Pio's paradise: From Cape Reinga to Bluff

Pio Terei took a long walk, and gave his highlights from the trail to Elisabeth Easther.

Te Araroa: New Zealand's Trail is 3000km of continuous walking from one end of Aotearoa to the other, connecting Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff in the south. Maori for "the Long Trail", this challenging, delightful and scenic walk could well become the 8th Wonder of the World. To highlight some of the trail's charms, national treasure Pio Terei leads a second series of Te Araroa: Tales From The Trails, exploring sections of this great walk while demonstrating his delightful knack for finding characters and drawing out their stories. Sure to inspire the nation to pull on their boots, you can either tackle the entire walk in five months, or nibble away at little portions, a day or a week at a time. Or you could just make yourself comfortable and let Pio do the walking for you.

Ratana Pa, Whanganui
Because I'm not of that religion, Ratana, I'd never been to Ratana Pa, and boy, we felt so welcomed. But at the Ratana Pa there were all these people playing brass instruments, trombones and trumpets. I'm a muso, and I know good playing, and they were tight.

It reminded me how warm our culture is and how inviting. This whole village of people is alcohol-free, and there are all these kids running round eating apples - that was another good feed, there were quite a few of those.

Pio in Queen Charlotte Sound.
Pio in Queen Charlotte Sound.

Memorable kai
We were in a place called Turakina, down near Whanganui, and I dressed in the Cameron clan tartan for a haggis ceremony. You see the thing is, Maori and Scots get on really well because we're both clanspeople. My adopted brother'ss whakapapa goes back to the Camerons, and when these people realised my brother was a Cameron, they said "get in here" and they gave me a whiskey and I was in the actual haggis ceremony. It was so beautiful, all that tradition. They reminded me of white Maori and they just made me laugh. They were totally proud to be Kiwi but also so connected to where they'd come from. All these different clans came together and they were dancing, and the young people were all getting into it, just like our kapa haka events.

Meet the whanau
We visited this marae up north, in the Russell area, where we met the George whanau - Murray George and his family. I loved seeing their calmness, the way they spoke to their kids and honoured us as guests. Every kid is riding a horse. They were living a life that reminded me of when I was young, going to the marae 40 years ago; they were living like that today. Although one thing I regret on that section, we caught an eel, but this eel was so huge, I reckon it would've been 60-70 years old, a kaumatua, a rangatira of the waters, but he made a really good feed.

Pio with Todd Hamilton.
Pio with Todd Hamilton.

Kiwis caring for kiwis
I met these awesome, crazy people up Whangarei Heads way, Urquhart's Bay it was, and we came across a fella called Todd Hamilton who runs a thing called Backyard Kiwi. He's an ex-science teacher, a rugby coaching, hard-case Pakeha fella and he's absolutely mad about kiwi. Since they started tagging and monitoring them in 2010 they've gone from 80 kiwi in their area to about 500 and it's got to the point where you see the birds walking along the footpath. And Todd gave me his whole spiel and I reckon I could do a one-hour after-dinner speech on them, I know so much about them now. I held a kiwi for the first time, and that was truly amazing.

Shear the love
I have new respect for shearers in this country. I met a guy called Dean Bull. He runs a gang down Taumarunui way and those people are like bloody athletes, they work these huge days, drinking so much water and fizzy drinks. And they sit there and wait for this bell to go, and then it's like sprinters at the starting blocks. They work and work and work, and the sweat is pouring off them. At lunchtime, there's this huge cake with icing on it, white bread sandwiches - they could eat what they want because they're doing three or four gym workouts a day. Shearing is a big part of this country but I didn't know it was so down and dirty, and there are so many legends. Whenever we left a place I'd usually get up and thank the people for their stories and time, but I didn't have anything to say there, so instead we shot down the road and got two boxes of cold, cold beer, and I just said, "You were awesome," and they were stoked.

Pio with Dean Bull in Taumaranui.
Pio with Dean Bull in Taumaranui.

The walk I'd do every day
I covered a fair bit of ground in series two but I'd have to say it would be nice if I could do the Queen Charlotte Track every day. Even when the weather was grey, and we had a bit of rain on that section, it was still so beautiful. We had to dig deep to get up and around, but everywhere the bush looked so good. You never get sick of that part of New Zealand, and while I'm from up north and I love the 90 Mile Beach portion, Queen Charlotte stands out. Actually I love it all. Some people say you can't say you love it all and I say "yes I can, I just did".

Handy tips
I can't recommend thermals highly enough, good shoes and socks, and those fork-spoon things, I think they're called sporks. And because we were travelling in summer, we got plenty of tucker along the way - oysters and mussels and I had a little hand-line. I'm a man of the sea. Although it wasn't all walking in the wop-wops. If I walked past a cafe I'd have a double shot and the bushman's breakfast. But it's a really addictive journey and there's a really good spirit on the trail. It was hard work, but I'd just take my time - it's all about the journey, not the destination. And this is the thing, when you travel at that pace, you absorb so much more than when you're travelling at 100km along the motorway. I love this country. I really do. I've been in comedy a long time, and people bag Palmerston North and Hamilton, or Invercargill, but people live in those places and they love them. If you can't find something positive everywhere you go, you've got something wrong with your eyes.

Pio in Russell.
Pio in Russell.

• Watch Te Araroa: Tales From The Trails Wednesdays at 8.30pm on Maori Television.

- Weekend magazine

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