Te Ahumairangi Hill: History, Majesty, And Māoriness

*Nov ’16 (update): Since writing this (*02/16), I’ve spent a substantial chunk of time familiarising myself with the many metaphorical veins and arteries that comprise Te Ahumairangi’s inner track system.  Basically, I favour a specific route these days, and simply wanted to add that here.

I’ve abandoned the Waterworks end as a start-point, and tend to enter at/on the Harriett Street side.  I follow the Northern Walkway, Southern Connector, get on to the Loop Walk (*and “drive-by” the tunnel and quarry), jump back on to the Northern Walkway, and return the same way I came in.

So essentially, I travel from one end of the Hill to the other, and back again – albeit via slightly different altitudes.

Have a go…


We have a saying (*also a much-loved and revered song) at the Māori language pre-school that I work at to describe our profound, collective sense of kinship towards our local landscape:

“Te Ahumairangi te maunga,

Kaiwharawhara te awa,

Ko Te Whanganui-a-Tara te moana;

Ko Ngake, ko Whātaitai ngā kaitiaki e rua,

Ko [tēnei whare kei Pipitea] te kura mātauranga.”

Loosely translated, it proclaims this: that ‘Te Ahumairangi’ is our mountain, ‘Kaiwharawhara’ is our river, ‘Te Whanganui-a-Tara’ is our harbour, ‘Ngake’ and ‘Whātaitai’ are our two guardians, and that given all these things are indeed true, we are [this specific place of learning, at Pipitea].

Sayings Proclamations like these are common essential in the Māori world view.  They locate us in terms of our geographical landscape/s (*wherever we may be, or come from (ancestrally-speaking)), and within our entire cosmos – from the beginning/s of life itself to who we are currently, as-in that old chestnut of a revelation: “I am”.

We utter them aloud, sending them out into the Universe where they ripple and resonate throughout the many realms and layers of Heaven itself, for all our ‘tīpuna’ (“ancestors”) to hear: I am you, and you are me.

Incredibly deep, profound, powerful stuff.

For me, this personal connection with Te Ahumairangi Hill via my workplace adds something of an extra layer to this hike – an increased feeling of affection and affiliation, let’s say.  A relationship, even.

This is magnified by the fact that the peak itself is an important historical feature of our local Pipitea landscape – relevant, because I consider myself to be a patriotic, born-and-bred-here Wellingtonian, and this history stuff actually matters, IMO.

Click here for a well-written, easy-to-read-and-digest history by Dominion Post journalist Rachel Buchanan – suitably titled: ‘The King of Wellington’s Hills’.  Of particular note is her explanation and translation of the word “Tinakori”: ‘an anglicised blend of ‘kāhore’ (“none”) and ‘tina’ (“dinner”).  Apparently, the Māori workmen who built the road along the mountain’s base had to labour without stopping for either lunch or dinner’.

I also love what she reports re: early Māori life there: ‘In summer the slopes were cloaked in crimson.  From the early C19, Te Āti Awa people living at Pipitea Pā planted kūmara, potato and melon on the slopes and ridges.  Orangi-Kaupapa, on the mountain’s western side, was an important cultivation ground’.

What a great article – balanced, informative, and experiential.  Of course, not all history is ultimately necessarily “pleasant” (you’re talking facts – *hello*) including our own here in Wellington, however I do deeply appreciate the opportunity to head-out on a hike with some place-based knowledge, and be mindful.

That, whānau, is also powerful.

Likewise are the many intricacies that co-conspire to make the nature-hiking experience meaningful in any given moment – particularly when you’re not alone.  I’m referring here to one moment, really: the decision on the part of my best home-girl to continue driving whilst en-route to our mutually proposed Te Ahumairangi-based parking-spot – thus placing us at a different entrance point from the one we originally intended to use.

Now, this is not a bad thing (*despite the teasing and half-grumbling I inflicted on her at the time, poor thing).  It’s how we always used to roll, actually, in the beginning.  We’d head-off and arrive somewhere, with very little pre-planning other than the assumption that we’d find a track, any track, and proceed to walk – this, and that whatever happened, happened.

Granted, it was not the most common-sense approach.  At the time, it felt to us like adventuring in its purest form, whereby you simply take yourself off to some place, and “follow your nose” from end-to-end.

Admittedly we still do that to a certain degree, but after seriously punching above our weight one time on the slippery slopes of Te Kopahou Reserve we are now far more prepared for whatever should eventuate out there (see here for how).

In this instance, at Te Ahumairangi, she made the best decision in following her nose from the very beginning, and we had such an awesome time up there.

Here’s a map of Te Ahumairangi’s track network– open this, and I’ll explain our route.

We started at the old Wellington Waterworks structure (1911) on Wadestown Road (*impossible to miss as you’re driving up there), and made our way on to the ‘Northern Walkway’.  From there, we used the ‘Southern Connector’ to get ourselves on to the (*minor-ish) ‘Paehuia Track’, and up to the Lookout.

We returned the same way, and found this spectacularly easy to do despite opting to remain on the Northern Walkway for slightly longer on the way back.

The major track network is well-maintained, and user-friendly – of course, you can choose to go the way/s of the marked minor tracks, but from personal experience the major ones are kinder on the body.

Each track has a unique, distinct look and feel about it, and I can assure you you’ll be itching to get your camera/s out and salute their finer details accordingly.

‘Northern Walkway’ – all massive views and awesomeness.  Here’s Te Whanganui-a-Tara.

‘Southern Connector’.
‘Paehuia Track’.
It’s an epic view from the Lookout; Wellington absolutely kills it, even on a cloudy day.

So then, if you’re enthusiastically Wellingtonian by-nature I’m going to set the challenge for you to get yourself up here, because even if all you’re open to is the nature-aspect of the place, you will not leave disappointed.

More than that though, I really hope that somewhere along there you’re open to pausing, closing your eyes, and exchanging some ‘hā’ (breath of life) by literally breathing-in all that history, majesty, and Māoriness.

Our journey took around one hour, each-way (what can I say(?), we amble) – that’s do-able any day of the week.

‘Haere pai atu, hoki ora mai nei’ – “Go well, and return safely”;


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