In the Footsteps of Māori Myths and Legends: South Island, New Zealand

In the Footsteps of Māori Myths and Legends: South Island, New Zealand

my plane landed in
South Island
, the weather changed from sun to dark purple
clouds that melted into rainfall. A two-minute walk from the
airport to the rental car was long enough to get completely soaked.
Yet I couldn’t help but smile as I switched on the engine; my trip
was just beginning. The second day turned out to be my lucky day.
The sky was clear and the golden morning sun gave me the energy to
hike to the Mueller Hut in the
/Mount Cook National Park.

According to the Māori myth, Aoraki and his three brothers were
on a journey around Papatūānuku (the Earth Mother) when their canoe
became stranded on a reef and toppled. The four of them climbed
onto the top of the canoe but the cold south wind froze them and
turned them into stone. Their canoe became Te Waka o Aoraki – New
Zealand’s South Island – and Aoraki, the tallest of the three,
became the highest mountain of the Southern Alps: Mount
Cook/Aoraki, which reaches 3,754m into the sky.

By the time I got closer to the fjord of Milford Sound, the rain
was pouring. It felt like driving into one of those tiny glass
garden bells, where everything is wet and green. It was mystical
and beautiful. Around me, waterfalls carved their path, appearing
as if from nowhere. In the lowest of places, a thick mist danced
above the ground.

The Māori named Milford Sound “Piopiotahi”, after an extinct,
thrush-like bird. Legend has it that Māui brought a piopio with him
from Hawaiki (the original home of the Māori before New Zealand).
Proud and ambitious, Māui challenged Hine-Nui-Te-Po, the Goddess of
Death, to a duel in order to win eternal life for mankind. He died
in the attempt, and as he did so, his piopio flew south in
mourning, where the waters of Piopiotahi would come to be.


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