A story of Stone

Stone tools

Learning to make stone tools changed my life. It added a dimension to pre colonial maori I never thought about before and more importantly made me respect how good primitive technology really is. The way your eyes and hands become trained to see tools waiting to be shaped in seemingly worthless stones is like a super power (makers vision I called it).

Stone knife

I have been to a single stone tool workshop where we made basic toki (stone blades for cutting wood) and I am hungry for more. There is a gathering for maori tool makers at a marae in Plimmerton and I am so excited I flutter around trying to take an many mental snapshots as I can. I had only seen these things in books, I take in as many details as I can, unsure of what I should make under expert supervision.

There are many things being created around me, fish hooks made from shells, cloaks from flax and many forms of cutting tools from stone. Stone tooling is tedious work, there is a feeling of easy going conversation to make up for how boring it is. Sitting with everyone as they weave flax and knap stone, you could almost imagine this was how our ancestors were, making jokes, singing songs as they worked. I never got into kapa haka, but this I totally love.

Wanting to start small I take a stone from the pile and attempt to shape out a basic knife thinking it would be simple enough. Hefting my hammer stone I tapped at my piece of stone carefully only to have it break right down the middle. I try again and again but eventually the stone was too small to be much use and I have to look for a new one.
Eventually one of the older stone toolers takes me aside. “It’s easy” he says. “You don’t need to waste time making a knife shaped rock. Just take a piece of flint or obsidian and knap off a flake that you can use then throw away when you are done. This stone will give you many razor sharp blades with no effort. Just make sure you knap along the ridge you can’t go wrong”. He hands me a piece of obsidian as a gift and walks away.

Afterwards I am convinced I could totally shave with stone. I get rid of my straight razor the next day and am in the bathroom with the black volcanic obsidian in one hand and my trusty hammer stone in the other. Carefully taking aim I strike at the stone hoping to get a larger chunk to shave with. Only to have the whole stone break into cubes with no sharp edges on them what so ever. “Easy he said” I mutter to myself as I pick the pieces out of the sink.

   

The ultra light hiker

It has been a long day marching through the Pureora forest and I am tired when I reach the hut. Bog Inn hut is a rat infested tin shed that sits in the middle of the a dark goblin forest. I have pushed hard to make track times, but no matter how hard I press the trail notes alway seem to say I am slow. I tell myself its because my temperamental gear and barefooted I still can’t help but feel a blow to my ego.

At the hut a german hiker is there pouring over his gps muttering to himself. As we chat about how we are finding the trail, he informs me of how inaccurate the trail notes are in regard to timing and distance. This makes me feel a little better about my progress so far as I felt some of the places I couldn’t have made the distance if I was running. He had not had a good time so far

“This hut is surrounded by trees! I was hoping to take a beautiful picture of the sun set”

The conversation from all hikers usually moves from where you are from to food and hiking gear. With the way I have chosen to hike, sometimes I encounter strong opinions.

“What are you eating?”

“Whatever I can get my hands on. You?”

“I put carrot in my pasta. Do you have a map of the next area?” I pull my gear a part handing him the map.

“This is a very heavy map!” he weighs it up in his hand.

“I don’t mind really” I say.

“Every ounce counts you know” he explains sagely.

“Seriously its fine” I reaffirm.

“I even cut the handle off my tooth brush” he continues having not heard me.

“If you think my paper is heavy you are going to hate my ax”

“You are carrying an ax?!”

“Yeah I made it from a really nice river stone I found a few days back”

“It’s MADE OF STONE!?”

The rest of the evening he sits there in disbelief as I pull out an assortment of sticks and stones of various shapes and sizes from my dry bag. With every item he tells I am crazy repeatedly, we both laugh when I agree with him. The rats scurry around the old tin hut are the only background noise as we settle in for the night.

Hello again

So I have been writing about the walk and sadly it has been taken me longer to write about walking then actually walking.

Here is my plan. I will be leaving pieces of my writing here on my blog till the actual book is ready. Probably once a month. Hope you enjoy.

 

Discovering small universes

As I walked the trail I happened across many small communities. I was always welcomed, and got to partake in some amazing experiences I would never get anywhere else. It made me feel sorry for the people I saw in the buses called Kiwi Experience, little did they know they would find more if they got out and walked.

It had been amazing to meet long distance hikers but I was on a different mission. As I tinkered away with a new design made from bamboo I found by my campsite, I couldn’t help but notice more and more people stream into the camp ground. My odd shelter set up attracted people over to me and after introductions I was to find out that the surf life savers were having their annul get together. The smell of BBQ was alluring and lucky for me they were more then happy to share. Like all the small towns I would come into along my journey, I come to see the similarities and differences in New Zealand culture.

With version two of my pack and the abandonment of a lot of unnecessary equipment everything sat nicer on my back. I walked around the campground awkwardly being watched by locals who were still prepping for their prize giving later in the evening. The soon to be familiar questions were asked and I stumbled though my replies.

“What are you doing?”

“Walking the length of New Zealand using stuff that I made while hunting and gathering”

“Why are you doing it?”

“Seemed like a good idea at the time”

‘Are you crazy?’

“Yes”

I did my best impression of a person at ease in an unfamiliar environment and used making fun of myself to befriend the locals. Most were not so impressed with what I had made so far but they knew how far it was to Cape Reinga so I got brownie points for that. Dinner and beer was handed out and the life guards had at least three generations sitting around their tables. When speeches and prizing givings were under way it started to feel more like a mix of Marae and ruby club. Sea food, laughter, music, kids running around.

Peter Jackson once said “New Zealand is not a small country but a large village”. I was a little taken back by how many people there were. I never imagined the people who sit at the beach in those uniforms to be anything other then kids who knew how to swim. But these guys had history, ritual and community that seemed so big and very welcoming. As I parted with more new friends and a massive hangover the next morning I disappeared into the bush believing I would be greeted warmly if I returned.

Growing up I have always felt like I belonged in New Zealand, by living here my whole life I knew all there was to know about the place. I saw no reason to go to the smaller towns because nothing happened there. But only by being a TA walker did I literally stumble across how diverse this country is, traveling over seas you see how small New Zealand is but only by walking can you see how big it can be. Food, stories and music are common themes that connect our culture as a whole but within small town New Zealand are even smaller universes waiting to be discovered. 

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.
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Strengths

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