Welcome to an area steeped in history!
I might be from England originally, but there are times when I feel incredibly proud to be a Kiwi. Although a young country in comparison to many, we've had more than our fair share of historical dramas and have our own unique culture. Watching a Haka - a real one, with every ounce of heart and soul put into it - never fails to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end! I got the same feeling recently when we visited the little fishing settlement of Karitane. It was about time we got along there, Dunedin locals had been telling us about the place for long enough, so one warm and sunny afternoon we thought 'why not?' We were very glad we did too, as I think this would easily be one of my most favourite walks we have done so far.
The Waikouaiti River is peaceful now - but it didn't used to be!
Like many places on the Otago Peninsula, the narrow, winding road seemed to go on forever and I wondered where the hell we were going, but eventually we descended into the sleepy little village and pulled into the small carpark at the edge of the Waikouaiti River. It was very peaceful and quaint, and felt very much as though we had gone back in time; but there didn't seem to be an awful lot to do there unless you had a fishing boat. However there was a sign which pointed to a Department of Conservation walkway to Huriawa Pā. We had no idea what lay ahead but thought we may as well follow the track, so we set off, in all honesty with not too much in the way of expectations.
A different stunning view awaits you round every corner
The Huriawa Peninsula
The land at Huriawa is considered sacred, and was once the site of the fortress of a great Maori Chief, Te Wera. In the 1700's, Te Wera and his people were held under siege there by another Chief, his cousin Taoka. The siege lasted for six months, with Taoka convinced he would starve Te Wera and his people out. What Taoka didn't know was that a freshwater spring occurred naturally inside the fortress, enabling Te Wera and his people to survive. They may have been starving, but they didn't die of thirst and in the end, having depleted the area surrounding the fortress of food, Taoka and his men were themselves starving and had no choice but to give up and move on. In addition to being a significant battle site, by 1837 Huriawa had also become a whaling station and the area was now such a hotbed of violence and immorality, well meaning early European settlers couldn't bring themselves to stay there. As if that wasn't enough, it is said that two of the three blowholes came about due to a doomed romance. A young couple dared to elope and upon their return were hoping for forgiveness. Unfortunately for them, they got quite the opposite and their irate families hurled the pair from the cliffs with such forced, they each made a hole right through the rocks. Apparently the wife was the heavier of the two and created the bigger hole!
The blowholes of (so it is said) an ill fated romance.
Am guessing the wife made this one!
But all death and disaster aside, there is still no denying that Karitane and its surrounding area is a truly beautiful spot. The track is well maintained and not too steep, and although there are hazard warnings everywhere not to walk too close to the cliff edge, as long as you abide by them it's not at all dangerous. I loved the diversity of the landscape, it was a wonderful way to spend a sunny afternoon and I didn't want it to end, I would have happily done it all over again! But eventually we made our way down the slope and onto Karitane beach, with its gorgeous views and golden sand. We didn't see any seals there that day, but like many places on the Otago Peninsula, they are frequent visitors to the area. And the history isn't all bad. For all the Kiwis reading this and yelling 'What about Plunket! Don't forget Plunket!' Karitane was indeed also the home of Sir Truby King, who founded the Plunket Society (named after the Governor General at the time) in the early 20th century. Thanks to him and his dedication in educating mothers in child care, infant mortality rates dropped by two-thirds during his lifetime and to this day, nurses known as Karitane nurses help mothers with their new babies.
Making the descent down to Karitane Beach
This place has everything - including cool pointy things!
Whether you enjoy learning about different cultures and history, or just enjoy a invigorating and spectacular walk, Karitane has it all. Bring a picnic and stay as long as you like, as you won't want to leave!
We loved it at Karitane!