New Zealand is a country rich in Maori legend. Pretty much anywhere you go in New Zealand you will find great stories about mighty chiefs, great battles, beautiful princesses and the pursuit of love. Here in Hawke’s Bay legend plays an important part in Maori culture.
One of the most famous legends is that of Te Mata Peak which is a great landmark of the Hawke’s Bay region.
It is said that if you look carefully at Te Mata Peak it seems to be shaped in the outline of a man.
Maori chief Te Mata Rongokoko, was a bit of a marauder around the surrounding Heretaunga plains, terrorising the Pakipaki people.
The story is quite epic.
The neighbouring Pakipaki tribe folk were really tired of all the wars and wanted peace, so it was decided that their chief’s daughter Hinerakau would entice the predatory warrior Te Mata Rongokoko to fall in love with her and hopefully put an end to all the conflict.
The match turned out to be a great success, Te Mata Rongokoko and Hinerakau fell in love at first sight and were married.
Just as everything was going so well the Pakipaki people were not so quick to forgive and they wanted to make sure Te Mata Rongokoko paid a good price for the princess’ hand and so made him prove his devotion by performing a range of seemingly impossible tasks. He readily agreed to the challenges.
He started off well enough, but the last task really did him in. He was expected to eat his way through the hills between the coast and the plains so that people could come and go with greater ease.
In the end, Te Mata died proving his love for Hinerakau when he choked on a rock doing this impossible task. When he died he fell to the ground and the outline of his body forms the skyline, with his head to the south and his feet to the north. The Peak was then known as Te Mata O Rongokako meaning “The Face of Rongokako”, but has been shortened to the more familiar Te Mata Peak over time. European settlers also thought the hills resembled a man lying down and called him the “Sleeping Giant”.
The grieving Hinerakau covered the body of her husband before leaping to her own death from the precipice on the Waimarama side of the Peak. The gully at the base of the cliff was formed when her body struck the earth.
Te Mata Peak is close by within our neighbourhood and we head up there most days to take in the magnificent views and the tranquility. When we’re at The Peak we have a sense of it being a very special place with a lovely calming energy. Dave says it is a similar energy to how he felt being at Uluru or The Olgas in the Northern Territory.
The park has over 30 kilometers of walking and mountain bike tracks and the whole area was gifted in perpetuity to the community by the Chambers family in 1927. Although somehow it doesn’t seem right that they actually “owned” the land at all …..