The hefty limestone outcrops of Kura Tawhiti (Castle Hill), near Porter’s Pass – between the Torlesse and Craigeburn Ranges in the Southern Alps – are among my favourite places. Towering, sculptural, with an almost animate quality to them, they were used as shelters by early Maori navigating their way across the South Island along a network of trails….. hunters and gatherers visiting the rich food and fibre sources of the Waimakariri River basin.
Some of the outcrops still show evidence of early rock drawings said to have been made over 500 years ago by the Waitaha people, the first Maori travellers in the area – but you have to know where to look and what to look for. The limestone valley is of special spiritual, cutlural and historical significance to Ngāi Tahu and the area was declared a topuni ( a protective cover), in 1998 as part of the government’s Treaty of Waitangi Settlement with Ngāi Tahu.
You can almost feel the history, in the quiet that settles around you as you wander between the gigantic boulders.