Paddler stoked at epic journey
A 250km Canadian canoe odyssey was an amazing experience, and one Noel Woods will never forget.
Woods returned home to Lower Hutt on August 12 after spending two weeks in North America on a cultural exchange.
He was one of two men from the Wellington region selected to be part of an exchange with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, in Oregon.
Part of that included being involved with the annual Tribal Canoe Journeys event in which indigenous peoples from the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America gather in ocean-going canoes.
Tribes from Alaska, British Columbia and Washington state all took part, visiting other indigenous nations en route to this year’s host site of Campbell River, British Columbia.
Toi Maori, an organisation that promotes Maori art and artists, has a longstanding relationship with the tribes of Grand Ronde and participants have been sent to the event for the last nine years.
Woods, a radio host with Atiawa Toa FM, is captain of the Hutt Valley waka Te Raukura and Te Aniwaniwa, based in Waiwhetu.
He was ‘‘stoked’’ to be on this year’s trip, having missed out due to work commitments two years ago, and proud to represent his iwi, Te Atiawa, Taranaki Whanui and Ngati Porou, and Toi Maori.
His group struck out from Vancouver and spent about six days on the water, covering 250km – including a tiring 12-hour day – with a couple of rest days in between.
Although the paddling style was similar, the canoes were different to the waka he was used to – broader, with a flat bottom and sparse in decoration.
Woods’ group were treated to ‘‘luxury camping’’ at night with ‘‘generators, showers and flash tents’’.
They spent time sharing cultural traditions and practices with their hosts, learning how to sing, dance and drum. In return, they taught their hosts a haka.
‘‘It was the full red carpet treatment. We [felt like] like superstars over there. They were so curious about [Maori] culture.’’