Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Hill, A River, A Beach, A Marae

Maraenui, East Cape. May 2009. Ajr
Maraenui on East Cape is heartland Te Whanau-a-Apanui territory. I turned off State Highway 35 and drove down the short side road to the stony beach there on my recent travels and found a cute little marae with a wharenui called Te Iwarau and a selection of marvellous carvings – two of which I featured here last week. It’s home to the hapu Te Whanau a Hikarukutai. All I had for company that day, as I stood under the giant pohutukawa in front of the marae, was a screeching magpie and the roar of the ocean. It was a wonderful feeling and I felt as if I had discovered a long-lost treasure.

The sea apparently dips away sharply here making it an excellent fishing spot. The nearby mouth of the Motu River is also known to be a good place to fish for kahawai in season – so no surprise to learn then, that the coastal flats and the hills behind were once home to numerous Maori pa sites. After I had spent some time sitting quietly outside the marae, soaking up the atmosphere, I drove on around the coast road to the lookout on Maraenui Hill and looked back across the sweep of the bay, thinking about the invisible layers of history that occupy our land. Maybe I had been seduced by the isolation and the beauty of the place, but I had no difficulty in imagining the scene complete with a number of working marae as it might have been a hundred years ago.

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