Am I a Maori?

It’s a question I get asked a lot when I’m rocking my gear. Are you Maori? Is that traditional Maori gear? Is it Maori at all? The short answer is yes.

I am of Maori heritage, and I’ve used a lot of traditional Maori techniques in making my gear. This just makes sense: I live in New Zealand, and flax is everywhere!
It seems smart to use the skills and resources of a people who have lived in this country for so long.

However, my only goal with using these techniques is to make as much of my own stuff as possible. I never meant for this pesky traditional term to keep coming up! Walking New Zealand is hard enough without restricting myself to only using traditional techniques and materials.

I did think about it, though. The first conception of this walk was to try to travel the way pre-colonial Maori did. However, I found out very quickly that a single person hiking for the sake of it wasn’t really a thing in times past. Also, I haven’t been raised to run around half naked in the bush! I’m just not tough enough….yet.

This whole journey so far has been an eye opening experience for what life was like (sort of) for my Maori ancestors. I would say it was hard work, but it is hard work living nowadays anyway. It’s more like a different kind of hard work. It’s the kind I get a kick out of.

In the past two years I have learnt that a person on their own will have a hard time in the bush. You will always be restricted by resources and time: Land ownership and seasonal weather being the most obvious examples of this. A supportive community is the strongest asset to being able to pull something like this off.

Community is the backbone of Maori culture. Between the internet, my know-it-all friends, and an extensive Maori family I’ve got community by the truck load.

It could also be said that because I am of Maori heritage, anything I do is inherently Maori. So I think I’ll leave the line drawing to someone else, while I get on with the walking.

With that, this is my last blog before the big day. September 1st will be a final gear list before I set out. I will be keeping up with these monthly posts (at least!) to keep everyone in the loop, and I have a twitter (@journey_of_jory) for all my lovely pictures I’m going to take and there is a chance I could start a you tube channel maybe.
So if you do see a crazy looking flax man feel free to say hello.


A wee while ago I posted a blog on the things that concern me on this journey and the upside to said weaknesses. Well I feel like to balance out the downers here are some personality traits that may work to my benefit. These are my strengths.

Mindless monotonous tasks are my jam
From a young age I have trained the martial arts and where some people may think it’s all back flips and broad breaking. It is mostly endless repetition of boring moves like breathing and standing.
It’s peaceful and simple.
3000km won’t walk themselves and gear is a constant battle for improvement. Some may find it boring, I love it.

I have a strong stomach and am indifferent to taste
I pride my ability to eat anything and most native plants range from bland to bitter on the taste scale. It doesn’t bother me though…honestly.

I love having everything I own in a single pack.
A common theme when it comes to wanderers is how little they carry! I enjoy how easy life is when you don’t own much. It’s so clean! I don’t think I will ever go back

Weapon of choice

I intend to hunt and gather along the way, and using the bow hunters website as a guide they recommend being able to hit a dinner plate size grouping from 25 metres

So this is my goal before heading off in two months. I will also limit the size of my catch to small game only. Because breaking down and preserving large game will take more time and energy. So nothing bigger the a goat.

This doesn’t mean I won’t take food with me! I am no extreme survivalist.

The question is how much can I rely on my environment to give me the much needed calories? And what will be the best self made weapon to do the task?

Here are the advantages and disadvantages for each of the old school hunting tools I am training with for the journey.




I am amazed I never played with these as a kid! It’s just a bit of rope and a rock. Even if I don’t choose it as my weapon of choice it makes a great belt!

Its size and ammunition (egg shaped river stones) are its strongest qualities.

Blunt force projectiles are good at crippling but not really great at killing ( I would like to consider myself ethical when killing for food ). So will be restricted to birds and rabbits.




These are ancient spear throwers apparently used to take down mammoths!

Will be safe from mammoths and can double as a walking stick.

Accuracy is dependent on spear build quality. The spear itself will be made up of three parts with the tip interchangable so I don’t break them when practising. It is a complicated build but no where near as bad as a…



To be able to gain epic bow skills would be a personal dream.

