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.
Hinewai McManus (Tūhoe, Ngā Tamariki o Te Kohu): Te Urewera Treks, Murupara, Ruatāhuna, Whakatāne
Why should Kiwis choose to do one of your experiences?
Te Urewera Treks is an indigenous, eco-tourism business based on the border of Te Urewera Rainforest and Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park. Our forest experiences take place in these two wilderness areas, rich in native wildlife, birds, trees and a unique cultural history.
Whakatau Rainforest Retreat is our private bush camp accommodation on our land, surrounded by rainforest. Still largely unexplored by most Kiwis, New Zealanders have a prime opportunity to connect with nature and discover Te Urewera and the Whirinaki, guided by local people from the area.
We have a particular perspective that is a result of our whakapapa (genealogical tie) to the land and environment. It informs how we move, live and sustain ourselves, our values and our beliefs. This is what we share with manuhiri (visitor/travellers), regardless of where they come from.
If you are looking for natural solutions, being more in tune with the environment, learning the language of the natural elements and harnessing the learning to navigate a path for yourself in your everyday life, nau mai, haramai (come and be welcomed).
Whakatau Rainforest Retreat is the perfect place to get off-grid, escape from the busyness of modern life, restore and reconnect with friends and family or with the environment around you. We have a number of day experiences, multi-day experiences or we can tailor something to fit you.
What can they expect on a tour with you?
Manuhiri (visitor) can expect to be greeted and welcomed in te reo Māori, our mother tongue. Our culture is layered into everything we do, as it is who we are. Our cultural process is intended to transform strangers into friends or whānau (family) and you're invited to return again for a kapu ti (cup of tea), next time you're in the neighbourhood.
Manaaki (care and respect of people) and kaitiakitanga (care and respect of places) are integral to our experiences and people come away with a sense of whanaungatanga (family/connectedness). By the time you leave, you're whānau...
How do your tours celebrate te ao Māori?
I am a descendant of Ngā Tamariki o Te Kohu, the Children of the Mist, indigenous people born of the land and natural elements in Te Urewera. We have been colonised by early Polynesian explorers and later, Europeans and other cultures. The term "Māori" is relatively new and something that came into existence with colonisation. Our experiences explore those relationships and history, using traditional mātauranga (knowledge) to support our manuhiri on their journey. Te reo Māori is the first language of the people in our area, English second.
Paying our respect before entering the ngahere (forest) in the form of karakia (traditional chant/prayer) and other nature-based rituals, are how we celebrate and keep alive who we are. Sharing these things with our manuhiri creates a ripple effect out into the world and increases the overall wellbeing of people and places.
What do you love most about your job?
I love that every day I can spend it out in nature, strengthening my own connection but also the connection of others to the environment. My mahi (work) enables me to maintain my ahikaa (a descendant of that land, that maintains nature and provides comfort, succour to people).
We lost generations of people from our area who migrated to towns and cities for work and education. I feel very fortunate to be able to live and work in the place that I come from and enjoy the bounty of the natural landscape. Living in such a vast wilderness area like Te Urewera means you are intimately involved in the natural cycles and so it's easier to be in tune with the environment.
What are some of your other favourite things to see and do within your local region?
Honestly, I really enjoy the fact that much of Te Urewera is not in cellphone coverage. You can pick up a signal here and there, but you're largely incommunicado. The connection you need is with nature and the environment here supports that.
Te Urewera and Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park have world-class natural elements and species that can only be found here, which is impressive in itself. I suggest to anyone intending to visit our area that they call into our tribal office at Waikaremoana or Te Tii in Ruatāhuna. The staff are local people and know what the area has to offer. Many of our local businesses are keen to collaborate and can organise accommodation and activities to suit your stay. You'll definitely need a few days, to make the most of your time. We have some great examples of backcountry hikes and backcountry huts, the old style of tramping back in the day. Those are my favourite things to do - walk on tracks that are fairly untravelled and stay in little huts that reek of history and hundreds of smoky campfires.