Kia ora, friends. Take a moment to press your forehead and nose against the screen.
We just performed a virtual hongi, the traditional Maori greeting in New Zealand — or Aotearoa, as it is often known — and one of many spiritual experiences that will line your travels in New Zealand. (Granted, this act is usually mirrored against another person, rather than your fingerprint-smudged screen, but we're working with what we have.)
Maori life transcends the tourist brochures. It is an unwavering vein of culture, running along every coastline, up every mountainside, and down every high street in Aotearoa. And for the most part, it lives side by side with Pakeha ("of European descent") life.
We could fill these paragraphs with the intricacies of Maoridom, but like most things on this incredible planet, we'd rather you explore it for yourself; where you can speak to village elders, and respect their ancient laws and traditions, upon the very lands they fertilize.
The fact is: you couldn't escape Maori culture if you tried. You'll experience it in the thunderous Haka, a collection of ancient war dances, as it's stamped into rugby fields and gatherings across the nation. You'll taste it in the hangi, a traditional Maori style of cooking, often utilising the geo-thermal activity that sequest many a Maori lore.
You'll hear it in te reo Maori, the Maori language that is so ubiquitous across large parts of the country. You'll read about it in the courageous tales of Maori demigods, such as Maui, a mischievous hero favored by school children.
Above all, you'll feel it — weaved into the people, and their places, because everything you know about New Zealand, has roots in Maori culture.
Make sure you give those stories and traditions room in your journey through Aotearoa. You'll be surprised how enchanting this element of your adventure will be — for many, it's a life changer. Kia ora.