Haerenga ki Takapo

The Mātaiao team was filled with excitement as we boarded our flight to Queenstown. Our destination held promises of adventure and exploration. Touching down in Queenstown we wasted no time gathering our gear and loading our suitcases into the truck. With spirits soaring high, our team embarked on a 3-hour trip to Takapo, a journey that would forever change our perspective on the world around us.

As we cruised along winding roads, the landscape underwent a breathtaking transformation. Towering mountains emerged on the horizon, their peaks glistening with what we thought was a fresh coat of white snow. We knew this wasn’t just a recreational journey, but an immersion into the profound framework of Atua Matua.

With each passing kilometer our anticipation grew. Crystal-clear waters mirrored the surrounding mountain while the sky above painted itself in shades of blue, warming our hearts. Though the stars remained hidden from sight, our journey was accompanied by songs under the soft glow of the moon.

Finally, we arrived at the shores of Lake Takapo (Tekapo), where we entered the whare kai and were warmly greeted by Dr Ihirangi Heke, Dr Wayne Ngata, Basil Morgan Jr, and the Tapuwaekura crew. It was here that we forged connections with educators from four different Kura Kaupapa and Kura ā iwi.

The following day we rose early, ready to engage with nature. We meticulously analysed the day’s forecast, drawing insights from the colours, clouds, trees, sun, plants, textures, wind, temperature, and snow. Dr Ihi, Matua Wayne, and Basil – who possessed the ancestral knowledge – shared with the group the genealogy of Tāwhirimatea, Ranginui, Papatūānuku, and Tāne Mahuta of how Māori harmonised their lives with nature, relying on the land, water, and spiritual connections for their well-being. We heard stories of these descendants’ siblings and children and discovered the significance of sustainable practices and genealogy.

Our journey began with a one-hour hike through Governor Bush, grounding us in the sacred earth beneath our feet. As we ventured deeper into the wilderness, we felt the presence of the many sacred names that realign us to these tūpuna. We carried onto the trails of Aoraki, finishing a four hour return trip as a group with a spectacular view of the maunga.

After days of listening, observing, and conversing as a collective, we discussed ideas and learning outcomes for the generations that are to come. The second day of our journey took us on another hour-long hike along the Blue Lakes, where our environment analyses continued. The discussions from the previous day had awakened a deep sense of connection to wisdom within us.

Our engagement with Atua Matua not only enriched our understanding of our ancestors’ way of life, but as we were quite active every day it also deepened our appreciation of the intricate balance between human health and the environment. This journey is about storytelling and about experiencing the profound connection between ourselves and the natural world. We look forward to not only expanding our understanding but also to the endless opportunities that will no doubt emerge. Stay tuned for more learnings and the exciting possibilities that lie ahead.