From the Hauraki Gulf the bush-covered mountains of Coromandel Ranges, rising above the Western coastline of what today is known as the Coromandel Peninsula, is land born, firstly from a base of greywacke rock on the sea floor. Greywacke was known for its hardness and dark colour. There followed, typical of the Coromandel Peninsula, massive volcanic activity back millions of years ago. This scattered rocks and minerals of multi hue, along with small craggy outcrops in the sea. These are popular today, to the multitude of birds populating the coastline and fishing for their food, when the tide is in in the Hauraki Gulf. Along with the many people, settlers of the area, for it is said food is in abundance for all.
Throughout the area particularly from the Hauraki Gulf are seen rugged cones, abrupt palisades, cliffs and broken crags. Throughout this craggy range – a backbone of the area – canyons, and multitudes of streams and creeks, over boulder-strewn land, tortuously twisting and cascading to the sea. Rising above this area are the Maunga (mountains) which have become markers for those living on and visiting the Coromandel Peninsula - Castle Rock (Motutere - floating island), south of Coromandel town, Camel’s Back (Maumaupaki), inland from Tapu, and Tararu – inland from Ngarimu Bay and Tararu.
Settlers arriving to this stretch of wild rugged coasts, claimed small settlements on small sandy or gravelly bays along the seashore and at places they named Tararu, Te Puru, Waiomu, Tapu, Waikawau, Te Kouma, Kereta and Manaia. The names reflecting their ancestors who first arrived in this area – Te Tara-o-te-Ika a Maui (Coromandel Peninsula - the jagged barb of Māuis fish, Te Paeroa-a-Toi Tois long mountain range, Tkapa Moana (Hauraki Gulf), Tamatekapua (buried on Mount Moehau) said to have arrived from Hawaiki and Eastern Polynesia, Te Kou o Rehua marae at Manaia.
The place names reflect the stories and natural landscape of these first peoples – Maori. Food (shellfish, fish and eels) along with other resources were very plentiful. Maori settlers from the Te Arawa canoe, and Tainui canoe iwi from the west and south-west made this coast their place. Amongst the iwi of the coast were Ngati Whanaunga, Ngati Paoa, Ngati Tamatera Ngati Maru, Ngāti Rongo, Ngāti Pūkenga – of the Marutūahu confederation.
Another wave of people came searching in this area, for gold, timber and gum. They followed the trails of the first people, up the tracks and alongside the tortuous winding streams and creeks. They too intermarried and a number settled here. From the Puhoi settlement came early Bohemian families at first seeking gold, however settling on the land and staying to farm. Today, their names are intertwined with the rich heritage of this area and the stories passed down, by these pioneer people at community gatherings in the halls and hotel of the coast.
A road wound its way, past the bays and around the steep cliffs and rocky coast towards Coromandel town. Itself a great feat of those early pioneers, the road changed from metal to tar seal over the decades. Transport too changed from horseback to the motor car. The motor car bought more settlement to the area – a temporary kind – motor camps with tents and cabins. More tales from those campers and school camps over the years. More tales of those adventures up the winding tracks of the valleys, the fish that got away, and collecting shell fish. Nights spent playing board games with family members by the light of kerosene lamps in those tiny holiday baches perched precariously along the shore line. Through the handing down of family tales are the tales of Christmas picnics with crimson glory of Pohutukawa flowers a memory of these stories and the holidays on the west coast of Coromandel Peninsula.
Anne Stewart Ball, July 2018