There are few better places than Opapaka Pa to discover the anatomy of a Maori fortified site. Kumara pits and earthworks are well preserved.
There’s a large parking area by the Waitomo Adventure Centre, 6.4 km from the junction with SH3. There are toilets at the Adventure Centre.
The metalled and stepped track climbs through the forest.
At the fenceline, follow the orange triangles to the top of the hill where an information board explains life at the pa.
Terraces, ditches and kumara pits area all still clearly visible.
The anatomy of pa is similar wherever you go. Sites were chosen atop hills or on headlands, the obvious advantage being an early sighting of approaching foes allowed time to prepare for combat. It also gave a tactical advantage during battle, as it’s easier to fight looking down on your enemy. Further advantage to the defenders came from constructing a defensive ditch, barricaded with a high wooden palisade, on which warriors could perch and repel advancing attackers.
Within the wooden palisades, a tihi, or elevated area, housed the chief, potaka (food storage houses usually set on stilts to avoid rats helping themselves to the food) and drying racks.
Outside the main fortifications were kumara pits and gardens.
Opapaka Pa was occupied in the late Eighteenth Century by Ngati Hia. A recorded battle took place with Taane Tinorau. Peace was offered by their chief laying down his dog skin cloak.
North Island ▷ Waikato ▷ Waitomo
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