broadcast: Dec 16 2003 on PRI/MPR Savvy Traveler Subjects: Travel, Music, Environment, International

Travels In New Zealand

by Dmae Roberts

HOST: While the “Lord of the Rings” movies may have put New Zealand in the spotlight, the country has been on the radar for a long time for many travelers drawn to the gorgeous landscapes and the fascinating culture. Independent producer Dmae Roberts takes us past what remains of the Hobbit sets and into a country filled with Maori traditions and incredible natural surroundings.

DMAE ROBERTS: Wellington. Premiere day. Lord of the Rings. A hundred twenty thousand people line the streets along a red carpet for the stars. Hot sun pelting. New Zealand is the closest country to the ozone hole, so the sun is stronger here. Doesn't deter the screaming fans.

FAN: My name is Annie Love, I'm twenty five and I'm from Sand Point Idaho. I'm here for the Lord of The Rings Premiere. And then to tour the south island for the Lord of the Ring Spots.

DMAE: Hours pass before the stars make their way to the red carpet to the media pit where I wait with two hundred international journalists, waiting for a byte, a clip, a chance repartee.

GOLLUM: Hello America... Precious, I can't wait to see you. No, No, you don't want to. Yes I do. Yes, I do.

DMAE: Wellington parties all day and all night, and New Zealand is raking in the tourism dollars.

HELEN CLARK: I'm Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand. For New Zealand, the Lord of the Rings has been like one big rolling promotion and not only the tourism because the films have such amazing New Zealand scenery, but it's also put the spotlight on New Zealand, its screen production abilities, its software technology, who are these people, what do they do, what do they think, what do they like? It's grabbed a lot of interest in New Zealand.

DMAE: The movies may have put New Zealand in the spotlight, but the truth is it's been on the radar screen for travelers like me for a long, long time. We're drawn to the gorgeous landscapes, but also to the culture.

SOUND: Maori welcoming song

DMAE: Auckland War Memorial Museum, Maori welcome song- sung at most official events here.

DMAE: The Maori culture has always attracted me to this country, ever since I saw my first jade tiki pendant and heard the story behind it. Every carving, every word in their language has a story. This music calls back to ancient times, 1000 A.D. when the first Maori came to Aetorora, the long white cloud, the Maori name for New Zealand.

SOUND: Music crossfades with Hobbiton ambience

DMAE: Matamata - otherwise know as Hobbiton. The white settlers didn't come here until the mid-19th century. But they brought lots of sheep with them to dot the beautiful rolling hills.

RUSSELL: If you look at the two top Hobbit holes here, you can see how they're fallen down.

DMAE: Our Maori guide, Russell, show us what's left of the Hobbit set built on the largest sheep farm in the country.

RUSSELL: This Hobbit hole here with the fences around it and Bag Shot row, were actually at that stage where they've fallen down.

DMAE: The owners, the Alexander brothers, had so many people tramping about their property, trying to get a glimpse of Frodoland that they decided to turn it into a tourist spot. Ian Alexander doesn't mind.

IAN ALEXANDER: I live in Hamilton mostly. I don't come out here very often, only about twice a week if I'm lucky.

DMAE: Ian, like all New Zealanders, or Kiwis, as they call themselves, wants to know guests are enjoying his country.

IAN ALEXANDER: Most of you are from the States?

VISITOR: Canada.


VISITOR: Germany.

IAN ALEXANDER: Germany, oh, ok. Fair cross section of the world there. How long are you people out here for? Quite a while looking around New Zealand?

VISITOR: A couple more weeks...

IAN ALEXANDER: You need just about three weeks in the South Island to see it properly. (Laughter)

VISITOR: Easily. I'll be back.

IAN ALEXANDER: Oh, you will be back!

SOUND: Bubbling geysers sounds.

DMAE: Rotorua. Land of volcanoes, geysers, and bubbling mud. Aotearoa has 21 active volcanoes and the fastest growing mountains in the world because of the tectonic plates shifting. Rotorua is also home to Maori cultural events.

SOUND: Tamaki Village Maori song

DMAE: "Kia Ora" means hello, goodbye, welcome, and is a blessing. I go to a Maori Hangi at Tamaki Village, a performance and feast where we're greeted by tattooed warriors.

