Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Coin Divers

Whakarewarewa. May 2009. Ajr
It was late afternoon on a winter May day when I leaned over the memorial bridge at the entrance to Whakarewarewa village and saw this little guy soaking in one of the natural hot pools on the side of the river. He called out and asked if I had any coins I could throw down into the river for him to dive for. Unfortunately I didn’t. I would have loved to have gotten a shot of him in action. But we had a chat anyway – he busily counting the coins as he soaked in warm water. And when he felt he had the measure of his gains, he crammed the coins into his mouth and went about splashing himself. The Whakarewarewa coin divers are famous around the world. It’s a tradition that’s been in place for generations and in summer during the height of the tourist season, they can make $70 or $80 each. They no longer for pennies of course – these days it’s one and two dollar coins, so their tally mounts up much more rapidly. And there’s an age limit on diving. These days they have to stop at fourteen and go and find themselves other jobs, leaving the next round of younger kids to take their place.

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