Kayaking to the Maori Rock Carvings

Kayaking to the Maori Rock Carvings at Mine Bay, Lake Taupo, is one of the must do activities when you visit the Great Lake Taupo region.

We were staying in the lovely township of Turangi, known as the Trout Fishing Capital of New Zealand for our holidays. My family and I were looking for something fun to do that was also family orientated. We decided to head through to Taupo.

The road took us alongside the beautiful Lake Taupo. lt was a picturesque, like a mill pond that day. Upon seeing how beautiful the lake looked we decided to head to the Taupo i-SITE lnformation Centre to see if they could advise us on some things to do for the day. They suggested the Kayak Adventure to the Maori Rock Carvings as a must to see. They contacted the local company TKA (Taupo Kayaking Adventures in Taupo) to hook us up for our trip to the carvings.

We drove out to Acacia Bay to meet the owner and guide for the day, Lisa Crabb. We had chosen the trip which consisted of about a three hour kayak to the carvings. After our introductions and formalities we were on the sheltered waters of Acacia Bay heading for the Maori Rock Carvings at Mine Bay. We paddled around the amazing bays filled with native bush and steep cliffs.

Our guide Lisa Crabb told us the history of a distant mountain that we could see from our kayaks, which when carefully looking upon was a faint outline of a woman lying on her back with a smaller peak next to her, which was described as her son. As the legend goes, centuries ago the woman Rauhato lived by the lake with her husband, a Maori Chief of the Tuwharetoa Tribe.

During a war with the neighbouring tribe the Chief strapped his son to Rauhato and urged her to swim across the lake to safety. The following day Rauhato and her son climbed into a canoe and Rauhato began paddling back to the village, where they sadly capsized and drowned. Legend has it that at that moment they were immortalised in the form of these beautiful mountains.

As we continued paddling past this beautiful piece of history, we were told of the history of Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is referenced as a caldera, which means it had collapsed on itself. Taupo begun erupting about 300,000 years ago and the caldera which exists today was born from an eruption 27,000 years ago called Oruanui. Over time many more eruptions occurred and caused the caldera to fill with water, forming what people know today as Lake Taupo. Taupo's last major eruption was 1,800 years ago.

As we continued on we reached the awe inspiring Maori Carvings that towered over us, they were breathtaking looking up from our small kayaks. Carved into the surface of the rock was the face of Ngatoroirangi, a Chief Priest who was a great navigator and led the Tuwharetoa and Te Arawa tribes to Taupo more than 1,000 years ago. He is looking out across the lake to protect all people from the water dragon, The Taniwha.

This carving is 10 metres high and took four summers to complete. Alongside this spectacular masterpiece were other smaller carvings. A Tuatara (lizard) regarded by Maori as kaitiaki, meaning protector. The Tuatara with one head on the right side represents the protector of these carvings. The other Tuatara with three heads represents Horomatangi or protector of the lake.

Another rock I noticed a bearded man with flowing hair, with another figure clutching tightly to his unruly mane. We were told that this is a representation of Ngatoroirangi, he is holding onto the South Wind God to protect us humans from the south wind. These intricate carvings were created by young Maori carvers, who had very little experience with carving in stone. They faced objections from the local community as it was felt that they were damaging the natural environment. They eventually received the blessing of the local Maori Chief and it has now become an important cultural attraction which demonstrates Maori knowledge and skills that have been passed on through generations.

On our return trip we stopped on a beautiful plateau of big amazing red colour flat rocks. Here we were able to paddle in and hop out of our kayaks to stretch our legs. Our guide Lisa set up a lovely picnic table and chairs along with some yummy gourmet delights and hot and cold refreshment.

We were able to sit and chat, take pictures and take in the amazing views and enjoy the tranquility. There you could also venture around the rocks to explore or walk up a bush track which led to a lookout viewing point. The kids took the opportunity to enjoy a magical swim in the clear blue crystal lake and re-energise themselves for the enjoyable kayak back towards Acacia Bay.

Our family thoroughly enjoyed this trip. Seeing and learning the history of these amazing sights and carvings was definitely a fascinating experience for all. I had to agree that this was a must to see on the things to do.

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