After two difficult days conquering two difficult passes, I was glad for a relatively easy trek down to Lake Rotoiti today. I hadn’t decided yet whether to try and get all the way into St Arnaud, 30km away, or stop at the hut on the south end of the lake, 2 hours from town.
Shortly after leaving in the morning I spotted a sign pointing to a detour to Travers Falls. Relaxed about the day, I took the detour, and I’m glad I did. Climbing down a mossy bank, using roots for handholds, I arrived on the edge of a pool, at the foot of a tall waterfall, and suddenly I was alone in Fern Gully.
I sat there for a while, marvelling at all the life clinging to the plants, thriving on all the water in the air.
I climbed back up to the track and ran into two trampers from Sydney and Auckland, guys in their sixties. Mr Sydney was friendly and asked about my tramping travels, and I said I was walking Te Araroa.
“Sorry?”, he enquired.
“Te Araroa”, I said slowly, “it’s the trail that runs the length of the country. I’m just walking the South Island leg”.
“Oh, right, yeah”, piped in Mr Auckland. “We call it the Tee Ah-row-a”.
“Um… OK…” I muttered, before carrying on with a few more polite exchanges with both of them.
Twenty minutes later, down the track, I was kicking myself. We all have those experiences and conversations we replay in our heads, adding alternative, better endings. Ones where we dramatically cut in with witty, edgy remarks, the timing perfect.
“We call it the Tee Ah-row-a”.
“Why is that?” I should have said.
Why do some New Zealanders refuse to even try and pronounce Māori names and words correctly?
It’s. Plain. Racist.
To those people, is it because you’ve never really thought about it? If so, you really should.
Is it because you’ve thought about it but have decided it doesn’t matter? Wake up.
Is it because you don’t know how? Are you scared you’ll sound silly if you try?
The singular vowel sounds are easy. Remember that song we all learnt in primary school, ‘A, E, I, O, U’?. The double vowel sounds, like ‘au’ or ‘oa’ are a little trickier, but the thing is, they don’t change. They sound the same way in most words. Look them up.
The hardest thing in Māori pronunciation for a lot of people is the ‘r’, because we say the English-pronounced ‘r’ very differently. What some kiwis don’t know, though, is that they use something like the Māori ‘r’ sound on a regular basis. Say ‘butter butter butter’ quickly to yourself. How did you pronounce the ‘tt’ sound in the middle? The sound is pretty close to the Māori ‘r’. You probably could have easily said ‘bara bara bara’ (if there were a ‘b’ in the Māori alphabet). Now try saying ‘Taranaki’ using that same sound. ‘Butter’ and ‘Tara’ rhyme, almost.
Let’s educate ourselves, folks. If you’re privileged enough to not experience racism in this country, you absolutely have a duty to try and lessen it for others, especially since there’s a good chance you are a knowing or unknowing perpetrator. Things don’t change if you don’t change them.
Alright. Rant over.
I did end up staying at Lake head Hut with Caroline and Remy. We were all surprised with just how tired and sore we were after a supposedly easy day, and agreed that it must have been a hangover from the previous days.
There hasn’t been another tea-slurping offence quite as bad as the first one, and I’ve very nearly forgiven Remy for that day. At the hut this evening I was chatting away to Caroline when all of a sudden Remy burst through the door with, “Sorry I didn’t mean to interrupt your conversation but just letting you know in the second toilet there are two very angry wasps and just be careful before you sit that they aren’t you know, under you, OK that’s all I wanted to say”.