A Tokamaru Bay local is walking 200+ kilometres along State Highway 35 to bring awareness and raise money for the communities Cyclone Gabrielle has ravaged.
Te Aorere Pēwhairangi, a te reo Māori sports commentator/social media star, is the man taking on the journey dubbed ‘Waewae the 35’. He decided to embark on the ten-day hikoi after finding out his hometown was completely cut off.
“I rang my cousin up to see how they were. They’ve been isolated there, they’re their own island and have been since the cyclone,” he told The Project.
“She’s had to start a school in her carport because there are some kids who live in Toko but go to school in Gizzy, Ruatoria, and Tolaga and I thought ‘man these stories need to be told and there’s no road to get in but I can kind of walk around the farms’.
“I thought ‘why not do a hikoi, bring my two bros who are videographers and document the journey, raise a bit of awareness and some pūtea’.”
What. A. Legend. Te Aorere even has custom kicks for the journey, a pair of gumboots with the ‘Waewae the 35’ logo on it, made by Mr G Hoete.
“A huge mihi to @mrghoete.art for sharing his pūkenga with this kaupapa,” Te Aorere wrote in an Instagram post. “The bro has done murals all along the 35 and continues to share his skills and mahi to uplift our communities. E mihi nui atu ana bro”
The damage documented by Te Aorere is eye-opening, even a month after the Cyclone hit. On day three of his journey, as he was approaching his hometown, he came across the completely destroyed Hikuwai Bridge that leads into Tokomaru. No bridge means the small town (population of just over 500 people) is disconnected from State Highway 35, and therefore the rest of the country.
If you wish to donate to Te Aorere for his heroic hikoi, you can visit the Givealittle page in his Instagram bio.