Rakaia Gorge Taniwha sculpture

According to Māori legend, a Taniwha (River Monster) used to live where the Rakaia Gorge now is.  Long story cut short, his efforts to block out the nor’west wind demon led to the narrowing of the river.  Evidence of the Taniwha’s work remain today as the rock island between the two Rakaia Gorge Bridges.

Kind of cool intro to what was then our meander up to the Upper Rakaia Gorge.

In search of the Taniwha.

The third-bedroom at Rakaia Gorge Camping Ground.

Our weekend micro-adventure had the third-bedroom parked up at the Rakaia Gorge Camping Ground.  This is a private set up where permanents make available their plots for weekend nomads like ourselves.

At $15 per night each, a kitchenette (byo cooking stove, pots, plates and kfs) means the smell of lamb steaks didn’t stink out the bedroom.  The ablutions had hot showers with flush toilets – a bargain. There are no powered sites so it is definitely off the grid.

Crossing the two gorge bridges, we hung a left and then followed the sides of the river that had a smorgasbord of topography for a couple of hours.  In amongst it, we were able to get close to the Snowden Coal Mine that was a cave wedged between lower and upper earth.  Caged off so you can’t enter, we wouldn’t have if it wasn’t neither.  Weird that of all places, there is an old coal mine of yesteryear.

A junction on the trail gives you the option of going left and around hugging the hillside, down to the river (optional junction) and then ascend up to the highest point; or right and straight up.  Left is longer, right is shorter, you can do it in a loop and so we stayed left.

Constructed in 1945.
Constructed in 1883.
Snowden Coal Mine entrance.
From way back there to way up here.
Upper Rakaia Gorge.

At the top where we stopped, peeled off apparel, smeared on sunblock and then ate lunch, we were in awe of the view of the Upper Rakaia Gorge and the turquoise coloured river snaking it’s path from west to east.

We retraced our steps in reverse to return back to the bridges. As Bclaire decided to venture off and take a dip at the rock island pool of water, I tracked down the river to try and capture a pic of the third-bedroom on the opposite side of the river, waiting our return.

BClaire heading for a dip.
BClaire talking with the Taniwha at his pool.
Nor’west wind demons’ erosion art. That white dot at the bottom is a 4-wheel drive for perspective.

The cliff faces on the same side further down river showed weathering erosion, more likely because of the nor’west wind demon.  This I believe to be true.

That there is a nor’west wind demon!

It arrived shortly after the camp happy hour – we got invited therefore decided it a lovely way to meet fellow nomads, except they were permanents.  Didn’t take long for conversations to fudge, bs banter to flow, and pickled onions be judged.

And then it blew like forty bastards throughout the night and into much of the day.

Notwithstanding, Rakaia Gorge is worth a visit – whether visiting for a day or overstaying for a couple of days.


Here Taniwha, Taniwha, Taniwha!