The Legend of Taranaki

By Ian Middleton

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This website and its articles contain links and adverts. The adverts and some links, but not all, are affiliate links. This means that if you click and buy something I will receive a small percentage of money, but at no extra cost to you. The price remains the same if you buy.

The legend

Standing alone on the western fringes of New Zealand’s North Island sits the sad and lonely, but eminent figure of Mount Taranaki. According to Maori legend, in ancient times the giant volcanoes of the central North Island’s Taupo Volcanic Zone were gods and Taranaki lived alongside the great Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.

One day however, Taranaki fell in love with Pihanga, the wife of Tongariro. The two embarked upon a whirlwind affair, while Tongariro was away. Upon his return they went to war. Fire and lava belched from the great mountain peaks for days, until finally Taranaki was defeated. Slowly and solemnly, the great volcano headed west, his path carving out the Wanganui River, and his tears filling its channel. Finally he came to rest on a small peninsula on the western coast. Here he hides in a mist of tears, lamenting the loss of his beautiful Pihanga.

The facts

Taranaki is a dormant volcano on the north island of New Zealand, enshrouded in mist most of the time but occasionally revealing himself to all.

Taranaki last erupted in 1755 and has been dormant ever since. On its southern slope is a bulge known as Fanthams Peak, said by some to be the child of the two lovers huddled upon his back. But the slightly more worrying fact is that Mount St Helens, in Washington State, USA, had the same bulge appear on its back before its deadly eruption.

When Captain Cook first came here he named the mountain Mt Egmont, after the man who funded his explorations. In 1900 the Egmont National Park was created, and a visitor centre was built at the start of the modern day summit trail. A huge network of hiking trails fan out from here, including the AMC (around the mountain circuit) and the summit trail. At the centre we gathered all the information we would need for our intended hike to the top. Around 53 people have died here, including some experienced hikers. Many tourists come here on a warm, sunny day and set off up the trail in shorts, tee shirt and inappropriate footwear, only to suddenly find that Taranaki changes his mood and clouds sweep in and engulf the unwitting hiker. The day can start off clear, but by midday it can be completely enshrouded in mist with zero visibility.

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Disclosure:

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