Rising as high as 2,518m above sea level, Mt Taranaki sits proudly in the heart of Te Papakura o Taranaki, previously known as the Egmont National Park.
This volcanic, snow-capped wonder last erupted in 1854 and is believed to be ‘overdue’ on another. According to studies carried out by Massey University, it is expected that seismic activity is likely to happen again in the next 50 years.
The name is derived from Māori linguistics, with tara meaning mountain peak, and naki originating from ngaki, meaning “shining” – referring to it’s glistening hood of snow. Māori mythology has it that Taranaki once rested in the middle of the North Island with all of New Zealand’s volcanoes. Pīhanga, a beautiful female mountain, was fought over by Taranaki and Tongariro in a great battle and won by Tongariro. His victory saw the banishment of Taranaki to the west coast, and his movements left the prominent features of Whanganui, the Patea Rivers and the Ngaere swamp – his rest spot – in his path. Taranki’s journey was soon blocked by the Pouakai ranges, and as the sun rose, he became frightened in his path.
It is said that when Taranaki conceals himself in rainclouds he is crying for his lost love, and during exquisite sunsets it is believed he is displaying himself to her. In turn, the eruptions of Tongariro are believed to be a warning to Taranaki never to return.
Accompanied by my new found Kiwi friend and designated tour guide, Liam, we decided to venture up and explore what this magnificent mountain had to offer us. Mt Taranaki is surrounded with activities ranging from day-long loop tracks to multi-day hiking trails. The Dawson Falls is a close-by attraction, along with the Wilkie Pools which offers tourists a chance to unwind alongside the beautiful clear ponds fed by the mountain waters. The flora of the area is a botanists dream with lush greenery flooding the lower regions, and shrubbery clumping the midsections before the gravelled and snow tipped summit. With a little legwork, the higher trails give an overview to the low-lying towns and distant view of the endless sea. On a clear day, a direct view of the Mt Ruapehu is easily seen from the wooden lookout platform in the Taranaki carpark.
For those looking to visit the mountain, ensure you pack some comfortable walking shoes and perhaps a dry change of clothes if you are planning to have a dip in the pools.
What an honour it was to play in the icy pools formed by the pools which cascade down the volcanic foothills formed from the melting snow. Taranaki iconically stands, laced with rich history, and can be seen from all angles by foot and by car. Next time, I’ll be aiming to touch the snow!