For exercise? Not specifically, that’s a bonus. Joe goes out to connect to the whenua (land) and to forage for kai (food) and medicines, as well as collecting plant matter which he can use for weaving and creating art pieces.
Nearly every flower, tree, shrub, grass, insect – Joe knows its story, how many of the plants he forages sustained his people for hundreds of years before New Zealand was colonised and much Māori cultural history was put to one side for another.
“Tracks to me aren’t just tracks, they are a unique connection to our environmental heritage,” he says.
“I have foraged most of the tracks from here to Masterton and I have a fair idea of where our unique resources are that our ancestors traditionally gathered.”
Joe’s been cooking for 50 years. During this time, he’s been recalling childhood teachings from his elders, researching, and rediscovering traditional Māori foods and cooking methods.
His goal is to “revive, preserve, and promote” this knowledge which has largely been forgotten through the generations.
The 63-year-old knows many of greater Wellington's tracks and trails like the back of his hand.
He knows where to find pikopiko – the young curled shoots of the chicken fern, which when prepared correctly are “a delicacy in the Māori pantry”. He knows where to find puha for his boil-ups and salads. He knows which common plants and weeds can be utilised for kai, tea, and medicine, following Māori protocols.
But Joe's favourite local stomping ground is Te Ara Paparārangi track, in Gilberd Bush Reserve, and Waihinahina Park, which nestles around his community marae, Ngā hau ē whā o Paparārangi in Newlands.
Joe and others from the marae have planted thousands of natives trees, shrubs and flaxes along Te Ara Paparārangi track as part of a 20-year replanting programme, making walking these tracks several times a month an absolute pleasure.
“I do cooking presentations at the marae, foraging for resources along those tracks and surrounding areas.”
Joe is passionate about keeping it sustainable, and he uses and follows the Māramataka calendar, observing the Māori seasonal protocols.
“The key is not to bring too much, because you can’t use it all,” says Joe, father of two adult sons, and a grandfather.