Walking on Mt Taranaki – Maketawa Hut

28 01 2013

On Saturday a small group of SCANZ residents (incidentally all Australians) got together and did some bushwalking on Mt Taranaki. This was an important part of my project for SCANZ as the artwork I have made for the exhibition at Puki Ariki focuses on aerial maps of the mountain. I needed to have an understanding of the terrain and the vegetation that was ‘felt’, not just observed.

It was probably one of the most beautiful walks I have been on for a long time and one of the most physically challenging. As we walked from the Visitor’s Centre, we headed up to the three way turn off to the summit walk, then headed towards Maketawa Hut for lunch. The first part of the walk was walking uphill along a series of ridges, with beautiful views of the valley below and the coastline. Mt Taranaki however was hidden under cloud so we were not able to see the summit.

Around the mountain circuit - from Dept of Conservation website

Around the mountain circuit – from Dept of Conservation website

(From http://www.doc.govt.nz/parks-and-recreation/tracks-and-walks/taranaki/taranaki/around-the-mountain-circuit/)

After lunch we started to head down the track, through what I can only explain as an enchanted forest, with tree roots in many parts acting as natural steps. Once we arrived at the lowest point above sea level, we then went up and down some steep ridges and creeks. I found the landscape was both gentle in its beauty but difficult in terms of traversing. Along the way were a number of ladders up and down, giving a real sense of the undulating land formed by lava so long ago.

It was also wonderful to see elements of the imagery that I had collected of aerial views in the landscape. For example, these beautiful shapes in the image below.

Mt Taranaki

Mt Taranaki (from ‘Message to the mountain’ 2013)

Here is some information about the walk we did from holidays in New Zealand website (note we did the walk in the opposite direction):

Maketawa Hut Round Trip – 4 hours

This is for those who are fitter. Take the Ngatoro Track from below the Information Centre and turn left at the Maketawa Track Junction.

This takes you through more mossy forest, changing to nikau, cordylines and other flora and fauna. It takes about 2 hours to Maketawa Hut.

Walk through the hut to the outdoor deck for extensive views. Leaving the hut you walk up through alpine vegetation………….steps…steps… and more steps! Eventually you come out on the road just below the Translator Tower. From here you walk back down the road to the Camphouse.

One of the things I have learnt about mountains in Māori culture is that they are like people being male or female.  In an earlier post I discussed the story of how Taranaki came to reside in this region. Something else, I found very interesting is that in Māori culture, one should avoid touching the top of the head as it is the centre of all knowledge and memory. For this reason, it is not culturally appropriate to climb to the top of the summit and ‘stand’ on someone’s head. To learn some more about cultural protocols go to http://www.headspace.org.nz/maori-mental-health.htm.

A special thank you to Jo Tito for reviewing this post.

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