59. Coopers Beach and Taumarumaru Reserve

We walked all over the Taumarumaru Reserve, which is protected as a historic pā (fortified part of a village) and papakāinga (village) for the Ngāti Awa iwi (tribe). Once, warriors would watch not only for friends and traders paddling in, but also for enemy tribes (a lot of travel happened by sea hundreds of years ago, just like now) while life continued alongside in the papakāinga, with food both grown (kumara) and collected from the sea (kaimoana).

Three pā were situated here – Taumarumaru (or perhaps Rangikapiti), Otanenui and Ohumuhumu.

The first one we head up, and the biggest, is Taumarumaru.
Walking uphill, we can see Ohumuhumu which is the promontory in the background.
Looking back over the township of Cooper’s Beach, where our caravan is parked up at the bowling club. The contrast between housing in Northland strikes us again and again. There are these wealthy-looking places dotted between places of much lower economic standard. The contrasts are more pronounced than I’ve noticed at home in the South Island. It feels out of place – why would you have wealth and poverty side by side…if the quality of living increases in a country (it’s not so long ago that physical living conditions were much harder for all of us) why not take everyone with you? This is a social, economic and political challenge for NZ…on the other hand, less flash housing means less impact on the environment, so as long as the housing is warm in the winter, why do we need more?
Onward and upwards
This promontory is Otanenui
I haven’t photograhed it well, but on this part of the walk were pits dug into the ground, long grass growing out of them. These pits are where kumara were once stored after the annual harvest, to last all through the coming year.
On top of Otanenui
These natural gullies were dug deeper as part of fortifying the pā site from invaders – of course tall fences made from wood lined these ditches, making it pretty much impossible for anyone to enter unannounced. It’s pretty interesting to see examples of these in handpainted pictures – there are plenty of images online if you want to check it out.
Looking back towards Taumarumaru
Walking back around the base of Taumarumaru towards Ohumuhumu
Ahead of us is Ohumuhumu, but we’ll drop down to the beach first. You can see another deepened ditch that would once have been lined with fortified fencing.
On the beach
Next day we walked all along Cooper’s Beach and back. We tried to find some fossilised coconuts – when Māori first arrived in NZ they tried growing quite a few different foods from the Pacific Islands, coconuts being one of them. They grew badly, smaller than chicken’s eggs, but you can occasionally find one that was buried and preserved at Cooper’s Beach; best to try looking after stormy weather. Kumara was the only food that really worked, and even then only in the north where it’s warmer; the further south you went the harder it became. Around Nelson, where we live, Māori farmers way back burned wood into coal and dug it into their kumara plots to try and trap more heat from the sun. Back in Kerikeri we learned that Māori embraced the range of vegetables and fruit brought by European sea captains and missionaries and quickly had great gardens of them growing all around the North Island (no doubt in the South Island too).
Not far from here (north) you can also find fossilised echinoderms; apparently you have to be very lucky!
The odd rain shower passed over, but Kevin in his hat and me with my umbrella were all set up.
There were two or three kites flown by different people as we walked along.
Just about everyone else on the beach wore gumboots, a great idea, we realised, when we came across a shallow river. Oh well, easy enough to remove shoes and splash across – and not put the shoes back on.
The clouds and sun interacted to create wonderful drama in the sky which I watched for quite some time.

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