By Daryl Jones
New Zealand’s North Island is criss-crossed by wide rivers that have carved massive stony channels out of the rugged mountainous landscape.
While driving beside one such river I caught a brief glimpse of what looked to be a huge pile of river stones, arranged to form some sort of crude pyramid, off in the distance.
I went back a few days later to check it out. It was definitely man-made, and absolutely gigantic. It must have taken weeks of back-breaking work for someone to stack and arrange the huge river stones. I climbed to the top. From the top of the huge pyramid I spotted even more structures further down-river on the opposite bank, and decided to check them out.
I took my shoes off to wade across the stream, and there in the shallows in front of me, amongst the million other little stones, there peeked out one very strange and unlikely pebble:
On its face was a crudely-drawn heart, scrawled in permanent marker.
The chances of finding this mystery love-pebble in this extreme-needle-in-a-haystack situation are unfathomable. I took it as a sign.
I trudged up the far side of the dry riverbed, over the loose stones that were peppered with wildflowers, forcing their pretty faces out from the gaps between them. As I got closer I soon realised that the new structures that I’d seen from the top of the pyramid were even more elaborate and beautiful than the first.
There were two creations standing side by side. A huge free-standing conical cairn, and a multitiered structure built against the ancient riverbank.
These two were the most sophisticated of the rock buildings. It was clear whoever built them had invested a huge amount of time in their construction, carefully selecting each stone to fit perfectly with their neighbours. Their strength and beauty up close was amazing.
When I reached the riverbank pyramid I noticed it was surrounded by wild blackberry bushes, so I picked a big juicy handful and perched up on Level 2 to have my lunch.
After munching the berries I stepped down to take one last look at these awesome monuments. It was from this new angle that I noticed that the structure on the riverbank wasn’t just a pyramid; it was a staircase.
This grand entrance led to a tiny opening in the dense jungle that could only be seen from one direct angle when you got up close.
I followed the winding narrow path back into the tropical undergrowth. About 10 metres in I found evidence of old human habitation, such as this drain/trench/trough thing:
And this super amazing tree that had grown around an ancient fence rail:
The trail didn’t lead to anything more than a little overgrown jungle clearing. Did it once lead to an ancient temple, or sacred burial ground, or a treasure cave with an overgrown entrance nearby? Unfortunately I couldn’t find any of the above. So I wandered back out to the river, ate some more blackberries, picked some wildflowers, and took a break from pondering the meaning of the mysterious creations, and just appreciated them for a while instead.