What better to do on All Souls Day than wander around an ancient pa site?Otatara Pa is on the outskirts of Napier, approximately 13km from the centre of town. It’s one of the largest pa in New Zealand. The site is jointly managed by the Department of Conservation and the hapu (families) based at Waiohiki marae.
A pa can be a village. It’s usually fortified and usually found on a prominent hill. In total Otatara covers 40 hectares. More than three thousand people lived here from the late 1400s until the mid 1500s. (This was well before European colonisation which began in the 1800s.)
Otatara Pa is ideally positioned.
It’s the highest point in the area and access to the river and estuary, important food sources for the people who once lived here, is relatively easy. In the mid 1500s the pa came under siege and was eventually defeated by Taraia of Ngati Kahungunu. The iwi (tribe) eventually dominated the Takitimu region from Northern Hawkes Bay to the Wairarapa. Because of the number of people who died in the fighting the site was made tapu (sacred) and never occupied again.
The area in front of this bluff was the site of a major quarry, after the 1931 earthquake. The fill was used to rebuild Napier. The quarry operated until the 1980s. Unfortunately much damage was done to the site. In those days there was little regard for Maori history. Thankfully, that is beginning to change. The area now works well as an outdoor theatre.
The track is well formed and is mostly an easy gradient. There are occasional stiles to clamber over.
The fences are electrified on account of the stock – lots of sheep – so be careful not to touch. I know from experience (not yesterday, it’s a lesson I’ve only needed to learn once) that electric fences pack a punch for the unwary!
There’s company along the way. These fellas caught sight of us and scarpered.
It was hot yesterday, summer hot. Sunscreen, a sun hat, and water, were essentials – apart from my camera, that is. The views are the sort that make you glad to be alive.
The site has a lot of middens and kumera pits. (Kumera is a type of sweet potato and was a staple for Maori in pre-European times)
Otatara Pa is a popular running and walking route. John knows it
as well as better than the back of his hand. Me, not so much. I hadn’t visited since our boys were, well, boys! It’s a pleasant walk for the averagely fit. There are easy to read signs full of information about what life might have been like when the Pa was inhabited.
The YouTube clip is worth watching. It includes part of a karanga – song of welcome and a summary of the history on the site.
For more Monday walks visit Restless Jo
Categories: Off The Beaten Track in Aotearoa