Getting a Maori Tattoo in Auckland: Day 365, Part 2

New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year is a trip we will always want to remember. 365 Days doing 365 Activities has been the most insane adventure of our lives. Since we are in New Zealand, it only seems fitting to make our last and final activity getting a tattoo. In Maori tradition, people get tattoos to tell stories of significant aspects or times in their lives. This past year has been pretty damn significant in our lives, so we are hitting one of New Zealand’s top name tattoo studios to get a New Zealand tattoo designed by an Maori artist.

Getting a tattoo on Auckalnd’s K road

Following this morning’s leap from the Sky Tower, we continue on foot to Karangahape Road, commonly known as “K Road”. We love how the atmosphere of the city suddenly changes as we hit the bohemian part of Auckland city, with the smells of all kinds of international flavours to the cool and quirky shopfront displays. K Road is a hub of creativity so of course Otautahi Tattoo is located down here!

Welcome to Otautahi Tattoos

Music booming, walls decorated in colourful artwork using paper and skateboards as a canvas, we sit down on the body-engulfing sofas to wait for our appointment. Getting a tattoo is something we planned about a month ago with Otautahi. It’s not exactly a quick process – and it shouldn’t be! This tattoo is for life! We had sent through our initial “designs” (more like a template), and today we are sitting down with a Maori tattoo artist to come up with a design together. What’s also convenient about our planning is that getting a tattoo at the end of our travels means avoiding awkward moments like realising we can’t swim with dolphins or wear any gear that will ruin the tattoo during the healing process.

The fun part is designing the tattoo The fun part is designing the tattoo
A Maori design packed with meaning A Maori design packed with meaning
Laura tries to keep her composure Laura tries to keep her composure
Loving life right here Loving life right here

A design from a talented Maori tattoo Artist

We meet Arapeta who is going to be our consultant and tattoo artist today. He has a background in traditional Maori carving which has now carried over into moko (Maori Tattooing), or in our case kirituhi, which is a tattoo for non-Maori. All in all, this guy is a bit of a creative genius because the tattoos he designs for us today are more epic than we ever imagined.

So our basic designs are for Laura to have the outline of the North Island with the numbers “365” in the outline, while Robin gets the corresponding South Island. That’s it. Not much of a design, so we really need some help!

Our maori tattoo design

The design process is a pretty fun one of expressing the highlights of our year-long adventure and what it has meant to us, while these beautiful designs form within the outline of New Zealand. Laura’s North Island incorporates a koru (a spiral) to represent being close to nature, a travel line symbol represents, well, did a sh*t load of travelling, and a bird feather represents Laura’s increased obsession for the birds of New Zealand. Robin also has koru and travel line in his South Island. In between these prominent elements, carefully chosen fine surface patterns fill up the spaces, which Arapeta explains are called unaunahi and pakati.

Arapeta comes up with some awesome designs, but after a lunch break, we have the not-so-awesome part of inking these tattoos into our skin…

Robin's tattoo starts to come together Robin's tattoo starts to come together
The end result! We love them! The end result! We love them!
Don't ask why... Don't ask why...

Getting inked

To show bravery to make up for this morning’s episode, Robin goes first. Arapeta transfers his design onto Robin’s calf for Robin to decide on a placement, then the buzzing of the tattoo gun begins.

We’re not going to lie: for both of us, it’s not an enjoyable experience. What can we say: it’s a needle being moved in, out and being dragged through your skin. We figure the best way to get through it is to eat chocolate, post on Facebook Live and Instagram, play games on our phones and play games with each other until it’s all over. When Arapeta cleans the tattoos up and we see the final thing, we know it was definitely worth it.

A souvenir that perfectly represents our time in New Zealand

We leave Otautahi Tattoo with a tattoo surpassing all expectations and more; just like this 365 Days: 365 Activities challenge surpassed all our expectations; just like New Zealand surpassed all expectations when we first arrived in the country and decided this is where we wanted to be.

Now it seems real. We did it! We did 365 days in New Zealand doing, well, to be honest, more than 365 activities! We arrive back at the Attic Backpackers and collapse on our bed.

Now what?

Well, you’ve read the adventure, seen the photos and been in the virtual world with our 360 visuals. How about living every moment with us in a web-series? It’s coming soon to BackpackerGuide.NZ! Thanks for being part of this epic year by reading our travels. You rock!

Laura and Robin

Not a bad-looking place to get a good-looking tattoo!
Not a bad-looking place to get a good-looking tattoo! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year is coming out as a web-series soon! Until then, check out these articles:

Until New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year gets exported, check out some of this year’s highlights on Facebook and Instagram!

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