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The legend of Raemaru

Saturday 11 June 2022 | Written by Supplied | Published in Features, Weekend

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The legend of Raemaru
Raemaru mountain. Photo: Cook Islands Tourism (Highland Paradise Cultural Centre)/22061007

On the western side of Rarotonga stood a very proud mountain – her name was Maru and she was higher than any of the other mountains.

In fact, Maru would hide the sunrise during the dawn with her shadow, giving the people of the village more time to sleep. The mountain was the envy of the other villages as they all wished they could have a mountain just as high and just as useful as Maru.

The fame of Maru reached far across the sea to other islands. The people on the island of Aitutaki were especially interested to hear about this high mountain called Maru in Rarotonga, because their island was flat. The chiefs Vaeruarangi and Tamatoa decided on a plan – they called their strongest warriors together and instructed them to build large canoes and make special tools to take with them to Rarotonga. The Aitutaki warriors said their prayers to their mighty God – Rongo, and sailed for the island. They planned their arrival in the early hours of the night and after one day at sea they sighted Rarotonga and the proud peak of Maru.

The warriors went ashore through the tricky inlet whilst the people of Puaikura were sound asleep. They worked fast; cutting the mountain Maru in a few hours, before doing the more difficult task of carrying the mountain to their waiting canoes.

Their grunts, puffs and lifting noises told the Puaikura people that something unusual was going on. They thought that the chopping noises which had awakened them were spiritual activities, but the grunts were human. The Puaikura warriors went inland to investigate and saw intruders carrying their beloved Maru away. They gave chase but the Aitutakians had seen them. The chase resulted in pieces of rocks dropping and falling off as the Aitutakians ran, hanging on to their prize. They made it to their canoes and pushed off before the Puaikura warriors could catch up. They paddled hard and lost sight of the island of Rarotonga before daylight.

After four days of hard work they reached Aitutaki. Tiring in their last efforts, pieces of the mountain fell off as they lay Maru in the village of Amuri. At last Aitutaki had a mountain but the lost parts had reduced its size tremendously into a hill. The Aitutakians renamed the hill, Maunga Pu, meaning top of the mountain, in remembrance of their achievement.

Meanwhile, back in Rarotonga, the people of Puaikura were preparing for a search. Life simply wasn’t the same without the towering top of Maru – the sunrise came early at dawn and disturbed their sleep. However, before their war canoes could be finished, they discovered that waking up early had its advantages – they could for example, catch bigger and better fish at daybreak. The people of Puaikura decided to abandon the cause and stay, getting used to the now shorter mountain.


QR code signalling the start of the track. Picture: Away with the Steiners/22061006

Quick facts about Raemaru Hike

Distance: 3.1km return

Elevation: 350m

Time needed: 2 hours (allow longer if climbing the rockface at the top)

Main township: Arorangi

Cost: Free. There is no current charge to walk the track.

Track difficulty: Intermediate

Pram/wheelchair access: No

Toilets: There are no toilets on the track

Mobile coverage: There is mobile reception most of the way and a strong signal along the ridgeline

Location: The track starts at the end of Raemaru Heights Road; of the back road in Arorangi.

What to take

Sturdy footwear: The track is slippery in parts. You will need to ensure you have suitable footwear. Sneakers or hiking boots would be recommended.

Water: It’s always important to carry enough water for the hike, but especially here in Rarotonga where it is exceptionally humid!

Snacks and food: There are no shops near the start of the hike so be sure to plan ahead and carry snacks with you. (The nearest shop would be on the main island ring-road before turning inland to the start of the trek).

Sunblock and a hat: A lot of the walk is covered under jungle but there are parts at the start that are reached by the sun.

Insect repellent: Pack insect repellent with you and if possible, a tropical strength deterrent with DEET.

Mobile phone: Coverage throughout the track is not entirely reliable, however there is reception at the ridgeline near the top of the track.

Backpack: Obviously, you need a backpack of some sort to carry all of this in. But you also need to make sure you carry out any rubbish or trace of your hike on the beautiful Raemaru Track. There are no rubbish bins so be sure to look after this beautiful patch of Pacific Island treasure.

  • Away with the Steiners