By Sarah Mckenzie

Hello family and friends and anyone else viewing this blog! Sorry I am writing this a little late, but we just spent the last week doing some pretty awesome stuff. When we first arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand last week we spent two days exploring the city. Then we flew to Nelson which is at the top of the south island and was picked up by a Whenua Iti member and brought to their base camp. We met Joni, one of the leaders/guides for the week, as well as Joe (aka Joeses) in the morning. They officially welcomed us to their home with a beautiful prayer and some hongis, which is a traditional Maori greeting. We spent the next day on the high ropes and finished off the day with some trapeze. I only missed the bar once!

The next three days were spent hiking the Abel Tasman. OH MY GOD IT WAS BEAUTIFUL! Each day we hiked about 6 hours with our backpacks full of gear. Joe told us many stories about the creation of the world from the Maori perspective. It was super cool to hear and learn from him. We hiked through estuary’s and rivers to get to this awesome pool called Cleopatra’s pool, with a natural and very cold water slide. I mean VERY cold but so worth it. That same day we were welcomed by some high schoolers who were on a Maori learning trip. We met up with them later on the beach and they performed a Haka for us. Before we had dinner they let us use their 12 person waka, which is a big canoe. It was hard to get the rhythm going at first, but on our way back we had a nice, in sync swing going.

Unfortunately, we had to cut our sea kayaking trip to one day due to weather conditions, but I think we all still had a fantastic time. We kayaked for a while past some bays and then attempted to sail our way back.

Our last day spent with Whenua was spent in an awesome cave! We put our jumpsuits, boots, helmets and headlamps on and entered the cave. We had a map to navigate the cave and find the VERY small holes and tubes to fit our bodies through. At one point we had to squeeze through a hole where we went head first with our feet dangling in the air. It was pretty funny to watch.

Overall this was a week to remember. We were very lucky to have Joe and Joni be our guides and for them to show and teach us about this beautiful part of the world. Poroporoaki pai hoki inainei, which means “goodbye for now.”