WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT MANAWATŪ, NZ?
“Ko Manawatū te awa, he awa tapu, hei piringa mauri, hei piringa tāngata..”
“The sacred river of Manawatū, where life force remains to bring people together.”
We were warmly welcomed by Rangitāne, the tāngata whenua (local Māori tribe) of this rohe (district) with a karakia (prayer) and mihi whakatau (greeting), outside Wild Base Discovery in Palmerston North’s Victoria Esplanade.
The centre is made up of specially designed recovery aviaries, a walkthrough aviary that houses tuatara and a variety of native birds, two breeding aviaries for the endangered whio (blue duck) and pāteke (brown teal), a support facility for vet care, and the interactive Powerco Innovation Centre .
This amazing new addition to the inner city, is fun for all ages. Walking along the Esplanade towards the river, surrounded by lush native kawakawa, we passed the iconic Esplanade Scenic Railway . Loads of happy faces waving out to us. A few minutes later, we arrive onto “He Ara Kotahi” (A pathway that brings people together) pedestrian bridge. The site where the bridge has been built, was once a thriving village of Mokomoko. It was occupied by Rangitāne, with established gardens, horticulture, and a lively trading port.
The design of the bridge comes from the karaka tree, which has strong significance for the Rangitāne people. Its “roots” are on the Massey University side of the river, and the canopy is in Dittmer Reserve, between the Esplanade and Ruha St. Rangitāne designed the pattern on top of the bridge to symbolise the puriri waka. That’s the hole moths make when they burrow into the bark. The “koru” patterns represent people.
The bridge now connects Palmerston North city directly to the Linton Military Camp, over a 7.1km track. An amazing place for commuters, families, and visitors to enjoy a relaxing stroll or bike ride, taking in farms, forests, old pā sites, and nature, alongside the mighty Manawatū River. At night, the bridge lights up, which is so magical!
“Nau mai, tahuti mai e te tī, e te tā ki Te Āpiti o Manawatū.”
“Welcome to Te Āpiti, a landmark of awe-inspiring legend, geographical magnificence, and cultural wealth.”
Travelling along Napier Rd (SH 3) for 12 kms, we approached the entrance way to Te Āpiti (Manawatū Gorge), our Māori guides welcomed us into this majestic, and powerful taonga (treasure), through their ancient stories and myths. There are various tracks inside Te Āpiti, however, we were very excited to climb the “Tawa Loop”. This gradual steep track takes you to the lookout and the ancient tīpuna, “Whātonga” statue.
Whātonga was one of the three recognized chiefs on board the “Kurahaupō” waka (canoe), which journeyed across the Pacific to Aotearoa, New Zealand. The Ngāi Tara and Rangitāne people trace their descent from Whātonga.
We were very fortunate to have the creator of this incredible Whātonga sculpture with us. Paul Horton, is a Palmerston North based sculptor, and he told us about how his small Whātonga creation was transformed into a 6.2m high, 1.5m across, and 1.2m deep galvanized steel statue. Thanks to an innovative local engineering company, who brought this to life!
Whātonga has been installed on the highest point of the Gorge track, facing out to towards Rangiwhakaoma (Castlepoint), meaning “where the sky runs”. This mahi (work) has been instigated by the Manawatu Gorge Restoration Group.Te Āpiti was formed over 1.5 million years ago, and it reminds us of another time, when the mighty Moa roamed this earth, standing strong against the force of the majestic Manawatū River. A place steeped in legend, mythology and natural beauty.
“Kei te ora te wai, Kei te ora te whenua, kei te ora te tāngata”. “(If the water is healthy, the land and the people are nourished).”
|Our last stop for the day took us to Ferry Reserve, a few minutes from Woodville township. An exciting collaborative initiative called “Tū Te Manawa” has begun here in the Manawatū-Tararua district.|
As part of this project, eight whare (meeting houses) will be built at culturally significant sites. The first one is here at Ferry Reserve. We were taken on a special historical journey with local Māori professor Hone Morris and his colleague Oriana Paewai, from Tāmaki nui a Rua (Dannevirke).
At each whare, there’s historical, cultural, and scientific narratives which provide a place for people to engage at the river’s edge, plus walk through the restorative planting area. There’s now signs of native birds and wildlife returning which is so heart-warming for our future tamariki (children). To follow this amazing story, and help in any way, please visit their website.
|This blog is the first of our Manawatū-Tararua travel series.|
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Haere Haumaru (Safe Travels)