Not long ago just the thought of long distance running would be enough to make me cry. Not really that surprising considering I’ve actively hated running since primary school and haven’t ran more than 1km since cross country (some time ago I can assure you!). One year later I was overcome by an incredible feeling of achievement to be running towards Aoraki, crossing the finish line after our final challenge with my friend Marianne. Tears of joy ran down my face as we watched our team mates perform a celebratory haka in our final steps. We had survived another amazing Aoraki Bound wero.


Aoraki Bound is a 20-day experience of a lifetime. As a Māori living in Melbourne, I’d often seen the call for applicants applications in Te Pānui Rūnaka, but was hesitant to give it a go. A few excuses replayed in my mind. Don’t book because it’s too expensive. Don’t book because you’re too old. Don’t book because you don’t know enough Māori. Don’t book because not drinking or having technology for three weeks is a cruel form of self-torture. Don’t book because the fitness training might kill you!

Now, I can’t recommend Aoraki Bound enough.

Enrolling will be the greatest gift you’ll give yourself. It’s an experience of a lifetime. Thank you to my rōpū and the many others on my support crew and whānau who made it possible.

When a member of our whānau suddenly passed away, it was a timely reminder that life is short. I took the plunge. The support I received from the rūnanga, Ngāi Tahu, whānau and friends, removed my hesitation.

Aoraki Bound teaches you to go to new levels physically, which you may never have felt were possible. Even though your challenge is personal, you complete it together with the 13 others in your rōpū (Aoraki Bound 13, Kupe 566). It doesn’t take long to adopt 13 new friends for life as whānau. The new whānau were also quick to adopt my Mum and Dad as the daily mail from Christchurch bought chocolate treats for all.

The course is an incredible way to immerse yourself in New Zealand’s great outdoors and the views along the way are second to none. I loved being able to try out new activities like rock climbing amongst a high ropes course, sailing a cutter, sea kayaking, tramping and waka ama.

What makes this experience unique is the opportunity to learn more about yourself through your culture. It’s a rare and special thing to follow in the footsteps of your ancestors. To hear stories and shared knowledge from kaumātua, Tā Tipene, and your cultural leaders is a real privilege that gives the physical pursuits a much greater meaning. The things we learnt while at the mercy of heavy fog at Noti Raureka have ensured that I’ll continue to practise using karakia in everyday life.

Learning about marae protocol, te reo and being able to take part in a safe environment really helped our rōpū retain many important learnings and made the marae feel like home. Thank you to Iaean whose exceptional role modelling of Kāi Tahu values and leadership made our experience so much richer. You leave an outstanding legacy as the vision that you set with Craig continues into the next generation of cultural leaders.
Nā Merryn Skipper

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Adventure, culture, Aoraki. Register your interest for the next courses or recommend someone you know who would love to face the challenge. Hurry as there are only 28 spaces available.

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