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Māori folklore

Kohatu-Piko, Hihikiwi and Patupaiarehe


Many, many years ago, one of the tracks over the mountain from the coast to the Waipa Valley would take the traveller past Kohatu Piko or 'The Crooked Rock'.


As time passed, many travellers disappeared on this route and were never heard of again. Upon investigation, it was found that a huge taniwha (or fearsome monster) lived in the cavern-like recess beneath the rock and would devour any passer by.

Something had to be done, so a party of brave warriors climbed to the top of the rock while the taniwha slept. They prepared a large boulder above the cave, tied a slave to a long flaxen rope and lowered him to the entrance.


When the taniwha scented human flesh it came roaring out of the cave. At the right moment, the warriors pushed the boulder over the edge, hitting the taniwha on the head and killing it.


It is said that the ridge running down into the valley below the rock is the decomposing body of the taniwha.


Māori legend suggests that it is not just cold weather that makes one shudder or shiver on Hihikiwi.


It is one of the ancient ancestral homes of the Patupaiarehe (people of the mists). These fairy-like folk will only travel in the dark or under the cover of mists.


Travellers caught by heavy mists or by nightfall, would have the eerie sensation they were being watched by a thousand unseen eyes - enough to make the bravest a little nervous.


Ruarangi and his beautiful wife Tawhaitu lived beside the Hakarimata Range. One day Tawhaitu went to dig kumara. Unknown to Tawhaitu, a handsome Patupaiarehe chief called Whanawhana was watching from the bushes nearby. Creeping up silently, he grabbed her and carried her off to Hihikiwi, the home of the Patupaiarehe on the summit of Pirongia mountain.


By reciting incantations and hypnotizing her with sweet music from his pūtōrino flute, Whanawhana kept Tawhaitu with him all night under his spell.

In the morning Tawhaitu was sent home where she told Ruarangi what had happened and said that when night came she would not be able to resist the fairy chief's spell. Night after night this happened, until Ruarangi resolved to put a stop to it. The tohunga of the tribe urged the couple to build a hut of fern tree fronds and to lay a log across the doorway as a threshold. The hut and threshold were coated with kokowai, red earth mixed with shark oil, as were their bodies and clothes.


The tohunga also told Tawhaitu to prepare an umu oven in front of the hut so the smell of the steamed food would waft around the house and into the bush.

As the sun set, Whanawhana appeared because his usual spells to carry off Tawhaitu had not worked. The smell of kokowai and cooked food hung heavily in the air and the chants of the tohunga echoed still. Whanawhana realized he was unable to do anything to regain Tawhaitu. He felled a tree, leant it against the hut, and climbed up onto the roof, but still there was no way he could enter to charm her.

Whanawhana vanished, never to be seen again. It is said that the union of Tawhaitu and the fairy chief is obvious even today in the urukehu (copper-coloured) hair of the people from the banks of the Waipa.

This amazing mural is extremely large, covering the entire front wall of the Pirongia School Hall. 

Mike Judge's mural, painted for Pirongia School in 2003, is a spectacular representation of the mountain - celebrating its cultural links, its dramatic skyline, imposing presence and its association with local communities.


Rocky outcrops

Mahaukura: The red stained shelter or the treasured shelter
Wharauroa: The long sheltering (of a person or animal)
Tirohanga: The viewing point
Ruapane: The pit of heads
Tahuanui: The great heap (of food) or hillock
Tiwarawara: Split between two ridges or ravine


Kaniwhaniwha: Dancing stream
Mangakara: Dark or odoriferous stream

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