Tongariro’s Silica Rapids Hint At Mythical Superhero Prowess

There are a few ketes-worth of myth and legend describing the origin/s of Tongariro National Park, and the uniquely volcanic landscape that features here.

Like any fabulous story, though, there’s one ever-present superhuman ‘common thread’ that connects them all…

‘Ngatoro-i-rangi’ — high priest of the Te Arawa waka, and supposedly known simply as “Ngatoro” to his peeps.

‘Whakapapa’ (“lineage”, or “birthright”) allowed him to introduce volcanic fire and activity to our land via ‘karakia’ (“incantations”) that ultimately saved his life when he became stuck amidst ice and snow atop Mount Tongariro.

[*aside: the kupu “Tongariro” stems from an exclamation within said karakia that very nearly eventuated, “Ka riro au i te tonga” — ‘Tonga’ being the southerly wind that he almost succumbed to, and ‘riro’ meaning to be “seized”, or “carried away”.]

And, everywhere you look in Tongariro National Park there are hints and constant reminders of Ngatoro’s near-fatal ‘brush’.

The saunter to Silica Rapids is absolutely one of these.

There are two routes on-offer to the same choice destination — one comprising something of an ‘upper-route’ (*enter on Bruce Road, a few hundred metres past the Visitor Centre), the other starting more or less opposite the Centre, and comparatively lower down the landscape.

Take the latter, lower route and you cross alpine bogs and boardwalks (stop and see if you can spot a kōura (our native freshwater ‘cray’, colloquially we call ’em “crawlies”)).

Alternatively, the historic lava gorges and gouges that typify the upper landscape’s stratum will leave an enduring impression that tends to lend support to Ngatoro’s main claim to fame.

Either way, you won’t regret getting in there for a couple of hours (*end to end) and having a nosey, especially if you’re in need of a tamer time of things after doing the Crossing.


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