SOUND: Up on warriors

DMAE: And then left to wander through a forest where singers gathered around campfires until we find the concert marae or meeting place. The music reaches and resonates deep inside. A profound experience for me. Just wish I didn't have to share it with three hundred other tourists snapping photos and talking through the songs.

SOUND: Water lapping crossfades with Wai song.

DMAE: Titahi bay, near Wellington, on the North Island.

DMAE: Wai is the Maori name for water. It's also the name of a music group lead by Mina and Maaka, who are working to preserve their language through music. Mina gives a traditional Maori introduction to herself.

MINA: (Names her ancesters in the Maori language) I said my ancestors, my mother and father, and who I am.

DMAE: Maaka says language connects Maoris to their history and their culture.

MAAKA: Our government, when they first came over here, enacted a policy of assimilation in the late eighteen hundreds, so slowly but surely the Maori language wasn't used in commerce, it wasn't used in business, it wasn't used in every day actions like catching the bus or going to the shop. In 1989, our government made our language official, previous to 1989, it wasn't official, so it wasn't used in anything. Something that has been growing and although there are a lot of battles to be won, a lot of things to be overcome, at least it has started. There are a lot of people out there who sing and do things that they're teaching our language. We are not going to be a culture which lives in a museum, which sits in a glass box.

SOUND: Birds, lake sounds

DMAE: Glenorchy. Outside of Queenstown in the south island, where much of the trilogy was filmed. Two kinds of tourists collide here - the young wild students on holiday and the retired leisure set. Activities are either bungee jumping or the dinner cruise.

SOUND: Jet boat fades up

DMAE: I choose something in between - a Dart River safari jet boat ride complete with daredevil driver Simon, who has conquered the laws of physics by spinning the boat around 360 degrees on a dime.

DMAE: Woo-hoo. Oh my gosh. Oh I'm wet. (laughs)

SIMON: Sorry about getting you wet guys, but the Hamilton jet spinner brakes energy bursts, it's the easiest or the fastest way to bring it to a stop. Where we're we going guys, is right up towards the mountains in the background, that's the barrier ring, and the time, the three glaciers, they're really three on the dart - the bribed, the whipped born, and the dart glaciers. The big mountain on the right hand side, you can see a lot of cloud going over the top of, that's Pikarakatahi (sp?), or maybe easier for you guys, Mt. Earnslaw, that's its English name. It's New Zealand's 13th highest mountain, about 10,000 feet or 3,000 meters. There's quite a big landslide that ripped off about 40 years ago. The geologists went walking up there to see what had happened and they found that there was a lot of stuff called " Te Wai Pounamu" milky colored green stone. Pounamu- green stone. And it's the only place in the world that Te Wai Pounamu is found is up in the head waters of the Dart Valley here, so it's very rare, very highly prized for the Maori, and that particular section that I mentioned is a taboo area, taboo is like a voo-doo hex. So if you go in there without the right permissions, very, very bad things are going to start happening to you. So, I suggest you stay clear. All right, we go, eh?

DMAE: As Simon jets towards the snow capped Southern Alps, the theme from Lord of The Rings starts playing in my mind and then gets drowned out by the boat.

SOUND: Boat crossfades with sea sounds

DMAE: Oamaru, between Dunedin and Christchurch, South Island. The most amazing experience. I watch 100 blue penguins, ten inch high little birds, drift from the sea after dusk, grouped together like rafts of kelp.

SOUND: Penguins

DMAE: They fish all day in the ocean and then come in at night to feed their chicks who are nested in an abandoned limestone quarry. Takes them the better part of the night to climb up the jagged rocks on the shore and cross the gravel road to the little wooden huts that house their babies. I stand tree still as two penguins waddle between my feet.

SOUND: Penguin sounds. Crossfades with Huru intro.

HURU: My name is Huru, and I am singing a song called Porcare Careana (sp?).

DMAE: Rotorua, the Buried Village. Huru sings me a song.

SOUND: Huru sings.

DMAE: I'm going to miss this country. So much landscape that feels familiar and then you see towering fern trees and palms emerge from spectacular volcanic mountains and you know you're not home. Life feels slower, and people are so friendly. Whenever you say thank you to a Kiwi, they respond, "No worries, good as gold." The theme of the country. Something reassuring in that.

SOUND: fade up slightly on Huru

DMAE: Kia Ora from Aotearoa. Beautiful New Zealand. No worries. We're good as gold.

SOUND: Huru ends song and says "Kia Ora!"