Te Mata Peak

Standing nearly 400 metres above sea level, Te Mata Peak is an incredible hillscape rising out of the Heretaunga Plains. The summit offers breathtaking views of mountain ranges and river valleys. Hikers and cyclists follow the steep tracks to the top. Geologists inform us that these sedimentary rocks, deposited in horizontal layers on the seabed, have been tilted and bowed upwards by the geological forces generated by the collision of the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates. The features of Te Mata peak are a consequence of the earthquake fault which runs from Wellington in the south, through the Ruahine range to the Hawkes Bay.

Strolling along the ridge is exhilarating if a little scary. The 360-degree panoramic views take your breath away. Any gust of wind causes you to steady yourself and check your footing.


Embedded in the limestone rock are shell fragments, examples of which include scallops, barnacles and oysters. Fossils are typically preserved when they are buried under many layers of sand and mud. Under great pressure, the sand and mud become sedimentary rock.

Fossils remind us of a time that was, a time of upheaval and change when incredible forces were at work. Fossils are the naturally preserved remains of living things. Fossils speak to us, a silent witness to the past.

Te Mata Peak is a familiar location. We visited it several times when we were living in Hawkes Bay. Some of our children enjoyed a motorbike ride up the narrow winding road to the top. Adam was with us when we watched hang gliders jump off the side, catching the updraft and hovering in the air.

Our return journey to New Zealand is an opportunity for us to reconnect with friends, particularly those who supported us at the time of Adam’s death. We appreciated their words of comfort and the pertinent reminder that we were not alone in our sorrow. We are also glad of the opportunity to revisit places we know Adam enjoyed. From our elevated position, we can see the Tukituki River winding its way to the sea. We have some thoughts about where we will spread Adam’s ashes but will need to check out their suitability.

Our memories are like fossils in that they take us back, they speak of another time. Adam was happy in Hawkes Bay. He enjoyed his school years. The Hastings Christian School and St John’s College both nurtured him and supported his development as a person. His love of fly fishing was spawned here. The Tukituki River became a favoured spot and he would spend many hours with friends pursuing the elusive rainbow trout. Fly fishing requires stealth and patience. Adam was not without his successes. If he caught a fish early in the day he would release it. He said, “If you leave the fish in a plastic bag all day, it will go off.” He also backed his ability to catch another later in the day.

We are pleased to be here. Revisiting familiar places has reawakened memories and we feel the richer for it.

Author: Bruce Rickard

Reflections on Suicide and Staying Alive: My son's suicide changed everything. I felt an obligation to understand why anyone would want to end their life. My regular blog posts explore the causes and prevalence of suicide and what is needed to sustain a healthy mind and a hope-filled future.

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