This Herald Travel series focuses on Māori-owned and operated tourism businesses around the country, showcasing who they are, what they do, and what they have to offer Kiwi travellers.
Keelan Poi:Maunga to Moana adventure race; Kaupoi Adventures Ruatōria, East Coast
Why should Kiwis choose to take part or come along to support the Maunga to Moana adventure race?
It has elements unlike any other event seen in New Zealand: whanaungatanga [kinship] and manaakitanga [hospitality]. When you arrive at our event, you are there to participate as strangers. However, when you leave, you feel like a part of the community or whānau.
You need to come and do this event because it allows you to reconnect with the whenua, people, community and the basics in life. Even if you don't come from the place, you somehow get a sense of belonging to this special area on the East Coast.
What can they expect?
Guests will be fully immersed in Māori culture from the get-go. We have powhiri and traditional protocols in place as a part of our event.
We have the Nāti Fest (Community festival) the day before which celebrates Ngāti Porou and healthy lifestyles. Manuhiri [visitors] can enjoy food and entertainment prior to the race. We also have accommodation available in the form of a marae stay or campsite at several locations.
On race day our manuhiri can expect breathtaking scenery up Maunga Hikurangi, sacred and significant stories of the area from local guides. It's one of the world's most scenic backdrops for a multisport/adventure race and unreal community spirit throughout the entire race.
At the end of the day, we encourage all competitors to stay and enjoy a huge kai (hakari) that our whānau put on for competitors, supporters and staff. We conclude the event with a prize-giving and karakia to ensure safe passage for all our guests.
How does the event celebrate te ao Māori?
Because of the way we work with our people to welcome manuhiri and guests into the area. The event is designed to bring whānau home to reconnect with their maunga, awa, marae and iwi.
Its second purpose is to provide an achievable goal for whānau on a hauora [health] journey - overall wellbeing.
Lastly, we have created an event that provides an opportunity for manuhiri to experience Ngāti Porou manaakitanga at the grassroots level.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the fact that the mahi I do throughout the year can have such a huge direct impact on our small community. I also love the wairua [soul] of our small town of Ruatōria and the surrounding communities of the East Coast over this period. It's alive and vibrant for that one weekend which really fills my heart because I know I helped create this buzz and atmosphere.
What are some of your other favourite things to see and do within your local region?
Soaking in the natural outdoor activities here on the Coast. Fishing, diving and hunting are huge for Kiwis and to be able to do all of these things in one location is pretty rare. Heading around to different areas to gather kai is amazing. I'm a keen horse rider and when I get the opportunity I love heading around the top to East Coast horse treks and just chilling there too.
Otherwise, just eating kai around the coast is my other favourite activity at spots like Hāti Nāti cafe (Ruatōria), Cafe 35, home of the paua pie (Tokomaru Bay), Te Puka Tavern (Tokomaru Bay) and Off the Grid Cafe (Tolaga Bay).
The Maunga to Moana Adventure Race takes place in May each year, consisting of a 22km hike up Mt Hikurangi, a 25km cycle through Tapuaeroa Valley, and a 7km river run to Tuparoa Beach. The 2021 date is yet to be confirmed – go to m2madventure.co.nz for more details.