Waka arrival a dazzling sight
Auckland, venue for the opening ceremonies of RWC 2011, welcomed the waka of Tainui, Ngapuhi and other southern tribes to provide the most moving display of waka skill seen on the Waitemata for nearly a century.
Northland had a very strong waka presence with Ngatokimatawhaorua, Rangimarie, Aukaha, Mataatua Puhi, Mataraki, Kuaka, Maomao and Te Aurere. This was a special occasion for venerable Ngatokimatawhaorua as it was the first time the historic waka had slipped into the Waitemata waters – and enter the city with a police escort.
The Taitokerau contingent were hosted at O Puau Te Moananui-A-Kiwi at Glen Innes for the week long stay in Auckland.
The powhiri for the visiting crews with their supporting kuia and kaumatua was held at the Orakei Marae on Bastion Point where the mass practices were held during the week preceding the main event.
The waka crews were well prepared for any eventuality because there was a significant amount of the "unknown" about how events would unfold.
The arrival of the waka into the Viaduct Basin was a great sight to see and although the shore was a concrete road, it is not hard to visualise how such a sight must have appeared to the onlookers many years ago when the shore was a sandy beach.
While the warrior paddlers and their precision paddling was undoubtedly the main point of interest, the women in their own waka commanded the deep respect of the thousands of appreciative spectators crammed around the Viaduct Basin.
While not easily visible to everybody, the massed haka performed by the paddlers on the Viaduct Bridge was certainly heard by everybody within several hundred yards.
At the conclusion of the main event on Queens Wharf, the Tainui crew returned to the Basin and performed a series of haka on the landing platforms, much to the delight of those who were still enjoying the ambience of a great day.