Exploring Mount Eden (Maungawhau) in Auckland16 December, 2013
No trip to Auckland would be complete without a visit to Mount Eden – one of Auckland’s highest natural point (the SkyCity SkyTower is of course much higher). The views from the peak are absolutely breathtaking – on a clear day you can see for miles in all directions (Waiheke island, One Tree Hill and North Shore to name a few in the immediate vicinity). Not only can you go there during the day, you can also enjoy the lights of Auckland City at night.
Mount Eden (Maungawhau, the ‘Mountain of the Whau tree’ in Māori) is the second highest natural point in the whole of the Auckland region. It is located 4 kilometres south of the Central Business District (CBD). Mount Eden (Maungawhau) is one of the most prominent volcanic cones remaining in the Auckland region. Erupting about 15,000 years ago from three overlapping scoria cones, it formed a huge scoria mound with a central crater from the last eruption. Lava flowed out from the base of the mound, and in some places the lava is more than 60 metres thick.
The slopes of Maungawhau were once densely populated by Māori. Maungawhau was a significant fortified pā, large enough to provide refuge for several hundred Maori people. Extensive earthworks modified the steep upper slopes of the cone.
One of the most prominent feature of Mount Eden is the huge 50-metre deep crater. The crater is known as the food bowl of Matāoho and is a sacred Maori place. No tourists are allowed to go down the crater. You might just get chased by a Maori warrior with a taiaha (a spear-like Maori weapon)!
Instead of provoking the Maoris, you can grab yourself a picnic, sit, relax and enjoy the serenity that this volcano has to offer i.e. enjoying the beautiful views and enjoying the peace or take a walk along the hiking trails of Mount Eden.
Some tours to Mount Eden include a short introduction to Maori culture. Our tour guide is a Maori himself – proudly showing us his Maori tattoo Tā moko. Tā moko is the permanent body and face marking by Māori. Traditionally it is distinct from tattoo and tatau in that the skin was carved by uhi (chisels) rather than punctured. This left the skin with grooves, rather than a smooth surface.
We were also introduced to the Haka – a traditional ancestral war cry, dance or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. Various actions are employed in the course of a performance, including facial contortions such as showing the whites of the eyes and the poking out of the tongue, and a wide variety of vigorous body actions such as slapping the hands against the body and stamping of the feet. As well as chanted words, a variety of cries and grunts are used. Haka may be understood as a kind of symphony in which the different parts of the body represent many instruments. The hands, arms, legs, feet, voice, eyes, tongue and the body as a whole combine to express courage, annoyance, joy or other feelings relevant to the purpose of the occasion.