Recreating the path of the Tūhourangi People

The Tarawera Trail Marathon and 50km event brings to life an incredibly significant journey in New Zealand's tourism story.

It’s been a long and exhausting journey but you’ve finally made it to the infamous shores of New Zealand. It’s 1885 and the journey from England was no small feat, but after hearing tales of the geothermal wonders combined with the kind hospitality of the local Rotoura Māori, you knew you had to experience it for yourself.  

Travelling by steamer to Tauranga, you take a bridle track to Ohinemutu on the shores of Lake Rotorua. Meeting the local Tūhourangi tribe people who call Tarawera their home, you then take a coach trip to Te Wairoa, a two-hour canoe journey, and a walk over the narrow strip separating the swampy shores of Lake Rotomahana from Lake Tarawera. 

Emerging from the forest with your guide by your side, you’re struck with a view never imaginable. Glistening pink and white pools cascade down the side of Mount Tarawera to the edge of Lake Rotomahana take your breath away. Paving your way around the shell-like pools, you dip your hand into the clear blue water to discover the natural warmth. You slide into the pool where your body is enveloped in the soothing mineral waters and you realise that you have discovered paradise. 

The famed Pink and White Terraces were considered the eighth wonder of the natural world, but in 1886, devastation stuck. 

Iwi and visitors were woken in the middle of the night by frightening earthquakes, followed by a rumble as the Mount Tarawera summit dome ripped open, sending scoria and ash up 10 kilometres into the air. Hurricane force winds and violent electrical storms blasted the night sky and water came pouring down as the eruption tore open a 17 kilometre long seam in the earth. Following this, the base of Lake Rotomahana blows out, taking with it the Pink and White Terraces and covering nearby villages and settlements.

The Mount Tarawera eruption killed over 150 local iwi and manuhiri (visitors) and buried the Pink and White Terraces under a mountain of ash, rock and lava. 

Struck by grief at the loss of their loved ones, their livelihood and the bones of their ancestors, the Tūhourangi people were invited to join those living in Te Whakarewarewa Valley. This pathway is considered as one the most important cultural journeys and both locations, Tarawera and Te Whakarewarewa Valley, were the birth places of New Zealand tourism. 

Tracing this trail, the Tarawera Trail Marathon and 50km event brings to life this incredibly significant journey that helped shape New Zealand tourism into what it is today. 

Devonshire Tea aid station 

Early in the 19th century, missionaries came to Rotorua to spread the message of Christianity. Pioneer missionary Seymour Mills Spencer, and his wife Ellen, built a mission station in the fertile valley of Te Wairoa on the western side of Lake Tarawera, where an English styled village was established.

Early visitors to the Pink and White Terraces stayed with missionaries.  Governor Grey’s visit in 1849 helped spread the fame of the terraces and the “thermal wonderland” to the far-away Victorian world.

The site where the missionary stands has been re-named the Buried Village in recent times and is one of New Zealand’s most visited cultural sites. As runners and walkers make their way through the village in the Tarawera Trail Marathon and 50km, they will be treated to a 19th century Devonshire Tea aid station. Dressed in their original 19th century frocks, the women from the Buried Village will be handing out hot tea, scones, jam and freshly whipped cream.

The Tarawera Trail Marathon and 50km 

Take Rotorua’s spectacular scenery of geothermal activity, lakes and forest, add a cultural heritage that’s been nurtured for hundreds of years, drop in over 1000 local and international runners, and you’ve got a trail running experience like no other. 

Starting at Te Puia’s world-famous Pohutu Geyser, shooting 30 metres into the air, kapa haka performers ignite fire in the belly with a traditional Māori cultural performance to bid participants farewell and good luck. 

A spectacular point-to-point race from geyser to volcano, the event takes runners along a geothermal pathway, retracing one of New Zealand’s most important historical routes while showcasing five stunning lakes, with the finish line at Hot Water Beach on the shores of Lake Tarawera.