Today I aim to tackle the full 16-kilometre loop of the Ngā Tapuwae o Toi walkway that takes you from Whakatāne to Ōhope beach and back again. Many opt to walk portions of the track but I’m feeling confident that, fuelled with a breakfast crêpe from delightful French café l’Epicerie, I’ll take the whole length in my stride (no pun of course).
A short stair climb and I’m already immersed in native bush and rustling birdlife. Kōhī Point Scenic Reserve, the first of three reserves along the route, is literally a stroll away from the Whakatāne town centre and is home to a plethora of native birds. It’s also the setting for some magical views. The track takes me along a western ridge overlooking the Whakatāne harbour and river mouth. From this vantage point you can appreciate the beauty of this coastal town, with yachts moored along the river adjacent to the CBD and Moutohorā (Whale Island) sitting just off the coast. Realising that I should move on, to avoid ending this as a night walk, I come upon the historical site the walkway is named after.
Over 1000 years ago, according to the oral traditions of the Ngati Awa iwi, the great chieftain Toi founded a mighty tribe. Known as Te Tini a Toi (the myriads of Toi), the tribe settled here on the east coast of the North Island. A short diversion from the main track takes me to Toi’s stronghold, Kapu te Rangi (Pā of Gentle Breezes), one of the oldest known pā sites in New Zealand. I’m not surprised Toi chose this spot for his Pā: he would’ve been able to spot enemies for miles. The incredible view stretches from Mount Tarawera to the south, across the Rangitāiki plains and out to sea to Moutohorā and Whakaari (Whale and White Islands).
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