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Taranaki Falls

Taranaki Falls

  • Author: Dan's Odyssey
  • Date Posted: Sep 9, 2017
  • Category:
  • Address: Taranaki Falls, Tongariro National Park

What To Do Today…

Stomping along the well-maintained track I reflect on my day. I had no idea what I was going to do today when I woke up. All I knew was I wanted to get out of town. For all of Taranaki’s beauty, I need to escape from time to time and see new things. Sadly it takes an average of 3.5 hours to get to places I’ve never been. Today I got in the car and drove to Taranaki Falls. It’s absolutely nuts that I live in Taranaki and have to leave before I can see the Falls named after it. It turns out there is a reason why though.

The Beginning Of A Legend

It turns out Taranaki Falls is the starting point for the Whanganui River.  The mountains here all have significant importance in Maori legend. But Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe were not supposed to be the only peaks to grace the Central Plateau.  It is said that Mt Taranaki once rested here.

The mountains were considered mighty warrior godlike beings.  A long time ago, there were 7 peaks on the Central Plateau.  All of them male, except for the gracefully contoured Pihanga, with her bush robed flanks and delicate nature.  As can happen, the male ego gets involved, and six testosterone filled ‘alpha males’, all vying for the attention of one fair maid, doesn’t usually end well.

It Was War…

A battle of epic proportions started.  SIx mighty mountain gods raining down blows on each other with volcanic rock and lava.  The ground shook, lightning struck and thunder rolled out in peals of anger.  Of all that fought, none were more aggressive than Tongariro and Taranaki.  Tongariro was the stronger and mightiest of the mountain gods, Taranaki was the smaller, but most admired by Pihanga.  The battle raged and slowly the competition dwindled leaving Tongariro and the resilient Taranaki to duel.  Tongariro’s rage was immeasurable. In a mighty attack, he tore his head off and threw it at Taranaki as a desperate attempt to win.  Taranaki shuddered with the blow and was left wounded conceding the fight.

Design created by Lorna Brighurst/Prentice. Yup, she’s my Mum!


Tongariro, diminished from his aggressive attack, laid down the law and banished all his opponents.  Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe crept off to the South at a respectable distance.

Putauaki and Tauhara both went East. Putauaki stopped at the northern end of the Kaingaroa plain, near Rotorua.  Tauhara chose to rest on the shores of Lake Taupo so that he could gaze across at Pihanga from a safe distance.

Taranaki never recovered.  His anger consumed him.  He fled West from his loss.  Gouging a trail the whole way to Whanganui, filling it with his tears of lost love and creating the Whanganui River.  Once he reached the shore he looked North and saw the fair Pouakai and to save being lonely went to join her.  Taranaki has never forgiven Tongariro and sits brooding staring out to the water plotting his revenge.

So you see Taranaki Falls is the spot Taranaki left and the falls are the last reminder of his time there.  What happened to Tongariro’s head? It was flung with such force, that it rebounded off Taranaki, and landed in the great Lake Taupo where it rests to this day.

The Walk There

Anyway, nearly 4 hours drive and I’m on the Taranaki Falls track for an hour walk to the Falls themselves. Looming above me Mount Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro hide their peaks behind the dense grey cloud. It’s ski season and the road is packed, but the track has only a few people on it.  I’m loving the state of the track too. It’s an easy walk and well maintained. Choosing the upper track, I hitched my bag up and started on my way. It was all stone pathways, leading through alpine scrub and volcanic rock, with the odd stream gurgling it’s way past. Really beautiful scenery to walk along.

Time To Be Honest Here…

I haven’t said this before and, as I have hiking posts on this blog, it may seem a little weird. But I hate hiking. The destinations and some of the views are what I love. I love the photo opportunities. I love staying in huts with people. I like to know I have done it. But the actual hiking, I can’t stand. The only thing that makes it bearable is other people hiking with me. I’m a social person and although I do like my own company, there are times I thrive on the company of others, and hiking is one of them. 

With that said, this trip was enjoyable. The going was easy and the view was great. I made great time and arrived above the Falls in about an hour. If you take into account that I took a load of photos along the way, I completed this section well under the hour recommended for travel. 

Taranaki Falls

Waterfalls always capture me. I can watch and stare at them for hours. Admiring the sheer force of falling water and watching rainbows scatter in the breeze. Taranaki Falls didn’t disappoint. By the time I got there most of the cloud had cleared and only the snowy heads of the mountains were in the cloud. 

At the base, I met a couple taking time out from the ski fields to take in the views. I find it quite amazing that having a proper camera opens the door to conversation with strangers. The camera fascinates people. So we had a chat about lighting and different photography conditions. Then, I chose to take the bottom track back to the car which was recommended to take an hour.

The Return Walk

Where the top track was alpine scrub with sweeping views down, around and up the mountain, the bottom track was amongst the trees, with a stream running alongside. It was around 4:30 pm and I was interested in getting back to the car. I wasn’t sure of my plan after this and wanted to have options. The bottom track, in my opinion, was slightly less comfortable to walk as it had tree roots and river stones to navigate, but by no means was it difficult. 

Reaching the bottom, about 5 mins from the car park, I was given an almost clear view of Ngauruhoe so a few more photos and then back to the car. 

Home Again

My journey after that was another 3.5 hours home, the other way this time. Stopping for an ice cream sundae at The Cyprus Tree in Ohakune as, if you remember the Ohakune post, they were amazing! 

7 hours of driving for a 2-hour walk to get some photos. Maybe I’m crazy. But personally, I think you’re crazier if you don’t do it.

Have you got other travel experiences you want to share?  Have you got suggestions for me? Or something you would like me to explore for you?  Maybe you want to know more about my journey?

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    1 Comment

  1. Great post, beautifully written. Thanks for sharing Dan. 🙂

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