Last month a rōpū Māhaki participated in our annual hīkoi to the southernmost part of our rohe, Whakatipu Waitai, Martins Bay. Whānau who were fortunate enough to participate in the hīkoi, agreed that it was an experience of a lifetime and many were moved by the connection they felt to the whenua.

Tāua Mata Holliday shares her experience of the most recent hīkoi.

Ko Tutoko te maunga tipuna
Ko Makaawhio te awa
Ko Te Tauraka Waka a Māui te marae
Ko Kāti Māhaki te hapū
Ko Ngāi Tahu te Iwi.

There was great excitement and a little trepidation as I waited for the rūnanga bus to pick me up at Lake Paringa. We were on our way to the home of our tipuna Rakatira Tutoko and his whānau at Whakatipu Kotuku (Martins Bay). With my fellow travellers Wai, Will and Mere, we made our first stop at the landslide at Diana Falls in the Haast Pass. The traffic controller gave Wai (our driver) instructions – “when I say ‘go’ you go fast, don’t stop to take photos. If that bloke up there says ‘stop,’ you stop and reverse, as rocks may be falling. When he waves you through – go fast”.

I quietly cursed Paul Madgwick for sending the video of the landslide we were about to negotiate. It was terrifying. We each said a quiet prayer for ourselves and for the unfortunate young Canadian couple who had lost their lives a couple of weeks earlier on this stretch of road.

The weather cleared and we had a lovely trip to Te Anau to our accommodation and meeting with our fellow travelers and guides. Next morning we met for ‘briefing’ and karakia. The trampers and guides made their way to the Hollyford Valley where they began their tramp down the Hollyford Track.

A wonderful scenic drive from Te Anau to Piopiotahi followed, with stops to take photos at beautiful places like Tutoko River. The kaumātua – myself and Mere and the ‘injured’ Kara and our guide – left Piopiotahi on a small ‘fixed wing’ aircraft. We flew down the sound past Mitre Peak to the sea, then ‘swung’ a right and headed north to Whakatipu Kōtuku. We are so fortunate to live in such a beautiful country. We landed and taxied right up to the lodge.

After settling in, we donned our life jackets and boarded the jet boat to go up Lake McKerrow (Whakatipu Waitai), then up the Hollyford River (Whakatipu Kā Tuka) to the confluence with the Pyke River, where we would meet our weary trampers. ‘Ka pai e hoa mā’.

On the second day, we trekked along sand dunes to where our Rakatira Tutoko had lived with his whānau before coming up to Mahitahi. A karanga went up, calling for the spirits of our ancestors to be with us, their mokopuna, who have travelled to their home. Under the beautiful forest trees and noting the signs of occupation of our ancestors, we made a circle and stood silently absorbing the wairua of this place. A large kukupa alighted in a kowhai tree above us. He tohu pea. It was here that we gave our pepeha, our guides also gave their pepeha and this seemed to cement our friendship. To me this is whakawhanaukataka. Words can’t really express the wairua that we felt, being in that special place.

The next day we walked in the magnificent rainforest. Our guides showed us ferns, trees and flowers that we wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Tāne Mahuta was surely here. There are so many people to thank for this experience. Firstly, our executive of Te Rūnanga o Makaawhio for giving us this wonderful experience, especially Kara, who coordinated this hīkoi. Then to Ngāi Tahu and especially our guides, who really made this trip special. Let us continue to celebrate our past, bound together in the legacies of our tīpuna.

E kore au e ngaro, he tā moko nō ōku tīpuna.
I will never be lost, for I am an image of my ancestors.
Nā Mata.

Whānau exploring on hīkoi.

Whānau exploring on hīkoi.

Whānau and staff gather outside Hollyford Lodge on their final day.

Whānau and staff gather outside Hollyford Lodge on their final day.