Leaving Pukaki

This short series of photographs are an excerpt from the end of a very different looking days shoot. Leaving Lake Pukaki behind us, the farther we drove, the darker and stranger the sky became. He seemed as reluctant to let us leave as we felt compelled to.


Chief Pukaki was an 18th century ancestor of the Ngati Pukaki, a sub-tribe of the Arawa. His birth was the result of a peace-making marriage between Ngati Whakaue and Ngati Pikiao of Rotoiti around 1700. Pukaki grew up during a time of armed conflict both within Te Arawa and against wider Bay of Plenty-Waikato tribes. He lived on Mokoia Island in Lake Rotorua and then at Parawai, which is now surrounded by the Ngongotaha township.

In Pukaki’s later years a major tribal war under his leadership resulted in Ngati Whakaue defeating their Tuhourangi relations, forcing them back to Tarawera and taking over the lands of Pukeroa-Oruawhata, where sits today’s city of Rotorua. Most of Ngati Whakaue then left Parawai to take up permanent occupation in the village of Ohinemutu, which remains to this day as a distinctive part of Rotorua. Around this time Pukaki passed away and he was buried in the Mamaku foothills, where the descendants of his elder son, Ngahina, still watch over him today.


The speed with which this storm encircled us was amazing. It seemed more akin to the turbulent storms that ravage Jupiter than one on our own planet. The transformations in the clouds you see here occurred within seconds. We were in the middle of an incredible mountainous landscape whose sky seemed determined to outshine the land with an opulence of artistry.