Calvin August won't take my hand as we clamber our way to the top of Rangitoto, more commonly known as Central Hawke's Bay's very own Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings due to its unique shape.

August and his sister used to ride their horses across this Elsthorpe land, but the determined 83-year-old now willingly pushes himself through the unforgiving teasels and spiky prickles. We walk cautiously to not disturb the working honey bees or trip into the ticking electric fence that we're walking dangerously close to.

He even joins me in getting down on hands and knees and crawls as we approach the final steep, rocky patch just metres from the top.

A day to remember - Calvin August, 83, stands at the top of Rangitoto hill in Central Hawke's Bay. Photo / Georgia May.
A day to remember - Calvin August, 83, stands at the top of Rangitoto hill in Central Hawke's Bay. Photo / Georgia May.

We make it and celebrate our victory by pouring ourselves a glass of Pinot Gris while admiring panoramic view after our strenuous climb.


"Marvellous. I always love views," August beams. "There's a lot more trees than there used to be. There's a lot more subdivisions here too."

Rangitoto translates to "sacred mountain" as the marae on Te Aute Rd looks up towards the spectacular site.

August grew up on a farm just down the road and moved to a farm in Omakere years later.

It's the first time he's been up Rangitoto since he was young, but the view remains as breathtaking for him as ever.

From Middle Rd, Rangitoto resembles the same shape as Mt Ngauruhoe, but its image flatters to deceive.

Upon driving closer, its pointy image completely vanishes if you're passing its actual location on River Rd.

August's family has lived in the area since 1922 after his father and grandfather moved up from Carterton and purchased two blocks of land.

His uncle Warren August took over the Patangata Hotel (now the tavern) in 1967 until 1972.


"It was 1978 they took the top story off the hotel - it used to be a boarding house for travellers. The first drinks were actually poured in the hotel in 1860," he says.

A fire destroyed the hotel on February 21, 1901 with the Waipawa Mail reporting the hotel and store were "totally destroyed by the fire".

Another hotel was built in its place designed by architect Thomas R Cooper, the building very similar to its predecessor.

"It was all single rooms upstairs, they were all cleaned on a regular basis, I can still remember all the different housekeepers there."

Rangitoto looks down the winding Tukituki River towards the looming Mt Kahuranaki, to the sleepy rural township of Otane to Waipawa, to the rolling hills of Omakere.

"River Rd used to be one big property, we used to ride our horses around the whole area because cars were just unheard of in those days."

"The Patangata Hall was very much in full swing when I was growing up, it was built on land belonging to the Dillian family.

"I can recall some pretty good nights there, there were some great dances and parties."

In 1977 the hall along with the section was bought by the Hastings and District Angling Club and after being renovated and altered was used for accommodation by club members.

While Patangata continues to grow, thrive and change, the memories for August remain as vivid as ever and the smile does not leave his face as we reminisce on top of the rocky outcrop of Rangitoto.

He perches himself underneath the trig next to his son Dale and landowner Tim Gilbertson and his brother John as we finish sipping our wine telling tales of old and new.

The wind picks up and the long grass begins to whip at our ankles - it's time to go.

He takes one last look out at the rolling hills painted gold by the unforgiving Hawke's Bay sun.

"Gorgeous," he murmurs.