Mount Mauao: Caught By The Morning Sun, & Then Some

*Nov ’16 (update): This post clearly highlights my contempt re: the shitty, shameful tendency for holiday revellers to utterly trash this sacred space, particularly at year’s end…

Well, as of October this year Tauranga City Council have decided to completely ‘can’ the region’s traditional New Year’s Eve bash on Main Beach, and opt for a more “youth-focused” soirée somewhere else.

I actually don’t care what specific reasons said council may have for doing this, public safety- or ‘other’-wise – that’s a win, whānau.


Managed to tick another couple of goals off my 2016 ‘really-really want to do this’ list, this past weekend.

Among them was a maiden hike to the summit of Mauao (232m, and a dormant volcanic cone) – also known as ‘Mount Maunganui’, or locally-slash-colloquially-cum-affectionately as: “The Mount”.

Granted, whilst there’s technically nothing particularly disparaging about the mount being referred to as simply ‘The Mount’ (I sincerely doubt there’s any intention whatsoever to “offend”), technically-speaking (*and true to Māori lore and legend) there is a much deeper meaning to this ‘ingoa-tūturu’, this “traditional name”, of “Mauao”.

I wonder question query whether this same depth resides and resonates within The Mount’s devotees in the same way I am unequivocally certain it does for the “tangata whenua” – or, ‘those born of the whenua (*land), and who place themselves terrestrially and celestially in the cosmos via Mauao, down, across, and through the generations’.

Admittedly, for all I know it may well do.

But here’s a little more on the difference/s, from my perspective:

Māori legend describes Mauao as a hill that was initially nameless, and slave to a nearby (and far more prestigious) mountain called ‘Otanewainuku’.  This insignificant little nameless hill was, as it happens, utterly besotted with the female mountain ‘Puwhenua’ – fine, except her heart belonged exclusively to Otanewainuku.

So, our nameless friend decided to end it all by drowning, and he asked some neighbouring ‘patupaiarehe’ (*a mythical, magical, Māori, ‘people of the night’ – also known as “faerie people”) for help.  They plaited special ropes for the task, and via these ropes (and a few chants and incantations) they very nearly succeeded.

The “catch” (*ugh*) was that the patupaiarehe needed to return home before sunrise – and so they did, but not without knowing and owning the fact that they’d be leaving this hill completely stranded in the process.

Thus, ‘mauao’ translates to: “caught by the morning sun”, and “Mauao” was named accordingly by his faerie mates.


As for ‘The Mount’ – well, that’s a pretty hip and trendy place to be at times, and it’s this moniker that tends to lure me into thoughts of numerous and recurrent social media recounts of New Year’s Eve celebrations, and straight-up-silly revelling.

Scarring from the most recent ‘brain explosion’ moment is still spectacularly present there, too.

I noticed the charring on the landscape as I neared the summit.

I also witnessed it in/on my mate, one of Mauao’s tangata whenua from Matakana Island, during a conversation we shared.

So you see, the differences are quite tangible for me, from my particular (*personal) philosophical standpoint.  My day-job (Māori teacher, Māori pre-school – *hello*) keeps me in close and constant contact with quite a few people who connect with Mauao as their unique and sacred space in the cosmos.  Additionally, the Māori ethos of applying personification to geographical landmarks such as our many different mountains sits incredibly comfortably with me.  I like it, and I appreciate Mauao’s story.

Mount Taranaki is blessed with tangata whenua who openly state their preference that visitors to the summit do not stand directly on the very top rock/s, because they view these boulders as the embodiment of what would otherwise comprise their ancestor’s head.  What’s more, they defend this stance to the end, with zero fucks given with regards to whatever the rest of the world might possibly have to say about it.

I’m sure Mauao’s many tangata whenua would also prefer that a similarly respectful regard be applied there too, and that idiots didn’t senselessly assume the right to attempt to fling fireworks off the summit and into the wider beach community, only to actually send part/s of this their unique and sacred space – their ancestor – into an uncontrollable blaze-cum-fucking shitstorm.

Just saying.

On that note, I think now’s a good time to state the most obvious thing of all: that Mauao-slash-“The Mount” is essentially many things to many people.  And in all honesty, one only needs to climb it to see the literal ‘all walks of life’ many who choose it as their preferred place to be on any given day.

And, why wouldn’t they(?) – Mauao’s tracks make for an absolutely stunning hike, with appropriate challenge levels for enthusiasts of all fitness types.

We took the “moderate” route to the top via the ‘Oruahine Track’, which starts from the boardwalk at the Surf Club, on the “ocean side”.  True to any and all claims, this track is totally moderate – not-to-mention scenic, and the very best thing/s about it are the mad-as rad-as views en-route to summit.

I thoroughly recommend this walk.

Of course, there’s a steeper option for those who like to huff-and-puff a little more than usual – the ‘Waikorire Track’.  This was our way down the mountain, and certainly every body who passed us on their way up to the top was suitably beet-red and breathless.

The main difference: stairs – stairs, and enough breathtaking scenery of the very best kind to make a difference if you miss anything, and this is your first-ever go at climbing Mauao.

Favourite trail signage – ‘Waikorire’.

Whichever route takes your fancy, you can always rest assured that the 360-degree views on-summit will provide more than enough motivation for you to get there, stay up there, and make a concrete promise to that free spirit of yours to go back for a return-visit sometime soon.

A summit view from Mauao towards Matakana Island.  Truth be told, the hoodie was a bit much, ’twas far too hot for it.  T-shirt weather at the bottom lends itself towards it being t-shirt weather at the top, too.
WW1 ‘Peace Day’ Monument: “On this spot on July 19th 1919, a beacon fire was lit to commemorate peace. Answering signals were received from: Otanewainuku, Pawharangi, Omanawa (2), Katikati Heads, Whakamarama, Motiti Island, Te Puna Point, Maketu, Omokoroa, Otamarakau, Matakana Island, Pikowai, Athenree, Paengaroa”.
Pōhutukawa – pleasantly everywhere, on-summit.

Take the basic essentials with you – plenty of fluid, snacks, sunscreen and associated sun-protection, and camera/s.  Our walk was an autumn one, and we still found that it was bloody muggy up there.

Click here if you feel as though you need a decent map of Mauao’s tracks to get you up, down, and ’round the place.

Enjoy – this one’s a stunner;


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