One of the side trips I made last month was to National Park and Ruapehu. I can vaguely remember stopping at this railway station on a school trip more than 50 years ago:
The weather was quite frustrating. Just as the light came right, clouds rolled in from the west hiding the mountains from view. It did produce some impressive skies however, like this view of Mt Ngaruahoe:
A few minutes earlier there had been quite a lot more of Ngaruahoe visible, but the sky had not yet been lit up:
(you will find a high-resolution copy of this image in my galleries, here)
Closer to the village of National Park, there was a nice contrast in shapes between the water tank and the volcano.
At the time I wished I could raise the camera a couple of metres to get a better perspective. Afterwards I figured out how I could have done it: fitted the camera to my fully extended monopod and use the wireless remote. I’ll remember that.
I made a brief attempt at a view from another angle, from the ski field road on Mt Ruapehu, which did not quite come off due to the cloud and light:
The stream at the start of the road up Mt Ruapehu looks quite different in the summer:
Finally, driving from National Park to Kuratau one passes a site of interest on the shores of Lake Rotoaira. It is the remains of a Maori kainga (village) called Opotaka. It was at one time occupied by the Tu Wharetoa people and I’m sure it’s still of great significance to them.
Why have I included these pictures? During my lunch break earlier that day I was chatting to a Maori guy, a liaison officer with the Department of Conservation. He mentioned that on the northern shores of Lake Rotoaira there was a spot worth visiting: the site of the famous food pit in which the Ngati Toa chief Te Rauparaha is said to have hid while fleeing his enemies, hidden in a kumara pit under the skirts of the wife of a friendly local chief. After he finally escaped, he performed the haka “Ka mate, ka mate” which has now been adopted by almost all New Zealanders (it’s the ritual our All Blacks perform before their matches).
I’m not sure whether this is the right spot or not. It might be (or it might be the nearby island, Motuopuhi). As usual, the story about Te Rauparaha and the origins of the haka gets much more complicated when you start digging into it. Even though the Waitangi Tribunal last year confirmed Ngati Toa as owners of the copyright, its origins appear to go back much further. There is a very interesting paper by John Archer discussing its origins, other hakas and chants, the various translations over the years, and the tribunal decision. You will find that here.