Te Urewera has always enthralled me. The history and isolation alone are enough to draw in anyone searching to get off the grid. But, be warned: Te Urewera deserves - and should be treated with - the utmost respect. The land and its tanata whenua are relentless. The iwi, Tūhoe, has a philosophy of mana motuhake (self-determination). I saddled up and was eager to explore this remote part of Aotearoa.
The Area: For centuries, Te Urewera has been home to the Tūhoe people, or 'Children of the Mist', in reference to the legend that they are the offspring of Hine-puhoku-rangi, the celestial mist maiden. Tūhoe traditions are strong and their links with this land run deep; they have been an enigma to outsiders for 150 years. As you enter Te Urewera you can sense the ghosts of an unquiet past. It was confiscated by the Crown in 1866 through a combination of punitive zealotry and bureaucratic ineptitude. Even when the mistake was realised—that the wrong tribe had been punished—the evil was compounded in that the land was never returned. Tūhoe, it should be noted, did not sign the Treaty of Waitani - the iwi was not given the opportunity. But, because the Crown undertook treaty obligations to all Maori when it proclaimed sovereignty in 1840, Tūhoe’s grievances fall within the tribunal’s remit.