Taranaki Golden Grass
New Zealand Landscape Photography Artwork by Stephen Milner
In the spring of 2021, I spent the day hiking the Pouakai Range in New Plymouth with the hope of photographing Mount Taranaki surrounded by golden grass with my Mamiya 6MF medium format film camera. I have to be honest and say that this hike was one of the hardest I have done. The Pouakai Range Mangorei Track is a three house climb up many steps, steps that felt endless, and once I made it to the top my legs were shaking. Whilst climbing, I kept thinking if my hike will be a waste of time because of the wind and cloud coverage. The Pouakai Range is 1400 metes high and is exposed to the weather. But, it was a hike worth doing because as the sun set, the cloud disappeared and the wind dropped. It was my first time visiting the Pouakai Range tarns, I remember feeling lucky to experience this incredible moment and it is one I will never forget.
Mount Taranaki is the second-tallest volcano in New Zealand, is an active 2,518m stratovolcano on the North Island, and is in the Egmont National Park. It is one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones in the world. It is made of layers from lava flows and pyroclastic deposits. Mount Taranaki is the result of the Pacific Plate below the Australian Plate. Eruptions began 130,000 years ago. Large lava and pyroclastic eruptions occur on average every 500 years, with small eruptions every 90 years. Its last major eruption was around 1655, and there was a medium-sized eruption in 1755. The most recent eruption was minor and occurred around 1854.
Maori legends speak of Taranaki (previously known as Pukeonaki) as standing closer to other North Island volcanos called Ruapehu, Tongariro and Pihanga in Tongariro Nation Park. Pukeonaki was married to Ruapehu. Whilst Pukeonaki was away hunting, Ruapehu was wooed by the masculine Tongariro. When Pukeonaki returned, he and Tongariro fought over Ruapehu but, Tongariro was the strongest and defeated Pukeonaki. Pukeonaki fled west to the west coast, carved the Whanganui River on the way, and found new love with the Pouākai range.
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