Friday, January 22, 2010

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tira Hoe Waka 2010

Two weeks of paddling, learning, visiting and reconnecting with the spirit of the Whanganui River came to an end on Monday 18 January as the 22nd Tira Hoe Waka arrived at Te Ao Hou Marae.

The annual Tira Hoe Waka is an opportunity for descendants of AtiHaunui a paparangi to ‘reconnect with the river, the land and each other. Gerard Albert is quoted as having described the objective of the Tira:

"That's the point of the exercise, bringing descendants back to river so they have a sense of community and so they can link back to their hapu and marae. The hope is that they will make a contribution to marae activities in the future." He said, "We now have generations that have grown up observing the Tira Hoe Waka as a regular spiritual observation. It gives the iwi strength so we can face our challenges throughout the year. Our connection with the river has not been minimised even though we live in modern times."

The church at Upokongaro taken from the river.

More photo opportunities ...

Practising waka control before the journey.

If you are sure you won't drop your camera overboard there are numerous opportunities to photograph the awa.

Some of the most beautiful subjects on the awa are the ponga ferns.

If you want a dry ride all the way this is the man you want steering your waka - Piripi Haami. If he is already taken, the next best thing you can do is follow him through the rapids!

Photo opportunities

A visit to Lake Rotokura near Karioi

Waterfall on the Ohura River as it meets the Whanganui River.

Niu Poles at Maraekowhai

Waka preparing to leave Tawata.

Jet boat on the awa taken from Maraekowhai

Awa Essentials

There are some things you simply cannot do without while on the Awa:

You won't get far without supplies - this is the store room at Whitianga.

A sound waka will be your friend during the day.

Dry bags are essential for keeping dry items such as cameras, nibbles and anything else you don't want to get wet should you be unlucky enough to capsize!

For the Tawata to Pipiriki section water proof barrels are absolutely essential to keep the most important items dry e.g. food, tent, sleeping bag and tent.

Marae 2

Marae left to right and top to bottom
* Hiruharama - photo take from
* Pungarehu
* Maungarongo
* Puwaiwaha
* Kaiwhaiki
* Matahiwi
* Te Ao Hou (no photo yet)


The hospitality of the various hau kainga at each marae was superb:
• Maungarongo
• Ngapuwaiwaha
• Ohinepane
• Tawata
• Whitianga
• Mangapapapa
• Tieke


One could not help but be amazed at the meals we had – no instant noodles on this trip! Typical meals were:
Breakfast – porridge, other cereals, fruit, mince, bacon, sausages, left over fried meats, hash browns, spaghetti, baked beans, toast, jam, tea, coffee.
Lunch – Bread, wraps, rolls and a range of fillings and fruit
Tea – one or more meats (e.g. pig on a spit, chicken, steak, pork, fish) vegetables, potatoes, pumpkin, desert (e.g. sponge, fruit salad, ice-cream, cream, custard, steam pudding).

The thought that we might starve in the wilderness never occurred to any of us!

Photos show
Breakfast at Mangapapapa
Preparing for a hangi at Whitianga
Spit roast at Ohinepane

Ruapehu and Tongariro

Tongariro (above) and Ruapehu (below) - two significant maunga that feature in stories told by Iwi of Te Awa Whanganui. One version of the story can be found on the DOC website:


It was fantastic to see the korero associated with the Iwi’s origins and its links to the Kahui Maunga, Paerangi and Aotea Waka being given prominence. That will certainly ensure that the young people will know who they are, where they come from and where they belong. These are all essential elements in the establishment of an individual identity as well as an Iwi/hapu identity.

This photo was taken at National Park where Che Wilson explained the story behind Te Kahui Maunga and various physical features in the landscape.

Young Talent

I was most impressed with the young people on the Tira Hoe Waka. I am sure our tipuna would have been amazed at the skills they exhibited during the 15 days we had together: helping to ensure goods and equipment were in the right places at the right times; tautoko for the ‘nanas’; and their generally helpful and supportive attitudes. That was in addition to their skill in paddling, waiata, poi and haka!


