After a surprise raid by a band of Te Kooti’s men, 4 Volunteer Constabulary were killed at Opepe. Their graves are at the end of the track. A nice bit of forest on a loop walk too.
17 km from Taupo along the Napier - Taupo Road (SH5), at the top of the hill, there is a picnic site and toilets on the south side the road. The start of the track is signposted from the wide parking area on the left.
The metalled track leads right at the junction and arrives at the fenced graves.
After the Taupo eruption of 186AD, most of the forest in the region was devastated by pumice and waves of superheated gas. Interpretation panels explain how the forest would have regenerated.
In May 1866, six months after the siege of Waerenga-a-Hika, some 300 adherents of the Hauhau Movement were deported to the Chatham Islands. Among this group was Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki, a non-adherent Maori businessman who had fought on the Government’s side.
He stood accused of aiding the enemy by firing blank cartridges at them. But while he maintained his innocence and had requested a trial, he could provide no evidence. So he was shipped off to the Chathams with the rest of them.
After falling ill, Te Kooti studied the Bible and founded a new religion known Te Haahi o Ringatu. On the hope of a return to the Promised Land, they managed to commandeer a government supply ship called the Rifleman. And without any prior knowledge of sailing tall masted European ships, successfully navigated back to Whareongaonga in Poverty Bay.
With the plan to head back to the Urewera, Te Kooti and his followers were attacked by British Forces under the command of Colonel George Whitmore. On November 10th a retaliatory assault killed 54 British subjects. As an outlaw, Te Kooti hid in the depths of the Urewera until pardoned in 1883. He died in 1891 after being awarded land.
Following the removal of Imperial British troops in 1867, The Armed Constabulary was formed to keep the peace. A bustling settlement of over 30 men was formed at Opepe and was later enlarged to provide offices, stores and barracks for over 100 men. Soldiers built infrastructure, including starting the Napier-Taupo Road. The well on site is one of the last reminders of the 20-year settlement.
The graves remember the 4 Volunteer Cavalry, who were killed in a surprise raid by Te Kooti’s men in 1869. Other fled to Fort Galatea, 50 km away.
North Island ▷ Taupo Region ▷ Taupo
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Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