There are different tribal accounts of the origins of the Whanganui River, but they all begin with the mountains of the central North Island. One story is that Ruapehu, pictured here, suffered from loneliness. Ranginui, the sky-father, laid two tear drops at his feet, one of which became the Whanganui River. But Ruapehu’s loneliness remained, so Ranginui sent four mountain companions: Tongariro (to guard the tear drops), Ngāuruhoe, Taranaki, and Pīhanga, the mountain maiden. Pīhanga was promised as Tongariro’s wife, but she was tempted by the charms of Taranaki. On Ruapehu’s advice, Taranaki sadly left the mountain enclave. He followed the route of the Whanganui River to the coast before heading west, from where he gazes back towards his former companions.
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Photograph by Lloyd Homer
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