Karakia was held in outside in front of the whare each evening after tea. It was led by the duty group and people from within he group led each phase of the evening including mihi, karakia, himene and korero. The first night in the awa karakia was held at Ohinepane where the slopping hill formed something of an amphitheatre and the singing had to be heard to be believed.

A similar experience was had a Whitianga where the ‘service’ took place in a wilderness around a huge bonfire.

Every karakia was different but each was special in some way whether that was made so by the singing, the korero, or something else.


This marae has for years, been the focus of struggle between Iwi and the Department of Conservation. At present it has a wharenui, bunk house, kitchen, shower block and and at least half a dozen very acceptable toilets. This is the last marae stop before Pipiriki; we spent two nights here, took part in a wananga for waiata and powhiri and had a thoroughly enjoyable stay.

One of the most moving events here was the return to the Tira Hoe Waka of the Williams family. They had left us at Tawata to attend their father in hospital. He subsequently died and they held his tangi at Putiki. The group had entered the water at Tawata and when they approached Tieke, their paddles beat out a signal to indicate they had arrived. A powhiri was held to welcome them back into the fold.

The inspiration for the first photo came from the wet night we had at Mangapapapa!

The second photo shows some of the tents; although there was space in the wharenui and bunk house many people preferred to sleep in their tents.

The third photo shows the approach to the marae with a huge and elaborately carved pou.

Whitianga 2

Three photos of Whitianga - the Whare, the kitchen and the gateway to the marae area.


This is where we saw teamwork at is best with a chain gang passing barrels, drybags, kitchenware, food and everything else we needed for two days, up the hill – probably about 300 feet above the river. Whitianga marae, hosted by Nicolai, was a great stop over. Who would have thought we could have had a hangi - with fresh pork - for over 100 people in this wilderness. The skills appreciated here were obviously those related to basic survival rather than politics, finance or whatever was making the rest of the world go round.

Rained Out At Mangapapapa

Another basic oversight – we didn’t ensure the fly was clear of the tent before the rain started. As a result we were flooded out at 2:20 am with no hope of drying the floor of the tent or the sleeping bag before daylight. I spend the rest of the night sitting in a chair on the lean to kitchen with my towel around myself!


In 239 km 2 capsizes is an acceptable record. The first should not have happened but since it was only day 2 and we didn’t have our teamwork sorted out at that stage I’m sure we could be forgiven. However, the second at Autapu shouldn’t have happened; over confidence took us too close to the centre to be able to stay right and we succumbed to the same fate that struck several other waka that day. The hardest part was breaking out of the whirlpool at the bottom of the rapid. We needed the help of the rescue craft for that!

A Typical Day

A typical day started powhiri duties when we arrived at a new marae. After that followed:
• Preparing tea
• Washing dishes
• Preparing packed lunches for everyone
• Organising karakia
• Setting out for supper and cleaning up afterwards
• Preparing breakfast next morning
• Clean up after breakfas
• Poroporoaki duties
None of this will be new to you – it’s the way most school and some family camps operate.


Roadies - a term used to describe a support team that carried by road items not need between marae or campsites – were a critical part of the organisation and helped to keep morale high. They were the people who ensured tents were erected and waiting for the paddlers at the end of the day; they made sure barrels, dry bags etc were ready and waiting for people when they arrived at the new campsite. Some wharenui accommodation was available at each marae but some paddlers simply used their modern tents.


While the Tira Hoe Waka experience was relaxing, enjoyable and a valuable learning experience that didn’t happen by accident. Gerard Albert and his team had certainly done their homework in terms of:
• Programme preparation
• Establishing waka groupings
• Describing daily routines
• Organising jet boat support and daily supplies
• Wananga content
Individuals had personal responsibilities for:
• Bringing and looking after personal equipment
• Ensuring team responsibilities were carried out