On 29 September, my sister Mary and I travelled to Te Anau for a briefing on our hīkoi into the Hollyford Valley and it was there that we met a bunch of Ngāi Tahu rangatahi who were around the same age as us. 

On the second day, we travelled to the start of the Hollyford Track, which is 15 kilometres long. During our hīkoi, our awesome guides Mark and Kahu taught us about the ngahere. We learnt about broadleaves, podocarps and how the animals in the ngahere are destroying our native trees, like the rimu tree. An interesting and scary fact we learnt was that you used to be able to only see only five metres into the bush but nowadays you can see 50 metres.

After seven and a half hours of walking, we finally reached Travis at his jet boat. We travelled seven kilometres on the Hollyford River and 14 kilometres on the lake. We then landed at the beautiful Martins Bay Lodge where we were met by our lovely kaumātua.

We unpacked, had showers and sat down for a well-deserved and enjoyable meal. During the following few days, we went on several walks and we were fortunate to learn about our tīpuna. We also walked in the same footsteps that Tūtoko and his wife and children had walked in.

The wairua was very intense and special. We also got to meet Tā Tipene and deputy kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai. It was very cool to have them there and we felt very privileged to be in their company and to hear their stories.

Over the last couple of days, we drew on our trip experience and created skits and had our graduation. We walked back out of the Hollyford Valley in around six and a half hours. We then went back to the whare in Te Anau to say our final goodbyes. This whole experience has made us look at our Māori side of life differently. Nā Ruby Thomson.