Saturday, 11 June 2011

Shore Tour From Gisborne - Fantastic!

Maori children's cultural performance on a shore tour
The idea of sipping champagne while riding on a vintage steam train and seeing some Maori culture certainly appealed! With visions of the romance of the 'Orient Express' in mind, I booked the shore tour from Gisborne.  For train buffs, the chance to take a trip that featured the only Wa Class locomotive (built in 1897) left in the world, was too good to miss. The tour booked out quickly. 
   The steam engine, Wa 165, and its three carriages certainly was a great sight with its shiny, black body edged with gold, and its copper boiler gleaming in the sun. Restored by a keen band of volunteer railway enthusiasts, it took its first fare-paying passengers in 2000 after many years of work.
   Down the coastal railway line we went, stopping at the airport to let a plane take off. Gisborne is the only airport in the world that has a train track crossing it. The views of Young Nicks Head across the bay were superb.
   After a trip of about 40 minutes, sipping Lindaur sparkling wine or orange juice all the while, we stopped in the middle of nowhere! On a grassy bank beside the line, a group of children from the local Maori immersion school (kura kaupapa) were waiting. Aged from 5 to 12 years, they were dressed in traditionally-styled costumes in their school colours. They waited quietly while the principal explained to us about the school and Maori legends of the area.
   And then they performed for us -  songs, a poi dance and a haka (war dance) done very enthusiastically by the boys! It was a charming, touching, authentic experience, one that left all the cruise ship passengers smiling and eager to talk to and have photographs taken with the children after the concert.
    On the train ride back to Gisborne, a hat was passed round and donations (koha) were thrown into it, raising over $200 for the school. It was a great afternoon!

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