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From Otatara Pa look towards Cape Kidnappers across the Heretaunga Plains

From Otatara Pa look towards Cape Kidnappers across the Heretaunga Plains

Having finished what I needed to do at Te Awanga, my next block of filming was at Otatara Pa.

I had 3 scenes to shoot, and they needed mid-day and afternoon sun, but the forecast didn’t look too flash…. ‘Clear early, then clouding over’; so I got myself off to an early start.

By 10:30 I was striding up Otatara Pa. On the way up I got all the cut-away shots I needed, and then set about the main work on the top ridge.

By the time I’d finished the first scene I’d noticed the drop in temperature. Cloud was building and it was getting darker. I wouldn’t have time to do all three scenes before the weather packed in. Looking at what I had to do, I decided that the middle scene could be done elsewhere at a pinch… I could use a nondescript background, like a bushed hillside.

Plan “A” wasn’t happening.

I pressed on quickly with the third scene. This HAD to be done at Otatara, as I needed to indicate North-West from the top ridge… the direction that Tumatakokiri went.

I’d just finished that as a lone tramper came along the ridge, straight down the line of the lens… but that was OK, I was pretty confident I’d got that scene ‘in the can’.

We fell to talking, about what I was doing, who did what, where etc. George (I’ll call him George) pointed out that if I was making a documentary about Abel Tasman, then surely I was on the wrong coast!

Well done George… you are the first person I’ve chatted to on this trip that knew that Tasman only sailed up the West Coast.

I launched into an explanation about the other waka’s, and was about to deliver a synopsis on the Voyage of the Tainui when I noticed the rainbow over his shoulder.

Rainbow… It’s not called a sun-bow is it!

‘Clear early, then clouding over’… rubbish! These clouds looked very wet indeed.

I brought the conversation to a rather abrupt end as I still had to get a shot to get of me striding off to the North-West, which I did in an intensifying drizzle.

It began to rain quite well as I packed my stuff up.

Early morning at Eclipse Beach

Early morning at Eclipse Beach

Back at the van I toweled off, and drove back across the plains to ‘Eclipse Beach’… where I’d watched the Lunar Eclipse. In the morning, I’d shoot the missing scene against some bush that backed onto the campsite, and then head off to Taupo.

I woke with the dawn, and what a cracker. It was sunny with a crystal clear atmosphere.

Plan “A” went out of the window… and I drove back to Otatara Pa. I’d shoot the missing scene back on the hilltop there.

Ruapehu from Otatara Pa

Ruapehu from Otatara Pa.

As I crossed the plains, my attention was suddenly drawn to the horizon. I could see Ruapehu! It’s 112 km away from where I was, but being able to see it was really important to my storyline. Tumatakokiri took his people from the plains to lake Taupo, at the foot of those snow covered peaks… perfect! And there is was, shining white on the horizon… and visible from Te Awanga.

I did the missing scene, and then re-shot the piece describing Tumatatkokiri’s departure… this time I could point to where he went, and then walk off towards it. Brilliant!

Getting a move on I drove on straight away towards Taupo, over the Tarawera range. It was an absolutely gorgeous drive up through the valleys with the autumn tinted vines of the plain slowly giving way to the hardened grasslands of the plateau.

Sunset on Ruapehu across Lake Taupo

Sunset on Ruapehu across Lake Taupo

As I crested the range I was delighted to find that Ruapehu was still clear… and again, I abandoned my first plan… which was to go to the South end of the Lake. Instead, I went back to ‘5 Mile’ campsite… where I could enjoy that view of Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe at sunset.


You know… Plan B worked out so-ooo much better than Plan A.

Lake Taupo from above Turangi

Lake Taupo from above Turangi

Lake Rotoaire, looking at Tongariro and Ngauruhoe

Lake Rotoaire, looking at Tongariro and Ngauruhoe. This is ‘Mordor’ in The Lord of the Rings

Steaming vents on Mt Tongariro

Steaming vents on Mt Tongariro

The next day came up gloomy, so I did Taupo… some shopping essentials, a coffee made by someone else… and of course, the Library.

I was looking for information about the Ngati Tumatakoriri in the Taupo area… but I wasn’t hopeful. The Tumatakokiri’s fate was that they were wiped out in about 1830, and their oral tradition was lost… and sure enough, I’d already seen the scant material they had, but I did pick up some other useful details about who else was around at the time, and it confirmed that the Tumatakokiri almost certainly went where I thought they did.

Back at ‘5 Mile’ I moved myself off the waterfront… I needed to get out of the wind, and pretty soon I was able to sit out in the sun again, sheltered behind a big willow… and up came Graham… (not ‘George’. I asked his name this time, and actually remembered it!).

We sat and yarn-ed a while over a coffee, and I really enjoyed the company. It’s been quite a while since I had an actual, whole, conversation with someone. Thank you Graham.

From 5 mile I’d explored around and found where I’d tell the next part of the Kurahaupo story. Lake Rotoaire, and that’s where I was today… absolutely stunning!

The lake was calm, covered with all manner of water fowl, and what a backdrop… Tongariro, and Ngauruhoe… both bright and clear in the sun, and both steaming away merrily.

I drew quite a crowd as I stood there, alone, filming me, talking to myself. More questions, more explanations… I don’t mind.

What a great few days… and the downside? Unfortunately, clear skies are great during the day, but that means cold at night… and the forecast for tonight is… 2 (yes two!) degrees… and that’s the forecast for Taupo.

I am not in Taupo, I’m on the plateau well above Taupo, at the foot of Mount Ruapehu, 15 km from National Park.

Ruapehu from the head of the Whanganui River

Mount Ruapehu from the head of the Whanganui River

It’s going to be a cold one.

Time to put the jug on, crank up the heating, and get ready for tomorrow.

And tomorrow’s action?… down the Whanganui river road.

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