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Top Guides brings together


Your connection to some of

the most spectacular experiences

on offer in Taranaki

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Top Guides brings together


Your connection to some of

the most spectacular experiences

on offer in Taranaki

TARANAKI’S SACRED SHINING PEAK

Sitting right in the centre of Taranaki region, and dominating the entire landscape, is the mountain of the same name – the 2518 metre peak that is also known as Taranaki.

The Maori name translates to Shining Peak, which recognises the fact that on a clear day the mountain displays the white snow on its upper slopes. Tara translates to mountain, while naki (or Ngaki) translates to shining.

Actually, the mountain has two names. When it was first sighted by English explorer James Cook in 1770, he named it Mt Egmont in honour of John Percival, the 2nd Earl of Egmont who had also been the 1st Lord of the Admiralty. That became its official name for the next 215 years.

But Maori had always known the mountain as Taranaki, and in 1986 the Government recognised that by ruling that it should have two official names under an alternative names policy administered by the New Zealand Geographic Board.

All this means that Taranaki’s mountain, a quiescent stratovolcano that is 120,000 years old and which last erupted about 300 years ago, can be called either Egmont or Taranaki. But these days the beautiful peak is almost exclusively called Taranaki, leaving Egmont as the name of the national park it sits in.

A further fascinating fact about Mt Taranaki is that it is now a legal personality, which recognises the peak’s relationship with Maori, who regard it as an ancestor and family member.

This sacred relationship between Taranaki and the region’s indigenous people is the reason why standing on the very summit of the mountain is discouraged – it is likened to standing on a person’s head, and is considered offensive.

Because Taranaki is considered to be a person, legend abounds in Maori lore as it why it sits alone of the western side of New Zealand’s North Island.

Legend has it that it was once situated with all the other volcanoes in the middle of the North Island. All the mountains – Taranaki included – desired a beautiful small mountain called Pihanga, and this caused a terrible battle to break out.

The mountain called Tongariro won, forcing Taranaki to flee west. The path of his journey formed the Whanganui River, when he paused to rest his weight formed a great depression known as the Ngaere Swamp, and when his path was blocked by the Pouakai Range the sun came up, causing the mountain to become petrified at its current location.

Maori lore says that when it rains in Taranaki, the mountain is crying for his lost love. But whenever there’s a beautiful sunset, Taranaki is displaying himself for Pihanga to see.

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