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The East Cape

By juliesams, 12/03/2010 - 23:13

Embarking on the 490km round-trip to the East Cape and back was to be another cultural eye-opener for us.

The East Cape is predominantly Maori populated with most of the land still owned by Maori tribes, sub-tribes or individuals. This was very evident along our route as we drove by sign after sign of 'Private Property', 'Keep Out', 'Trespassers will be prosecuted' etc. These signs even extended to the beaches which in places were now out of bounds unless you had express permission to go on then from the local land-owners. It gives the impression they fought hard against Europeans to keep their boundaries intact. At one point, the main state highway that we were driving along had a sign stating that the road had been built with permission from the 'land-owners' and that visitors should be respectful of their land as we drove through. This lasted for quite some km's during which we didn't feel like stopping at any picnic areas for a tea-break in case we upset the local tribe!

We had a couple of pleasant overnight stops around the East Cape - staying at one friendly Maori owned camping site where the kind owner only charged us half the advertised rate and looked indifferent about whether or not he had any business that day. Part of the Maori vibe in this area was certainly a more relaxed approach to life, seemingly happy to live peacefully on their land with their extended families around them, enjoying fishing for sport or food and generally welcoming all with a smile or a wave. I think the Maoris in this area (perhaps descended from one or two specific tribes) defended or managed their estate well despite European occupation of the country. I think Western Civilisation could learn a lot from the Maori sense of community and way of life in this corner of the earth.

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