I have someone to guide me through the bow building process. There are permits (unlike the other two weapons) to get to hunt on DOC land and a whole community of people who hunt with bows I can gain much needed tips from. And anything that breaks I can buy from local hunting shops.

It is the worst to carry out of the three.
For once it would be nice to have the self made thing be smaller than the modern stuff.

I will admit that I am more of a fisherman then a hunter. So waterways will be where my self made skills will really shine. I have been making fish hooks and weaving nets and eel traps for a wee while now.

And my gatherer skills are average at best but hopefully I will find other gatherer types on the way who can give me much needed local knowledge (When gaining knowledge always go local).

What I have found in my pursuit for food is that there is a lot more out there then you may think. It just happens to look like weeds and pests (see puha and insects). As long as your not a fussy eater you would be surprised what you can collect. But I won’t truly know how much I can rely on my environment till I am in it.


The walk is only 3 months away!
And this blog has been a great opportunity to share stories of the prep leading up to my next adventure.
And I get a lot of hints, tips and ideas that has extended my makers vocabulary.
Of course you also get people telling you you’re crazy (I agree)and it’s dangerous especially when you…

1. Have type 1 Diabetes!!


Diabetes means I will have to carry food and meds at all times during my walk. If I miscalculate it can be dangerous and having low blood sugars in the middle of no where would not be fun for anyone.

But really diabetes makes you plan ahead as a habit. I have been carrying back up food and meds since I was 16. And planning out your day and adapting to unseen circumstances is part of everyday life when you are trying to manually balance your blood sugars on a daily basis. Diabetics are the batmen of the real world.

2. Are making stuff


Making stuff is sooooooo time consuming. And with technology making packs and hiking gear lighter and more efficient you will end up spending most of your time on repairing and replacing heavier and less efficient stuff.

But 6 months of continuously use of gear will always lead to it breaking no matter how good it is.
So no my stuff isn’t as good as the latest super light weight whatevers. But making your own stuff gives you the flexibility to adjust items. Improvements are slow but inevitable and the skills you’re left with…..(I can make over 12 ft of rope in under 40 mins)

3. Are walking barefooted


Carrying extra weight without heel support! The wear and tear from long days walking. And broken bottles and gorse! Diabetics are more prone to infection on top of all that. You don’t stand a chance.

Yes I’m sure I will be full of regret when I get to gorse riddled sections. But I will have a first aid kit and back up shoes (both I will be making myself)…but no blisters, no wet socks and no smelly feet. And I see your lack of heel support and raise you a learn to walk properly (I have a whole 6 months and 3000 km to practice).

4. Are hunting and gathering as a food source.


Another waste of time especially without a gun. Can you even get enough calories to sustain yourself on the trip? Just a lot of useless gear you will never use.

But there are plenty of pest animals that are tasty and bad for the environment. And I have been told I should get used to the taste of bugs by hunters who have done similar stuff.
I will be covering how I plan to hunt on the trip next blog. This is the last major challenge I face before the walk. All I can say is that I am quietly optimistic.

The self made gear

I just spent four days in the bush over Easter trying to figure out how exactly I will be hiking on my journey. And a common theme arises when tying to make your own gear…mainly it is heavy.


So heavy

Here are the 5 major self made gear for my four day hike (and the Lessons they taught me).

1. Pack frame


My pack frame was one of the first things I made. It seemed straight forward a few bits of wood put together and some straps. A pack frame would also give me the flexibility to make flax bags of any size depending on what gear I had to carry.

Life Lesson
l. Make comfortable straps!!! (I know this is common sense but seriously when you have spent half a year weaving rope you really get sick of it).
The first night I went out to a DOC camp site 2 km of easy road walking and the straps I had woven instantly started cutting off important blood supply to my arms. But it was late, stormy and dark.

