On 2 February, the first Aoraki Bound course kicked off for the year. Here are three accounts from three Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu kaimahi who were fortunate enough to have been on the journey.

Morgan Lee

I arrived at Anakiwa not really knowing what to expect. Past alumni of Aoraki Bound had told me the course would be life-changing but I felt a little sceptical. Now, after experiencing the course, I can certainly say that, Aoraki Bound has changed the way I see the world.

From the beginning we were expected to challenge ourselves and to step out of our comfort zones. This involved swimming in unfamiliar waters daily and experiencing the unknown – mā te wā.

Kupe 602 was the name of our special rōpū, which consisted of 13 students and 4 dedicated staff members. We each had our own strengths and weaknesses and in the end they helped to form the group. As time progressed we grew closer as a rōpū and we were all able to let go of our insecurities and fears, and during that time we existed in our own bubble, a space that was safe.

We laughed together, sang together, we even cried together. We sailed parts of the Marlborough Sounds alone (the first Aoraki Bound rōpū to do so), we swam with jellyfish and luminescence, hit the high ropes, climbed close to 1300m above sea level, tramped for four-days around Te Tai Poutini, practiced a pōwhiri at Kuratawhiti, and paddled across Lake Pūkaki in a waka ama. Individually and as a group, we achieved so much in the precious time that we had.

Aoraki Bound challenged us all physically and mentally but each day we consistently rose to whatever the challenge was.

It was a privilege to be have been given the opportunity to attend Aoraki Bound as I’m not Ngāi Tahu. Learning stories of the tribe’s history and walking in the footsteps of other rōpū members’ ancestors was a humbling experience. My knowledge and understanding of Ngāi Tahutanga has grown and I feel a great sense of connection to the people I work for at Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

On a personal level, Aoraki Bound was a time for self-discovery. I feel empowered and I have recognised that I am a strong, able and independent woman, and as a result I have made commitments to myself, my whānau, my community and to the whenua.

Kei te mihi aroha ki a koutou – I would like to send a heartfelt acknowledgement to our instructors, Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Outward Bound and the manawhenua who we met along the way.

Kiana Gilchrist

The values, memories and friends I have gained from Aoraki Bound are irreplaceable and so much of what I have gained will be transferred to my home, community and workplace.

I have found a new appreciation for life, a better sense of identity, and increased confidence. I have found the true values of my life and I have a new love of sunsets, sunrises and stargazing.

Aoraki Bound has instilled more awareness and reaffirmed my appreciation for tō tātou taiao. Our beautiful land has so much to offer but at the same time our environment should be cherished, protected and maintained for future generations to enjoy.

Aoraki Bound was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and has given me so many benefits that will impact on my quality of life and those I share my life with. My self-doubt has vanished, my comfort zone has tripled and the quote from one of my instructors that got me through the course will always be in the back of my mind, “how do you want to live your life?”

Hemi Tam

Working and studying, trying to be a good brother, son and moko, and figuring out a place for yourself in this world leads to a very busy life.

Aoraki Bound was a great opportunity to take some ‘time-out’ from the external pressures of work and study, to concentrate on the things that really matter to me. Although I was away from my whānau, whakawhanaukataka was practiced daily with my Aoraki Bound rōpū.

Over three weeks, our relationships developed from the point of being strangers to intimately disclosing some of the most personal details of each others’ lives. As within a whānau context, this development was only possible because each person in the rōpū brought sincerity and aroha to the table. It’s a pretty rare thing in life that a group of disparate individuals can form a strong collective in such a short time, and I think that was testament to the amazing qualities that everyone in our rōpū held.

Underpinning this wonderful group, were the efforts of three talented and committed instructors, an amazing group manager and nine years of amazing work by Ngāi Tahu and Outward Bound. All this combined to deliver a very polished, safe and inspiring learning environment.

A big thanks also to Kāti Waewae, the Mawhera Incorporation and Kāti Huirapa for their humbling display of manaaki when hosting our group.

Because of the committed efforts of everyone in the Kupe 602 group, the course co-ordinators, the mana whenua and all those who have supported the Aoraki Bound kaupapa, I really felt empowered to push beyond the mental and physical boundaries that I often set for myself.

Overcoming self-doubt and exploring the best you can be are key themes throughout any Outward Bound course and Aoraki Bound was no different. However, in following the paths of our tīpuna and imagining the sheer strength of mind and body they would have had, was deeply humbling and inspiring. This unique element makes Aoraki Bound a very special experience for all involved.

I feel more confident about who I am, what I’m capable of achieving and what matters most to me. Three weeks away has given me the clarity to discern the important from the unimportant and it has given me a sense that I have much more time in my busy life.

00 Angus Hawke and Jared Hiakita.

00 Angus Hawke and Rangimarie Mules strike a pose.

00 From left, Morgan Lee, Hemi Tam, Angus Hawke and Kiana Gilchrist.

00 From left, Sophie Yana Wilson, Morgan Lee and Kiana Gilchrist.

00 Kupe 602 after their korero with Tā Tipene O'Regan and Arihia Bennett.

00 Kupe 602 after they conquered a four-day tramp around the Arahura Valley.

00 Kupe 602 members watch a sunset during their stay at Tūhuru Marae, Arahura.

00 Kupe 602 with a handful of Kāti Waewae mana wāhine.

00 Myles Manihera.

00 River-crossing during the tramp to Grassy Flats Hut.

00 Sleeping buddies.

00 The group after the hākari.