The Resurgence of a Hidden River. South Island | New Zealand
Flowing deep under the Takaka Hill, ethereal waters course through the marble veins of Mother Earth to resurge in the Riwaka Valley, stone cold, clear and resplendent.
Te Puna o Riuwaka.
The North Branch of the Riuwaka River emerges in the valley with understated splendour. Gushing waterfalls encountered along the walkway offer little indication of the unassuming resurgence that feeds the river.
The earthy aroma of damp forest fills your senses as the chaotic chorus of locusts and bird life serenades walkers along a well-formed path. Fronds of giant Ponga trees stoop from the forest canopy, mottling the track with silhouettes of our famous Silver Fern. This is the real Middle Earth.
In places, the river disappears under massive boulders then returns, bursting to life over mossy rocks. It’s loud and beautiful, and spiritual.
Crystal Pool is the first deep water hole along the path. It’s inviting, especially on a hot day. Sapphire blue, incredibly clear and relatively still, it’s a trap for young players. Beach towels hang from tree branches as the keen contemplate a dip. Thunderous splashing resounds down the river as swimmers take the leap, followed by hard gasping. Fluctuating between nine and eleven degrees Celsius, submersion in the chilly water is a breathtaking experience.
From the Crystal Pool rocky steps lead to elevated viewing platforms where you’re ‘wowed’ with a bird’s eye view of the river emerging from a modest hole in the rock. This is by no means a spectacular gush. The water in the pool appears to be completely calm and glass like. Beams of sunlight penetrate the transparent water like the fingers of God reaching into the mysterious cavern. A set of steps down to the rocky edge enables viewers to take a closer look and capture their experience in images.
Unlike the frivolity at Crystal Pool, this place has a feel of serenity. It’s spiritual, almost solemn and those who have made the trek to view this wonder of Papatūānuku (Mother Earth) are quietly appreciative.
These waters, released from the depths of Zealandia, are told to have immense healing powers. In early days wahine (women) came here to give birth. The sick and infirm bathed in the river, and for those who could not make the trek, water was collected and taken to them.
‘Te Puna o Riuwaka’ is of particular cultural significance to the people of Te Ātiawa and Ngāti Rārua, who recognise it as wahi tapu, a sacred place.
The road to Riuwaka Resurgence is a little narrow and winding but sealed & safe. Turn left off SH 60 at the South side of the Takaka Hill into Riwaka Valley Road and travel for 7 kilometres. There is a designated parking area and public rest room facilities at the car park. You can also view the resurgence from Hawkes Lookout on the Takaka Hill where a 10 minute walk through native bush leads to a lookout with astounding views.
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