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Part 1 of Travel to New Zealand
by Dez Bartelt

It is 6am and I arrived unscathed to Raglan, New Zealand. It think it is a little too early to start knocking on doors and asking if they can direct me to the closest Maori people. The tribe I’m looking for is the Waikato Tainui. The lodge owners look to be still snuggled up to their pillows. What to do? What to do? I know Ragaland is known for amazing surf. So, I think I will go check out the local break and see if they have anything on Puerto Rico. I read about this one local break a few miles out of town and want to check it out. Heck, if anything it will be a nice drive and I might just get a killer sunrise as a bonus.

I head out this little winding road and it looks like it maybe is in the right direction as the road is parallel to the sea, which is always a good sign. Yep, it turns out my orientation skills are still with me and I locate what looks to be the local surf break; a beautiful left hand point break that has four main peaks. The sun is just starting to come up and I can see about 10 guys in the water. They look like black seals on surf boards in their wetties (wetsuits ) and that can only mean one thing- cold water –brrrrrrrrrrr- I don’t do cold water well. I park the car and settled in for the rising of the sun and I was not disappointed. It graced me with a warm kiss and a sunny smile.

Now that I have been welcomed from my friendly friend mister sun, I feel it may be time to locate a place to hang my hat. I noticed a few small inns on my way. So, it made sense to head back and take a closer look and look and look and look. I’m not having the luck I was hoping for. It turns out that New Zealand is a lot pricier then I would have hoped. Not only that, you’re paying for way more then what you get. I was showed rooms with a bed; more like a box with a bed. No private bath -just a room with beds that looked like they had seen better days. After turning down quite a few, I head to the local information center, which may be the key to my search.

Turns out my instincts were good. Two little old ladies sitting behind the counter just waiting for the unexpected victim such as myself to walk in. They were busting with information. I thank them and make my way to a few of their recommendations. In the end, I chose a cozy little place named after the owner, Pete. Nothing fancy, but it had everything I needed. And he gave me a deal of $90 NZ dollars ($55 US). Still a little high, but beggars can’t always be choosy. Pete was happy and so was I. With a hand shake, we sealed the deal. So, keep in mind if you’re heading to the land of the kiwis remember it‘s not cheap, but Pete’s place is a find in Raglan.

It’s still quite early, but I feel a nap is due and the bed is calling my name- maybe just a wee nap to refresh the mind and body. I awake 15 hours later and you guessed it- my wee nap turned out to be the sleep of "death". Crap I lost a whole day and it’s now 5am the next morning. Not quite sure where I am and I try and shake the fuzz out of my head to take stock of my surrounding. Whooo!

I’m safe I’m in my little room at Pete’s and am in the evil bed that lured me to my sleep demise. It’s now 5am. I’m sure nothing is open. So, what to do? Yup, go in search of coffee. Raglan is a very small town with one main street, but the aroma of coffee is everywhere. This is my kind of town and I find myself in what looks to be a very nice coffee house. As I’m perusing the menu on the board, I see that rooms are not the only thing that’s pricy. A full breakfast is $18.00 NZD- $9 just for eggs and toast. What, do their chickens lay golden eggs????

Due to my lack of food and drink, I suck it up and place my order. I see the eggs are not made of gold after all. However, the yokes are more yellow then the brightest of suns and quite yummy. Now the coffee- well if I could take a coffee bath I would .Think of sliding into a white porcelain tub of fluffy whipped froth made of steaming hot milk, so fluffy you want to soak forever. I could stand my spoon up in the wonderful froth that topped off my beautiful cup of fresh roast. This little dream cup helped take away some of the pain of my pricy breakfast and somewhat depleted pockets. I knew all along that there is a coffee god and he lives in Raglan New Zealand. All hail the coffee god -may you bless me often. Sorry women but you have to get your own big guy. This coffee god is mine.

After a few more cups of pure haven, I feel that I’m ready and I remember that I am here for a reason after all; the Maori people. The only question is where to look. As luck would have it, a woman kept walking past the café and she had the look; the look of the Maori women. Her head is held high walking with confidence. How do I approach? Just do it I guess. I was never one to beat around the bush -that’s not an out back joke. I spoon the last drop of my coffee froth from the bottom of my cup and run after the unsuspecting woman. God she’s fast -zoom zoom she goes from block to block. She must have had a few cups of her own of Raglan’s coffee.

I finally catch up to her and make my apologies for chasing her through the streets. Miss Miss! I’m sorry, but can you help me? Sure she says are you lost? Oh no, I’m not lost but I’m looking to find the kaunataua; the leader to the local Maori tribe. Do you have any idea where I might find such a person? She gives me a look with a tilt of her head as she is summing me up-wondering if I’m a nut case or just a curious tourist.

Why are you looking for the Maroi people she asks? I say I’m there to write a story on the women of the Waikato Tainui tribe. This relaxes her a little and she says “why the women?” . Well, I’m on a world tour and I’m writing about the women in different cultures from the past to the present. That’s wonderful she says. I know just where you should go. With a go this way, turn that way and then drive down that way and your there. I was off. Finely, I will get to meet the people I came to see.

Hummmmmm, that sweet women left out a few details. She sent me to the Marae; the spiritual grounds of the Maori people. Not knowing this detail, I’m just so happy to have found it and I walk right on as if I own the place. I was soon to find out this was a big blunder and should never have happened. I see the people looking at me wondering who I was and what the heck I was doing walking onto their Marae unannounced as if I was the queen of England in all her glory.

I spot a man and ask if he could help me and he looks at me like I have the plague -2nd mistake. Women don’t speak to the Maori men before being announced- two mistakes down and many more to go. With distain, he points me to what looks to be someone of importance- please, please let this be my Kaunataua leader. With every step I take, I feel more and more out of place and I want to turn tail and run. I would have fled if it was not for the powerful look of the man I was heading towards. The fact that my feet would not move fast enough kept me inching closer, closer, and closer. I’m within a foot or so as I pray that in this day and age the Maori people have given up their practice of cannibalism. This guy looks like he can eat me in one bite, even before I get to say hello and my name is Dez. Please let him be full from a big breakfast or at the least be a vegetarian. The luck of the Raglan coffee gods are still with me as the stern looks becomes one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen. It was as if the clouds lifted and the sun was shining just on him.

I found my Kaunataua. He goes by the name Russell Riki. That’s not his Maroi name but he felt it was easier for me to say. His Maori name is Wahangaterangi - see what I mean???? How may I help you he says? I eagerly give him my reason for interrupting his obviously important meeting of what looked to be with another important Maori man.

After what seemed like a very long version of my reasons to be there, he says let me think on this matter and I will be in touch. Yep that’s it…. Now what should I think? Dare I ask when he will start thinking and when I will know what he has decided? Is this his way of saying beat it? I say thank you and start to turn, but he says where are you are going????? Me I say? I thought I would let you get on with thinking and come back later. Good idea he says! Please call me for a meeting time, after 9am tomorrow morning. With relief I say thank you I will. As I turned to leave he asks me where you are going???? Not that again!!!! He says we don’t say good bye t