Search continues for missing pair in Tongariro National Park
"I love you, be safe and take care."
These were the last words Maraea Ngaronoa said to her son before he went missing in the Tongariro National Park.
She's still unsure if she'll get the chance to say them again.
It's been almost a month since Hakopa Ngaronoa, 26, and his friend Vincent Taurima, 21, allegedly fled from a police chase on the Desert Rd into the park on August 12.
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Search and rescue teams have found clothing, campfire remains and a beanie, but not the men themselves.
Maraea Ngaronoa said she returned home to Palmerston North on Wednesday after being in Turangi.
"I stayed there waiting – waiting and hoping they would find something."
Coming home stirred a range of emotions for the family, with many of them struggling to adapt back to daily life.
They were still hoping Hakopa Ngaronoa and Taurima would be found.
Maraea Ngaronoa said the pair had been heading away on a road trip.
Her son had just got out of a long-term relationship and was trying to move on.
"He was travelling to try and keep himself busy."
But instead, the road trip turned into a nightmare as the men allegedly fled from police, driving their car into dense bush before taking off on foot.
As night fell, their relief turned to panic and phone calls to family confirmed they were lost.
By the time Hakopa Ngaronoa and Taurima rang emergency services their phone had just two per cent battery.
Maraea Ngaronoa said her family just wanted answers.
"It is about getting to have closure because it's really crazy the scenario that plays in a mother's head of wanting my child back so badly and not knowing what happened."
Hakopa Ngaronoa was an adored member of the family, known for being "mischievous and loveable".
He was not afraid of showing affection to his mother and she was grateful the last conversation she had with him was full of love.
"No matter who he was with he wasn't too good to say 'I love you' to his mum.
"How blessed am I as a mum to have a kid like that, who has no shame in expressing his love in front of his mates."
She said even if people were in the car with him, he would pucker up for a kiss.
"That stuff I will always treasure, but I will also miss so much."
During the search, she said police were supportive and Senior Constable Barry Shepherd had been amazing.
"He's like a dog with a bone. He's not going to let it go."
Shepherd said police recovery dogs had gone back to Auckland on Tuesday after searching for the men.
On Friday, a team of two rescuers searched a stream to the north of the Pillars of Hercules mountain bike track.
Three teams of a dozen people will on Saturday search more streams – two south of the Mangatawai Stream and one to the north.
"All information gathered throughout the search will be reassessed, and this will lead the way forward for the search."
Shepherd said police remained determined to bring the men home to their whanau and friends and the ongoing support from Ngati Tuwharetoa was invaluable.