How do you know when you're in Te Urewera? As I drive from Whakatāne to Ruatāhuna, I keep asking myself that question.
There's bush on both sides of the road for a lot of the drive. When will I know this forest is Urewera?
All of sudden, it goes dark and I am engulfed by mountains covered in forest, the type of forest where everything grows on top of everything else. I can't see the sky.
Ancient kahikatea tower 40 or 50 metres high, with moss and vegetation growing from their branches.
I pass marae and settlements, roaming horses and a white church as I weave deeper into the valley towards Ruatāhuna.
After an hour of driving, the sun has set but the sky was still bright blue. But by the time I reach Te Tii Chalets in Ruatāhuna, it is pitch black. The town is quiet and still, except for one man standing on the deck of his chalet with a big grin. I'm unsure how to get into my chalet, and he says I could wait in his.
Inside, two other men are sitting at the table with cups of tea. They pull up a chair for me and make me a cuppa, cracking jokes at each other, and asking me where I am from.
The chalets are calming, isolated bungalows, cosy with lots of exposed wood - as though they are an extension of the forest; they are owned and run by Ngai Tūhoe and next door to the iwi's tribal office.
The next morning, I awake early and sit with my coffee watching the mist shapeshift on the hills behind Ruatāhuna, revealing and concealing different parts of the ranges.
Up the hill at Manawa Honey, chief executive Brenda Tahi wraps her arms around me as I walk in the door of her office. We talk and talk, with hot water and honey clasped in our hands.
Manawa is an enterprise founded by the Tuhoe Tuawhenua Trust in 2013. It produces award-winning honey from Te Urewera – but as I find out, it exists for reasons far beyond the final product.
Honey harvesting was a Urewera tradition, and those who knew the practice gathered honey from wild hives, using rope systems to climb up trees.
"The old people used to just go and get the honey. Probably, the last person to do it was at the end of the 90s. Each whanāu would have a place where they would go because the bees would always be there."
Brenda learned beekeeping many years ago, when her whānau kept a small number of hives.
She remembers the day they pulled whole frames of honey out of the hives – comb and all - to gift to two koroua (elders) who came to visit.
"You could not have given a more wonderful gift for these koroua. Their eyes lit up to see comb honey straight from the hive. It's quite special food."
In 2002, varroa mites infiltrated the wild hives, ending the special practices almost instantly.
"All of that was gone when varroa mites came. Just bang, all gone," Brenda says.
Today Manawa Honey is reviving the power of honey for the people and the forest by turning to commercial practices.
The range includes Pua-ā-Tāne, a varying combination of forest nectars like rewarewa, tāwari, tawhero, hinau, kānuka and mānuka.
They also offer group experiences, based on what visitors seek, such as tastings, visiting the next-door marae, and horse treks into the forest surrounding the Manawa office.
Today, I'm seeing this corner of Te Urewera with Manawa Honey employee Karioi and a horse named BJ, a solid, placid boy I'm told needs a bit of encouragement to get moving.
As we ride down the back of the farm towards the river, past other roaming horses, encircled by mountains, Karioi, who has an infectious passion for her mahi, tells me more about the company.
When we get on to the subject of her childhood in Ruatāhuna, she lights up, saying how honoured she is to have grown up on this whenua, surrounded by cousins.
Meanwhile, I get nervous as we reach a muddy slope with a big puddle at the bottom. I try to pick the route I think BJ should take, but he ignores me, pulls the reins loose and finds his own way through. I need to relax.
The horses plod through a deep river, water touching my boots, and scramble up rocks on the other side.
By the time we are on our way home, the rain has set in and the mist is sitting heavy on the mountains. It's warm and I feel a way I haven't felt since I was a kid. I don't want to go home.
Back at the house, Brenda warms me up with another cup of hot honey and water.
She says the future of Manawa Honey is kua tau te iwi me te whenua - about the people and the land thriving, in harmony.
It's about integrating their people with the land in a way that sustains and utilises the forest to create opportunities without destroying it, the same relationship their ancestors had with the land.
"If you don't inter-relate with the forest, then it becomes a thing to look at, which isn't the relationship our ancestors had. We think it's really important to have a living relationship with the forest."
The limited number of employment options in Ruatāhuna means some people leave the area to find jobs elsewhere, she says.
"That's the classic way in which a culture is broken, through dislocation. That is something that has really undermined the reo, the language and the culture here.
"We're about creating opportunities here so people don't have to go out. We're talking about the sustainability of culture so people are here to be at their maraes, to look after their maraes. When we have a tangi, to look after the visitors.
"People go out there to work all the time and then just come back and visit. That's not what we see in future for Ruatāhuna, we see people here."
Those involved in Manawa Honey today aren't just doing it for their lifetimes, or thinking about selling up and getting out, she says.
"We're doing something for the future. We intend that our grandchildren will still be doing something; it may not be honey. They may come into honey and make decisions about perhaps other businesses that they'd go into for the land and the people."
It's time for me to go. I really don't want to.
I'm a little damp, but Brenda still hugs me; not one of those quick hugs, but the type where neither feels the urge to let go.
Manawa Honey's products can be found at most Countdown supermarkets or online.