Image credit: Duane Wilkins
With sheets of mist covering the treetops muffling the never-ending flow of the water right below it, the hills surrounding the Whanganui river is as silent as it can be. In the ceremonial centre of the Maori meeting grounds, Tieke Kainga, the wooden-faced Pouwhenua welcomes you as you venture in the hills and river of Whanganui river.
A popular destination for cyclists, hikers, canoeists and campers, the Whanganui river and the Tieke Kaing is one of the world’s most unforgettable campsites. It is also a Maori Settlement that was inhabited for more than 500 years before being abandoned in the early 20thcentury after a disagreement with the non-Maori (Pakeha) governments.
After a re-establishment in 1993, Tieke Kainga is made into both a Department of Conservation bunkhouse and camping ground. Not only that, the grounds is an important gathering place for the local Hapu (clan). The Pouwhenua that greets you is not a mere decoration but is a symbol that signifies the clan’s story, flowing along with the river from the ancestral Mt Ruapehu.
Image credit: Prankster
Today, Maori and Pakeha both thrive on the sea and river, as regularly demonstrated by New Zealand’s world beating water-sports teams. There’s no better way to experience the Kiwi culture than to go on a water-borne expedition.
You can tackle the 56-mile stretch known as the Whanganui Journey, also known as the Great Walk. The journey offers the endless glorious natural habitats and the Maori heritage that is scattered around the Whanganui National Park.
The Whanganui river offers a three day guided canoe exhibition that will trace the meanders of New Zealand’s longest navigable river. The smooth current will allow you enough time to have a gaze around the green walls that towers on either sides. Although you might occasionally encounter a small whirlpool during your exhibition, it is not as scary as it sounds and will add on a bit of a thrill during your journey.
Image credit: Department of Conservation
A stay in the camping grounds is an escape from your u. With foggy mornings and misty dawns, the sound of the flowing stream nearby is already an experience and a lullaby. The entire area is covered with culture and heritage, with history peeking its head in different areas.
With the Maori’s special connection with the waterway extending all the way back centuries ago, you will get a perfect sense at the end of trip that river paddling is not just a mere activity, but is the Maori way of life.