Mt Hikurangi, East Cape, 24-26 April 2021
Banner Photo: The view from the summit ridge
At last we had the weather and permission to climb Mt Hikurangi. Three previous attempts had been thwarted. This time, 12 club members were raring to climb the sacred Te Ara ki Hikurangi, the highest non-volcanic mountain in New Zealand (1752m).
The drive up to the East Cape started on Saturday, with a break in Wairoa, lunch in Gisborne and on to Tolaga Bay.Just before Tolaga Bay, there is a walk up to Te Pourewa (Beacon of Light). It is much more than a beautiful carving.
Background: Big, bold and brilliant to see lit up at night, the 12-metre high sculpture on Hoturangi Maunga in Uawa/Tolaga Bay was resurrected in October 2019 to commemorate Tahitian ancestor, navigator and priest Tupaia and his arrival at Opoutama [Cook’s Cove] on the Endeavour in 1769. This is a stunning traditional Māori art form that’s also an important conversation piece on the dual heritage and shared future of Aotearoa New Zealand.Then we then carried on along the track to Cook’s Cove, passing a lookout and the hole in the rock. Simon and Bruce had a swim and Marie had a paddle. The cove walk was a very pleasant way to spend some of the afternoon, and a welcome respite from the cars. There were quite a lot of steps to and from the cove and many people were walking this track.
When we got back to the car park, we continued walking around to the 600-metre-long wharf; there were some people fishing off it. Locals love the wharf because it’s part of Tairawhiti history.An ice cream, chips and afternoon tea and we were ready to head on to Tokomaru Bay, our first night stop. Six stayed at the camp ground, which wasn’t well cared for, and six at the Blue Marlin Motel across the road. We went to the Tokomaru Hotel along the beach for a drink and had dinner there. The meals were superb.
The next day was Anzac Day, so some got up early and went to the local service which they described as very moving, with people of all ages attending.We drove to Ruatoria and around the back of Mt Hikurangi to the road end. It took about an hour from Tokomaru Bay. We parked by the river and started walking over a bridge (213m) and along a track over a working sheep and beef farm (along with pigs and lots of horses). The farm track zigzags up the hills. Thirty minutes from the hut, it stops and changes to just foot traffic, through scrubby vegetation. The 1000m climb to the hut, which is at 1223m, took about three hours. There, we had lunch before setting off for the trig. The tramping track is steep and after a brief walk through some native bush, it emerges into scrub and past a couple of tarns. According to Ngati Porou, Māui’s waka Nukutaimemeha lies in Takawhiti, the beautiful lake near the summit. The track wended its way further around the mountain, but it was still uphill. Then we got to a scree gut which we had to climb. It was a bit scary at the bottom, but then we kept to the left and the grassy and scree track wasn’t too bad, with discernible steps. The trick was not to look down and not think about going down until it was time to do so. Four people got to the trig (530m from the hut) and two others nearly to the trig. Some went to the gut and others stayed at the hut. Coming down the gut wasn’t as terrifying as first thought and we all made it back to the hut in one piece.
It was a long but satisfying day and a fun evening. The hut had had an annex, so there was space and a mattress for everyone.Monday morning dawned bright and clear and the early birds were up very early as usual. One of us wasn’t feeling well and a farm vehicle was organised to take her down to the cars. The hut was given a good clean and we took some rubbish out.
On the way down, we went to view the nine Maori whakairo (sculptures). They sit on a plateau and were carved for the Year 2000 Millenium celebrations.
Background: These whakairo represent the demigod Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga and his family. Māui is regarded as an ancestor by Ngāti Porou and tradition holds that his waka, Nukutaimemeha, rests petrified on the mountain. The carvings tell the story of Maui fishing up the North Island, which has particular significance to Ngati Porou.They are set in a compass shape and represent the four winds, to honour Ngati Porou man Mohi Turei, who gave the compass points Maori names last century.
They are truly spectacular.
Heading home, we had lunch at Gisborne and a quick stop at Wairoa, and arrived back around 5pm. Thank you very much, Alison, for a great tramp and weekend.
Trampers: Alison Greer, Julia Mackie, Fiona Bryant, John Dobbs, Jenny Burns, Robyn Smith, Marie de Roles, Bruce Hodgson, Lynette Morgan, Simon Hill, Doug Matheson and reporter Dorothy Sole
Note: Hikurangi Hut must be booked prior to departure through Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou:
Address: 1 Barrys Avenue, Ruatoria 4032
Phone: +64 6 864 9004
$15 per person per night.
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