Advice to the Popatas: when you’ve done with protesting, limber up for the Olympics

You will be left behind if you can't maintain a brisk pace.

Alf has cause to take a fresh look at the Popata brothers, a stroppy twosome best known for roughing up the Prime Minister at Waitangi a year or so ago.

They are wasted in their occupations as a researcher and an interviewer.

Their forte – it transpires – is walking.

They are shaping up to be world-beaters.

Their strongest competition for an Olympic gold medal would come from those who have joined them on their hikoi from Cape Reinga to on Wellington.

Alf’s judgement about their athletic prowesss is based on a few rough calculations (and he admits he stands to be corrected).

The hikoi left the far north a week ago as an expression of protest against the Government’s Marine and Coastal Area Bill.

The protesters will arrive in Wellington today, having knocked off around 1100 kilometres.

If they did not stop for a kip, but walked for a solid 24 hours a day, they would have been walking at around 6.5km/hour for seven days.

But they did not look too knackered when they arrived in Porirua last night, and moreover they were going to have a kip there.

Alf accordingly has credited them (an assumption open to adjustment) with walking for 10 hours a day.

This cranks up their pace to 15.71 km/hour.

And the buggers are carrying flags, banners and what-have-you, and they don’t have the fancy walking shoes worn by Olympians.

We can only conjecture on how much faster they would go if they were covering a shorter distance – the sort that Olympians must walk over an hour or so.

The pace set by Popata brothers, of course, should have been taken into account by the Ngapuhi bloke who is saying today that the hikoi brings shame to Maori.

David Rankin said the hikoi would have no impact on the passage of the bill and protesters should focus on helping quake-ravaged Christchurch instead.

Mr Rankin, chair of the Hone Heke Foundation, said the small hikoi of about 100 people was an embarrassment.

“To most sensible people, this would be a good reason to call the whole thing off but these protesters are not normal and they are bringing shame to Maori.”

He said Hone Harawira, former Maori Party MP, had encouraged the hikoi only to withdraw his support when it looked likely to fail.

But there is a very obvious explanation for the hikoi having only 100 or so marchers.

The thousands of other Maori who have a powerful urge to join the Popatas to protest against the legislation simply can not maintain the hectic pace that has been set.

Mrs Grumble has suggested to Alf that maybe they used motor vehicles to cover some parts of the journey.

This seems unlikely to Alf.

He understands a hikoi to be a Maori terms for a protest march or parade, “usually implying a long journey taking days or weeks”.

It would be contrary to their tikanga – wouldn’t it? – to take advantage of a means of transport brought here by the bloody colonisers who (by fair means or foul) have taken the land they want back.

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