New Zealanders take their walking very seriously. As we were walking (in Canada we call it hiking) on the trails on the South Island of New Zealand, we found that the estimated time to complete the trail was usually about half what it would take us, so I was a bit worried that our tour with Walking Legends out of Whakatane on the North Island would be too much for me. That was not the case. Our guide was very clever at setting a pace which was challenging, but never more than I (the weak link in our small group of three adults) could handle. He took us to some amazing spots that we would have found difficult, if not impossible to get to on our own. He shared with us the legends (primarily Maori) connected with all the sites we visited in a way that was knowledgeable and entertaining.
We started day 1 on the cliffs around Whakatane, a very important location as this was where the Maoris first settled. From the window of our beautiful apartment (which Walking Legends found for us) we could see a statue on the rock at the entrance to the harbour. From our cliff view, our guide told us it is a stature of Wairaka, the chief's daughter, who made a decision to "Act Like a Man" (“Kia Whakatāne au i ahau”), picked up the forbidden paddle, and saved the canoe and all the women and children from drifting back to sea.
On Day 2 our guide managed to get us on a very special boat trip to Whale Island, which has restricted access as they try to restore it all to indigenous flora and fauna. In the afternoon we walked the trail of the Disappearing River and again learned the legends of its origin.
We had a great time and our only regret is that we did not have time in our itinerary for another day of walking.
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