2. Balance your gear weight low and even around your hips.
The discomfort was worse as I walked and I shifted my pack around trying to make it bearable until finally the whole thing came apart breaking to pieces. Mostly mad I ended up making camp on the side of the road not even lasting 20 mins. Luckly the next morning I found a chopped down gum tree with the perfect size and shape for a frame and some long pieces of flax for thicker straps and ended up with a much better frame.

2. Cooker


In terms of cooking I have two burners. A twig burner


made from tin cans

and a gas burner


made from a coke can.

Life Lesson
Nothing you make is perfect the first time around.

Well my gas burner is very good and super small though its a little heavy on gas for my liking.
And the twig burner is good in theory using gasification it needs only a handful of sticks or leaves to cook a meal. But my design isn’t perfect so it will take a bit more tinkering to workout what I am doing wrong.

3. Eel trap


The eel trap is made of bamboo and is a dual purpose tool. Most of the time it will store my tools and cooking gear and sit at the top of my pack. But if I make camp by a stream or river it will catch my breakfast.

Life lesson
Use what is avaliable.
Willow beats bamboo hands down when it comes to making baskets. Just easier to work with but I never found a good source in Wellington so  I settled for bamboo.

4. Fishing net


Another dual purpose bit of gear the fishing net is made of flax rope and will be used to catch fish by the sea sections of the trail and will be a hammock to sleep in the rest of the time. My sleeping blanket and fly are wrapped in the net and is tied to the frame as the first thing to come off for easy set up.
Life lesson
You can never have enough rope.


I never got to sleep in the hammock as it was too short and the sections of rope I made too thin broke under my weight instantly. So I ended up sleeping on the ground staring enviously at some hammock tenters down from me.


I am so sick of making rope.

5. Cloak


Pre colonial Maori used to make simple cloaks from flax called pake. These were used as a basic shelter when sleeping outdoors.

Life Lesson
No matter how much time and effort you put into something sometimes you have to compromise to achieve the larger goal.
Pake are heavy take a lot of flax and too big to pack nicely but too small to sleep in. It will take a tougher person then myself to give up my modern Shelter for the old school version. So sadly it will be left behind. Lots of tourist wanted photos with me though.

In general I am feeling confidant about using self made gear to hike. Each project though not perfect has given me a lesson on how to improve the next verison. Being mindful of the reasources around you gives you the freedom to make use of what you have instead of wishing for something you don’t. Adaptability and imagination are your strongest qualities when it comes to making stuff.  With four months to go I still have a lot to over come but feel ready for the challenges ahead.



I get asked why I am doing this a lot. And to be honest its mostly because I can. But if I dig a little deeper I can come up with

4 reasons why I am doing this

1. The coming together of three life changing events


I had just heard about the te araroa trail opening and i have to admit the idea of walking New Zealand top to bottom was appealing from the get go. So I talked to people who had done it and wear and tear on gear was a common problem.


At the same time I was taking a stone tool making workshop and was amazed at how you could turn a simple stone into a useful tool. Learning about what it took to live here before Europeans arrived really speaks to me.


And then I had just started the paleo diet. A diet where you tried to replicate a hunter gatherers diet in a modern setting. I got great results with the general guidelines but felt like i could take it further.

And so these three things began me on a path of new and interesting skills each shaping how I would take this journey.

2. I have a love of making things from scratch.


There is something about it. Its usually a lot of work, can be more expensive sometimes (if you consider time valuable) never works great the first time. But there is something about slowly understanding how stuff works and having a completely unique (ugly) project that only you know how to work because its a mess….is it just me?

3. I also enjoy learning old knowledge


I have been straight razor shaving for a few years now. And there are a few things about it that are common when it comes to old vs new knowledge. New is always convenient but expensive and old is cheap but takes longer. If you stick at it long enough the things that take long stop being hard and you look like a tough guy.

4. All my idols are wandering vagabonds


I’m talking samurai jack, musashi and Caine (from the kung fu series) here. I grew up doing martial arts and it is full of stories of men wandering the countryside helping people with there kung fu skills. While some people may see a jobless barefoot hobo in flax I see a chance for awesome stories….like I said its my kind of fun.