This year I was presented with the opportunity to take part in Aoraki Bound and I grabbed the challenge with both hands, and tried really hard not to think about the reality of what I was about to do!

Aoraki Bound was everything and more than I expected it to be. Since I have been back everyone has been asking “What was it like?”, “What were your highlights?”. They have proven to be very hard questions to answer. For those who know me well, the best answer I have is – there wasn’t a single minute when I didn’t want to be there. I can honestly say this is the truth, every activity, every bit of pain, every laugh and conversation, every challenge, every person all contributed to an absolutely indescribable 20 days of adventure.

From Anakiwa our next stop was Arahura Marae. I was honoured to be able to support and be supported by two other wāhine toa from our combined whānau. What a marae to stand and karanga on! By now we were bonded as a whānau and this karanga meant so much more to be representing all of us as one rōpū. I increasingly found that I was able to draw strength from those standing with us and the presence of our taiao that surrounded us. To karanga with the mighty Arahura rushing beside us and the greatness of Tūhuru ahead of us was all we needed to guide us into one of the most incredible whare that I’ve ever seen. Ki a koutou ngā toka tū awa o Arahura e rere tāku kura ki mua o Tūhuru e,
tōia mai, tōia mai, tōia mai rā e.

Our next marae hop was to Arowhenua. This was a stop that I had been talking myself in and out of being kaikaranga for the whole trip. Arowhenua is home for me and with that I felt an increased sense of responsibility and pressure. However due to a couple of circumstances the choice of whether to karanga or not to karanga was no longer a choice. I felt no sense of calm this time, I was honoured to undertake the role but I was stressing out prior to it, fairly overcome with emotion during it and had to work really hard to hold it together afterwards. I am currently unable to come up with a term that encapsulates what it meant to me to stand and be māngai for a whānau that had come to mean everything to me while entering Arowhenua where my whānau had lived generations ago but had long been disconnected from. I believe that things happen for a reason. During our time at Arowhenua we got to sit down with Aunty Suzy and talk about things wāhine and have a good look at the role karanga plays. Amongst many things Aunty Suzy talked to us about making mistakes during karanga. Basically what I got from her kōrero was that whatever came from us at the time is what is meant to come from us regardless of what we had planned to do. Ki a koe e tōku mātanga, tēnei aku mihi whakawhetai ki a koe.

He oranga ngākau, he pikinga waiora – the feelings in your heart will enhance your sense of self-worth. I honestly thought that karanga would be one of those things that the more you did it the easier it would become, I was mistaken. With every step I took on this hīkoi of karanga they became more meaningful, more spiritual and more difficult to do justice to a role that has been one of the greatest challenges and honours of my life to date.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those involved in Aoraki Bound, those who have come before us and those that will come after us. Ngā mihi manahau ki ō mātou kaiako, Sampson, Tiaki, Rangimarie nō mātou te whiwhi i ako ki ō koutou taha, thank you for being alongside us, challenging us, listening to us and for the Anakiwa sets! To the kaiako from Outward Bound, Kate, Shelby, Meg, Dave and Tui – kei runga noa atu koutou! To learn from you all and with you all was such a privilege. I am in awe of your skills, patience and enthusiasm for the work that you do. A special mention must go to the whānau of Kupe 626 and Kuramarotini 626 without who this experience would’ve been nowhere near as amazing.

Hōpua mai ki te puna tapu o Pūkaki e rere i uta ki Waitaki e
Tōia mai e te waka o Aoraki i tōia mai ki te mauka whakahī te mauka whakahā
Hōpua mai, hōpua mai, hōpua mai ra ē.
Rarau mai, rarau mai rā e te tī e te tā ki ngā whakaeke haumi ē, hui ē
Ko Aoraki ko tātou, ko tātou ko Aoraki e
Piri mai, tata mai, tūhono mai e.
Nā Gemma Stewart.

Gemma Stewart.

Gemma Stewart.