A MATE of mine decided he wanted to do something to celebrate Te Reo Maori Week starting today, so he asked me if I could take him on a bit of a tiki tour around Tauranga.
He remembered picking up the local language in Bali by learning local place names so he thought a tiki tour would help him pronounce and understand some of the more local prominent Maori place names - he had lived in and around most of his life.
So we jumped in his flash-as waka and parked it at the base of our iconic maunga (mountain) - in front of a sign saying what Mauao means.
"Try saying the name of this mountain you have been gawking at for the last sixty summers Bro," I challenged him.
"Meow Ow" he sheepishly replied.
"Sorry mate, pussy cats go meow ow, and this maunga called Mauao wasn't caught by a morning saucer of milk. This is a masculine mountain meaning caught in the morning light and it warrants a barking pronunciation bathed in manna.
"So this majestic maunga called Mauao, should be pronounced Mow -Oh" I exaggerated for emphasis.
Feeling a little whakama (shy) he picked his bottom lip up off the footpath outside the hot pools and we headed toward the wharf, where there was a sign saying Port of Tauranga.
"Try that one" I said to him pointing up at the sign on the port gate.
"Port of Tower-wronger" he mumbled, hoping I wouldn't give him any curry for his wee-weak effort.
"Toe-Wrong-Are and it means safe anchorage just like all those ships tucked up safely against the wharf in front of you," I regimentally replied.
Back in the car and across the bridge we headed along Reconciliation Road formerly known as Cameron Road until we both saw the sign Takitimu Drive.
"Give that one a go Bro" I encouraged him.
"It's named after the founding waka that our ancestors arrived in from Rarotonga.
Right here to the safe anchorage of Tauranga.
"Tack-e-tea-mu" he bravely bellowed.
"Not bad mate, but it's Tar-Key-Tea-Mu."
Feeling a bit more confident we wheeled our way out to where he lived overlooking Matakana (the guardian sentry) and Mauao.
I asked him politely if he knew what Otumoetai meant and after drawing a blank stare I encouraged him to have a go at pronouncing it.
"Oh-Da-Mow-Tie" was his matter-of-fact reply.
When I told him that it was Or-two-moy-tye, the place of the long sleeping tide, it was as if where he had lived for the best part of his life had taken on a whole new meaning. And we both enjoyed the moment.
That was until we both caught a whiff of Tico Towers (sewerage treatment plant) as we headed back toward town, and my mate let out a cry of glee.
He had noticed a caution sign outside the treatment pond that he was sure he could pronounce in perfect Te Reo Maori.
"I got it Bro; let me have a crack at that caution sign in Maori over there outside crap castle."
Not to let a magic moment go unnoticed I encouraged him to give it his best shot.
"Pipi-Lini" he proudly shouted, slapping the steering wheel with the confidence of a Springbok supporter.
With the smirk of a smiling assassin I replied - "Sorry Bro that caution sign is in Te Reo English and it says Pipeline!"
But Te Reo week is all about having a go and if you're like me it's one word at a time. So given I have learned about 200 words in 10 years I should be bang on and ready for the paepae speakers bench when I hit 65 - in a dozen summers time.
And along the way, when we have a go at Te Reo Maori by learning the iconic place names of Tauranga Moana, we get to learn the stories behind them.
And for my two bobs worth of Te Reo Maori, it's another step forward along the road to reconciliation.