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Maori Carvings in Caves

There are very few places in New Zealand where one can get the opportunity to see ancient Maori carvings from a time that are not only pre-colonial, but also prior to the existing iwi. Murupara is one of those few locations, with the caves just eight kilometres northwest of the town in the Kaingaroa plains forest area. It is believed that the carvings predate the local iwi Ngati Manawa and are most likely to have been done by an artist of a previous and now non-existant tribe, Marangaranga.

A 1925 curators report from the Dominion Museum in Wellington explains that the carvings of the 16 waka, all pointing to the left, of are an unknown type and style to what was accepted as being traditional to that point. There are other carvings besides the waka. Because of the nature of the soft rock exposed to the elements, it is not known how much longer these carvings will last.

The World's Largest Beer Can Museum

It may be an odd place to find - but this amazing museum is here in the heart of the Galatea Valley and includes the very first beer can ever produced!

There are cans from everywhere, all with a history behind them. Some 12,000 have been collected over the years (Including a telephone one!) by the collection owner Barry Steiner.

And that's not all!

Included in the museum is a great history on tractors, along with many different models. It's a 'must-see' place and you can get more info on it here.

Kerosene Creek

This is one of the most beautiful thermal spots on offer in our region - and it is as natural (and as free!) as it gets.

Kerosene Creek features a lot in early Murupara history, being an early stopping stage for locals on their trip to or from Rotorua. Here they'd often bathe and change clothes before heading into the bright lights of town back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Absolutely family friendly, with lots of small waterfalls to massage those muscles, it remains a firm favourite with both locals and tourists alike, who have dug out holes in the rocks to sit under the small falls and enjoy the warmth of the water.

The getting there is easy, it is just past the Rainbow Mountain turnoff on SH 5 and you'll turn onto Old Wai-O-Tapu Rd, which is a gravelled road. Go exactly 2.2kms down there, park in the small carpark on the right.

The path to the falls is evident, with a two minute walk expected. There are small falls, then a little further in, the larger ones. A word of warning, leave your valuables back at the camp and not in your car. While things have improved because of an increased police presence, there are still opportunistic thefts in the carpark.

At night, take a torch.

In the height of the summer, if the forest fire season is extreme, the gates to the road will be closed and you would have to walk.

The Whirinaki Forest is an amazing place, much loved by our many European tourists who arrive each year from such diverse places as France, Italy, Switzerland, through to Denmark, England and Wales!

It's no wonder, the many different facets it provides enchant all who visit and many return, year after year. Some of the unique offers are listed below:

A unique spot in the Whirinaki Forest is the Arohaki Lagoon, a rainfed waterway which is home to a number of rare birds.

Access is via River road, off Old Te Whaiti Road, to the Arohaki Lagoon carpark.

You should have a reasonable level of fitness for the four km walk, as the terrain ranges from steep uplands to flats.

Birdlife includes rare species, especially the whio (blue duck), North Island kaka, red and yellow crowned kakariki, kiwi and kereru. The track passes through impressive tawa/podocarp forest.

The rain fed lagoon is surrounded by towering kahikatea and is often alive with frogs - and in times of drought, appears to dry up. Even so, it remains an interesting place to visit.

One of NZ's endangered parrots and one that is closely related to the big alpine parrot the kea, the kaka has a natural home in the Whirinaki Forest, one of the few places it can be found in any number in the North Island. This is given that the environment of the rainforest is in a relatively unchanged state, along with successful programmes to eradicate introduced predators such as stoats and possums. The Department of Conservation runs guided tours into the forest to see these wonderful birds in their natural surroundings; these can be booked at the Murupara office.

The track passes through impressive tawa/podocarp forest.

The rain fed lagoon is surrounded by towering kahikatea and is often alive with frogs - and in times of drought, appears to dry up. Even so, it remains an interesting place to visit.

The Whirinaki Forest Mountain Bike Track was purpose built in 2006 and weaves through one of the most spectacular and ancient forests in the world.

The track is designed for the eco mountain bike rider and requires a medium fitness and skill level (grade 2 - 3). The track is 16 km and most people complete it in 2 - 4 hours. Shorter sections of the track can also be ridden.

One of the best loved walking tracks in the Whirinaki Forest is the easy loop track that takes you to the beautiful Whirinaki Waterfalls. It is about a four hour trek, being just over 9kms from the carpark area. The falls can be heard from some distance away. On the way to them, you can see the ancient native trees of tawa, kahikatea, rimu, matai, miro and totara.

Fort Galatea

Fort Galatea, just eight kms down Kopuriki Rd from Murupara is a remnant of the rich history of the area. Back in the 1860's when well known Maori activist Te Kooti Arikirangi was busy inciting the Hauhau (a tribe belonging Ngati Tuhoe) against pakeha, the fort was constructed in May 1869 under the auspices of Colonel George Whitmore and was the biggest of several that were stationed in the area in order to send troops in to fight Te Kooti's forces.

The drive was relatively successful in that just over a year later, it was deemed to no longer be necessary.

However, the site was not abandoned; a native school was opened in 1883, which was then closed because of the Mount Tarawera eruption in 1886.

It was reopened in 1877, but was fraught with problems and finally closed in the early 20th century. This can be read about in the very interesting archival excerpt link provided below. While largely overgrown today, remains of the fort can still be seen.

A planned centenary celebration of the fort was derailed when an ex-school teacher set fire to the buildings just prior to the event. The link for more information about the native school is here, starting on page 435: 

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