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Author And Researcher
I'm Marios, delivering the best of Aotearoa's nature walks to your device.
I've personally walked hundreds of New Zealand's tracks and spent months in libraries uncovering interesting information on New Zealand/Aotearoa. And you'll find a slice of that research on this page - enjoy!
There are few better places than Opapaka Pa to discover the anatomy of a Maori fortified site. Kumara pits and earthworks are well preserved.
There’s a large parking area by the Waitomo Adventure Centre, 6.4 km from the junction with SH3. There are toilets at the Adventure Centre.
The metalled and stepped track climbs through the forest.
At the fenceline, follow the orange triangles to the top of the hill where an information board explains life at the pa.
Terraces, ditches and kumara pits area all still clearly visible.
The anatomy of pa is similar wherever you go. Sites were chosen atop hills or on headlands, the obvious advantage being an early sighting of approaching foes allowed time to prepare for combat. It also gave a tactical advantage during battle, as it’s easier to fight looking down on your enemy. Further advantage to the defenders came from constructing a defensive ditch, barricaded with a high wooden palisade, on which warriors could perch and repel advancing attackers.
Within the wooden palisades, a tihi, or elevated area, housed the chief, potaka (food storage houses usually set on stilts to avoid rats helping themselves to the food) and drying racks.
Outside the main fortifications were kumara pits and gardens.
Opapaka Pa was occupied in the late Eighteenth Century by Ngati Hia. A recorded battle took place with Taane Tinorau. Peace was offered by their chief laying down his dog skin cloak.
North Island ▷ Waikato ▷ Waitomo
Walked up to Opapaka Pa - 2 adults, 30s and 60s and 3 children aged 2 and 5 and carrying a 1 year old in a backpack. One adult, myself, had back issues and normally avoided difficult walks. I wouldn't call it easy - it was steep a lot of the time, but the track was fairly dry, despite a lot of rain in the previous week, and also the steps were well placed apart and of a good height for easy stepping. The bush was beautiful and well worth the walk, the view amazing, the information on the trees was useful and interesting for the children and the pa site awe inspiring. With our children it took 1 hour 10 mins up and down. I felt lucky and grateful for being able to work through such a beautiful space.
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