In ancient footsteps of Maori ancestors

Every time hiking guide Kahurangi Mahuika-Wilson glimpses Fiordland’s Mt Tutoko, he feels chuffed.

Fiordland’s highest mountain rises to 2723m and is set among the granite alps of the Darran mountain range on the Hollyford Track on New Zealand’s South Island. Hikers typically see the peak just a few hours into day one of their three-day trek. Its splendour stops them in their tracks.

But for Kahurangi, the mountain holds a special meaning. It’s a tangible reminder of his personal connection to Fiordland National Park and the Hollyford Track.

Kahurangi grew up on the west coast in Greymouth and Bruce Bay, and is a member of the Makaawhio sub-tribe of Ngai Tahu. He began working as a Hollyford guide for Ngai Tahu Tourism aged 17. He’s also a direct descendant of the last Maori chief to live in the Hollyford Valley, chief Tutoko.

“Tutoko is my great-great-great- great-great-great-great grandfather,” says Kahurangi. “His daughter, Kawaipatiere, was born on the track itself at Martins Bay. In later life she went north to where I’m from, married and settled down there. My family and I come from her relationship with one of our local chiefs.”

Early records show chief Tutoko lived in a pa (village) at Martins Bay with his wife Hinepare and two daughters at the time of European settlement. He so impressed Scottish surveyor Dr James Hector during the latter’s visit in 1863 that the doctor named Mt Tutoko in his honour.

Kahurangi says he’s walked the 56km track as a Hollyford guide several times and it’s always a thrill to look up at the mountain and acknowledge his forebears as he strides past.

“I absolutely love being out here on the Hollyford. It’s awesome to walk where my ancestors walked and to feel that deep connection with this place,” he says.

Read the full story here.

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