This is the story of the retrieval of the stone from the Tararua Mountain range as written by Kerehi Wi Warena who made the long trek into the mountains to find it for us.
Below Kerehi and Kaumatua Te Hira (Kevin Hill) at the ceremony for the laying of the stone.
At the request of a Kaumatua to knowing of any stones available to lay as a kohatu for the Te Takere project I offered a suggestion that for the importance of that type of project we the Iwi of Muaupoko offer something very close, relevant to not just us as Iwi but something connected to this region holistically. The inspiration for an item from the peaks of Tararua made absolute sense. This idea resonated well with the kaumatua so I elected to volunteer myself for a reconnaissance into the hills to find an object of sorts suited for the occasion.
Initially I was to earmark a find (Kohatu) then return to civilisation and gather a hikoi to uplift the object should the occasion be necessary, as an alternative if I could not hump something out alone. The journey was to take the best of 12hrs hiking full round trip give my previous experiences moving through the Mountains alone. The ascent to the tops of Arete (the highest peak west facing in the TARAUA) took all of seven and a half hours. Including a series of rest stops and video filming along the way the actual time easily consumed 8-9hrs. I was dropped at the end of Poads Road by a Kaumatua who said a small karakia prior to leaving at a delayed schedule of about 3-4 hours. Aware of this prompted me to make haste through the lower river passage, the ascent of the Yates 500 leading up to Te Matewai Hut.
Upon the ascent of Arete I elected to descend to the Biv for a rest before taking the journey out to home. Time had got away a bit as the weather along the tops picked up in ferocity. I had not selected the item at that point and the daylight had already begun to dissolve. I was suited to remaining the night on the tops rather than hike with a torch through dense cloud cover, despite my knowledge of the trail. The next morning fared no better, but well rested I was ready to begin the final part of the journey back to the start point where it all began the previous morning.
Arete was too clouded and the search too laborious to consider hanging around so I move down to the lower peak out called Pukematawai. Dropping below the dense cloud cover the Horowhenua, Kapiti Coast, the Taranaki bite, Ruapehu/Tongariro, Taitoko, Punahau, Waiwiri, the Manawatu and the Tasman Sea came into full view at an instant. Moving off the peak by forty metres an innocuous stone caught my interest which I tested for its bond to the Mountain side. It wiggled easily to the touch and came away with ease at an instant lift. This item seemed suited by its size and weight for the kohatu I had intendeed to find as opposed to needing a hikoi for a 40-60kg lift out. Lacking suitable packing inside the backpack the stone quickly placed a heavier toll on me for the return journey than had been anticipated.
I laboured past Te Matawai Hut and arrived at the junction of Butchers Saddle and the South Ohau Hutt at an ever decreasing pace. The rock had become ballast and a swinging pendulum since the 3rd-4th knob prior to striking Te Matawai Hutt. A decision about heading along the upper ridge line to Gable End Ridge and out to Paods Road or alternately, elect to head directly to Waiopehu Peak and out onto Poads Road was superseded by an immediate drop down Yates 500 to South Ohau Hutt and a crawl over boulders the size of cars and small houses, a 40 minute bush track stint out to Paods Road. The decision was clear that the ascent route will be the safest passage home given the location of a Hutt suited for resting at prior to heading out on the final of leg the journey home.
Resting at South Ohau Hutt my attention had been drawn to the WHOMPING of a Helicopter landing at the site. Curiously I watched what I perceived to be a tramping party climb out from the Chopper without firearms but present with locals I identified as both representative of the local Police force and the Search and Rescue Team. I asked if they were looking for anyone hoping that I could assist with their search, when one of the staff in the party advised me I was the individual of their intended interest.
A discussion ensued about my physical state and condition, my intended route home along with a number of other inquisitions that I was happy to answer. The offer for a lift out by Helicopter was made and given the time of day seemed unreasonable to decline (albeit an offer I later discovered was non-negotiable under the circumstances), I collected my items, the staff returned mattresses to the hut I rested upon on the balcony and we were all off into the sky. The debrief at the HQ for S&R had me calibrating a series of short misgivings in relation to preparation, equipment and communications. In summary I cannot thank those volunteers that give up their time and effort to keeping the TARARUA a safe place for all to enjoy. At the debrief I learnt a lot about the inside operations for assessing climber risk and associated hazards that couple with lost and wondering recreational users, but certainly I am a lot more mindful of the quick response time of the S&R team, including Police at initiating teams sufficient in the art of Rescue type activities. Also in summary I advise that TARARUA are no place to fool around in.
I have spent many years in these environs to know the lay of the land, its trails and rest points along the tops. The Mountains are an unforgiving place; they are renowned to be extremely inhospitable and fickle at the worst time possible. I personally discourage poor planning, as even the most seasoned trampers and hikers have come unstuck meeting very fatal consequences as a result of failed planning.
The Kohatu arrived home sound and has since been accepted by Iwi as the Mauri for Te Takere community project. The ceremony for the laying of the stone has been conducted, the construction team are headlong into the raising the project off the ground and into the assets of the community.
Te Hira, Mayor Brendan Duffy and Muaupoko CEO Steve Hirini (holding Tihi Pukematawai in a 100 yr old kete).
NAME: Tihi Pukematawai (Peak of Facial Waters) from where the kohatu was uplifted
SIZE: 12-15kgs, roughly a football in volume
PROPERTIES: Common Greywacke (weathered and wind shattered)
UNIQUENESS: Raised from the Ocean floor millions of years ago forming one of Tararua mountainous peaks, whittled down by prevailing north-south westerlies to form sediments that are conveyed by the upper water catchments and eventually washed out to the western coastline forming inshore fisheries habitat and coastal dune systems.
CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE: Taonga, present during the occupation of Muaupoko who traversed Tararua repeatedly over 700years into the Wairarapa, Whangahui-a-Tara and visa versa.
CURRENT DESTINATION: Te Takere entrance way
DONORS: Muaupoko Iwi
CLIENT: Horowhenua District Council and Community