New Zealand Walk: Maori cul­tural guided tour through an amaz­ing kauri for­est

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - Story by Brita Marti Pho­tos by Dar­ren Markin

The Bay of Islands Walk­ing Week­end Pa­p­atūānuku Earth Mother Tours in the Opua For­est, are new to the Bay of Islands Walk­ing Week­end and is in­cred­i­bly spe­cial and re­ally brings home where we come from and what is im­por­tant in life.

Manaki­tanga, Kaiti­ak­i­tanga, whanaun­gatanga may be mouth­fuls of Maori words for some but by the end of the tour Stella will have not only ex­plained th­ese con­cepts but even bet­ter - you will have felt them.

Many bush walks in New Zealand have the dis­ad­van­tage of be­ing a long away from any­where and long gravel road ac­cess.

With this walk you won’t even no­tice this as the travel time is used for you to be­come a group of friends and also join the NZ bird fam­ily – whanaun­gatanga is this won­der­ful con­cept of gain­ing a fam­ily style con­nec­tion through shared ex­pe­ri­ences.

This isn’t the usual – ‘tell us your name’ in­tro­duc­tion - Stella chooses a card in­tro­duc­ing your bird for the day and I was very happy to be the kereru – NZ pi­geon and I en­joyed shar­ing its North­land name of kukupo my new fam­ily mem­bers.

Then there is even more as, on ar­rival at the start of the walk we were given walk­ing sticks - ta­iaha to use for the day, with our own bird carved on it. The ta­iaha be­long to Nga­here Toa, a group of young peo­ple that Stella and friends have taken un­der their wing and are teach­ing about the for­est. They come on each tour with Stella as we carry their ta­iaha – more very spe­cial whanau­gatanga!! – and manaki­tanga – the con­cept of wel­com­ing and shar­ing / hos­pi­tal­ity.

Be­fore the start of the walk ev­ery­one cleaned their boots by walk­ing on a spe­cial pad with dis­in­fec­tant to help re­duce the risk of spread­ing kauri die back, the nasty dis­ease af­fect­ing th­ese gi­ants of the forests. This is a small way to un­der­stand kaiti­ak­i­tanga – guardian-

ship of our en­vi­ron­ment.

And then we were off to spend some time in Opua For­est on a track off Orom­a­hoe Road start­ing about 6 kms from the Opua turn off.

After a karakia to show our re­spects to the for­est we felt very much wel­comed into the sur­round­ing of bush and as we walked along all of us were notic­ing the larger trees and also all the smaller plants along the path.

Every few min­utes we stopped and Stella in­tro­duced us to a for­est taonga (trea­sure) with a story – eg; the tall tanekaha trees whose bark was used as a red dye, nae nae leaves for wa­ter­proof cloaks (korowai) long be­fore feath­ers were used, to­tara for waka which were usu­ally built in smaller sec­tions so that they could be taken apart for over­land travel, the very hard puriri trees which are of­ten hol­low inside and used as burial place for hu­man bones in early days, plants used for heal­ing teas and poul­tices.

All th­ese sto­ries en­cour­aged us all to look all around us as we walked and dis­cover our own trea­sures to share with each other.

As we walked we saw many kauri trees and mar­velled at the amaz­ing bark pat­terns but re­alised th­ese were just babies when we came to see the large kauri at the end of the track – all alone – which is why Stella has named it .....

We were in awe and all stood for a while in si­lence which was peace­ful un­til we re­alised there was very little bird­song and ac­tu­ally none of our fam­ily of birds were close by.

We had a good dis­cus­sion about why this is – sadly too many preda­tors – stoat, rats, pos­sum, feral cats, but Stella played some magic tunes with her Pūtōrino (Maori flute)– stun­ningly beau­ti­ful – and amaz­ingly, a few birds re­sponded with their own songs.

A few steps away from our for­est gi­ant we had a more sad ex­pe­ri­ence as we learnt about the great work of Bay Bush Ac­tion and the Ju­nior Team Nga­here Toa in their ef­forts to rid the for­est of th­ese in­tro­duced preda­tors.

We were shown the dif­fer­ent types of trap and bait for each and the rea­sons for the choices. The traps used all give the least suf­fer­ing pos­si­ble for the vic­tims but they have to be elim­i­nated for the na­tive birdlife and plants to sur­vive.

It was a qui­eter re­turn walk as we all re­flected on what we had ex­pe­ri­enced. It was an hon­our to have car­ried our ta­iaha and brought our spe­cial manu (bird) with us but hope next time it will be a real bird rather than a carved one.

We were then all ready to en­joy more manaki­tanga as Stella pro­duced home made Maori fry bread with but­ter and Manuka / bush honey from hives within the for­est (for sale too) and herbal / fruit tea.

After this walk­ing ex­pe­ri­ence a great op­tion is to walk from the road back to Pai­hia through more of the Opua for­est – about 1.5 hours and re­ally en­joy the bush with fresh eyes.

There are over 18 walks to choose from on the Bay of Islands Walk­ing Week­end, all dif­fer­ent price ranges and ex­pe­ri­ences. An hour to all day and over night trips. Trips over pri­vate land only ac­ces­si­ble in the week­end. Boat trips to beau­ti­ful un­touched walk­ing spots.

You can visit vine­yards for the ul­ti­mate walk and wine ex­pe­ri­ence, sit on

the end of the wharf at one of the best eater­ies in the Bay en­joy­ing lunch after walk­ing to a stun­ning view point, have a sun­rise break­fast with the lo­cals or sim­ply kick back over some home­made white­bait frit­ters at the week­end Head­quar­ters.

The one thing we can say – is that peo­ple re­turn year after year – that must be telling you some­thing! The week­end is on the 12, 13, 14th Oc­to­ber. Visit the web­site www.boi­walk­ing­week­end.co.nz or call Steph 021 122 9307 for more in­for­ma­tion. Above right: Daniell fam­ily and Stella. Above mid­dle right: A sad­dle­back. Be­low left: A view on the Opua For­est Walk. Be­low mid­dle: North­ern Green Gecko, some­times seen on the Opua For­est walk and other walks.

Above: A view of the Urupuka­puka

islands. Be­low left: Sarah Daniell and her walk­ing stick – ta­iaha. Above right: A North Is­land robin.

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