We haven’t done much bushwalking recently, and certainly haven’t climbed any notable peaks during this visit to New Zealand. But yesterday David got the opportunity to conquer the Monster Mountain with two friends.

The top of Maugataniwha sits in the middle of a mountain range that cuts across the top of New Zealand’s North Island. The highest peak in the range (also called the Mangamukas) is Raeta which often broods under a blanket of dark clouds, giving it the nickname “Monster Mountain”.

There’s a Maori legend about Maugataniwha, saying that he looked towards the sea and coveted the two wives of the handsome Taratara. (Taratara is a rocky peak to the north with two lesser peaks directly behind it.) Being an important chief, Maugataniwha approached Taratara and asked for one of his wives. Taratara laughed at him and told him to get his own wife. In rage, Maugataniwha swiped at Taratara with his sword and cut off his head, sending it across Whangaroa Harbour where it now sits as St Paul’s Rock.

This legend explains why Taratara’s main peak has a flattish top and also the unusual rock projection of St Paul’s Rock across the harbour.

The Maugataniwha Ranges aren’t very tall, but they’re rugged, and a climb to the top takes several hours. David, Nathan and Nadine drove down to the end of Fern Flat Road to reach the dirt track that provides access to the top of the mountain.

From there, it was a slow trudge uphill. I was sad to miss the climb but thankful that I wasn’t part of a team trying to lead four small children up the mountain.

Nathan, May 2011
Nathan is always such a cheerful companion — even on a long, steep bushwalk.

Nadine, May 2011
This is one of Nadine's last bushwalks before she returns to Germany.

Nathan and Bro, May 2011
Nathan's dog Bro came along for the walk (and ride).

The top of Maungataniwha, May 2011
At the top of the mountain, a tall relay tower passes communication signals on.

At the top of the mountain, the communications tower proved to be too much of an invitation for David and Nathan, who climbed to the very top to enjoy the superior view.

The top of Maungataniwha, May 2011
David climbed right up to the top of the communications tower.

The top of Maungataniwha, May 2011
From the top of the mountain, you can see all the way to the ocean, as well as to the land owned by our friends — Shepherd's Peak.

Nathan and Bro, May 2011
Rather than heading down the mountain the same way they climbed up, the guys decided to take the scenic route.

Creek near Maungataniwha, May 2011
The guys followed this lovely creek.

David at a waterfall, May 2011
Even though the water was very cool, it was too beautiful a location to miss out on a swim.