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Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa

A Lovely Find

page 153

A Lovely Find.

One day two Nuhaka-Mahia settlers, Messrs. George Walker and Edward Burt Bendall, were engaged in packing, when they observed what they took to be smoke rising from the bush in the Nuhaka hinterland. The whole of the country then was covered in a dense magnificent bush, and as there seemed to be no reason for the "smoke" they decided to investigate. Leaving the pack-horses tied up at a spot where they could be easily found the two men forced their way through the tangled undergrowth till they reached the locality of the uprising "smoke," and ascending a creek bordered with magnificent ferns they discovered that it was steam and not smoke that was rising above the bush—they had discovered the Morere Hot Springs! No time was lost in making the discovery known through the local news-sheet, then a very small affair, indeed, but the writer well remembers the excitement it caused, quite more than that which marked the discovery of Waikare-iti by Major Goring, of the Armed Constabulary Force. It was, indeed, a lovely find, and "How lovely!" is the oft-heard exclamation of the visitors to the baths. If any reader of these notes has not visited the Morere "fairy glens," then it is difficult to make him realize what is meant by the term "fairy glens," and more, of this very beautiful spot. To travel among the islands in the tropics, to see some of the beauty spots that adorn the islands, is to understand the wealth that Nature herself bestows in bounteousness to those that live on her page 154products. How dependent all the higher world is on the lowlier creatures. The rich on the poor, the poor on the fruits of the earth, the fruits on the soil, and the soil on God's moistures and dews as they descend from Heaven! And so the whole world goes round. To enter the Morere bush as the sun rises, and to see the waves of light as they penetrate here and there through the varying foliage is to realize the mightiness of those things that are so common that the bartering merchant and the busy tradesman cannot barter or keep from the enjoyment of man. You plutocrats cannot limit the sweet air of Heaven, though you may pollute it with your factory smoke, nor can you limit the glorious contours of the hills, the flowing brooks and the gentle trilling of the waters. These all belong to us in common. Nor can the millionaire grasp the beauty or see the mightiness of Nature's ways better than the lowliest of the creatures that have come forth at the instance of their Maker. As you proceed into the Hot Springs Reserve, which for all time is set aside for the enjoyment of the people, you see how bounteous Nature has been in clothing the land with beauty. It would not add much to the pleasure of the reader of these notes to have a mention of the trees, shrubs and flowers that adorn the landscape, but as you, dear reader, wend your way through the tail slim trees that rise skywards, you are met with hundreds of tall ferns and palms which no pen can adequately describe, as they rise in their nobleness and grandeur through the tangled scrub. There, you see the varieties of tree-ferns, dicksonias and page 155cyatheas rising to twenty or thirty feet in height, and underneath are hundreds of smaller varieties that add to the charm and make the whole landscape "a thing of beauty and a joy for ever."

"But why are they more beautiful this autumn morning?" wrote Mr. Henry Hill. "Certainly I have been to this same place many times, and I have breathed in the breath of something that one can barely describe, yet this morning there is a new something—living and acting—a spirit unlike the past and yet fuller, deeper than before. See those majestic palms and ferns, and notice their hanging and dying fronds—and observe above them crowns of new life, as charming and as beautiful as a graceful maiden prepared to meet her lover. Tennyson's 'rising from their dead selves to higher things' comes to my mind, and you see at a glance the full meaning of it all—'Rising from their dead selves!' Those dead leaves underneath the new life, the new environment to which the dead past could never aspire. Here, then, at sunrise on an autumn morning, in the Morere bush, comes the first inspiration of the truth of the words that the poet used."

Of this bush Mr. Malcolm Ross wrote:

"The bush, however, is ideal. Even those who are not lovers of Nature realize, as soon as they wend their way towards the hot baths, that there is something unique in the character of the Morere bush. It is the best representative bit of bush in the Southern Archipelago that I know of in the Dominion. Its trees, its ferns, its palms, its—I was about to write fire-flies—no, its glow-worms, which are more beautiful than fire-flies, its flowers, including the tiger-mottled calceolaria, its medicinal springs, hot springs, gas springs, and its isolation from the busy haunts of men make the spot a veritable Lotusland for the tired, the page 156weary and the weak. Wandering, lolling, meditating on a glorious morning in autumn following a dry and hot summer, one sees in this spot a restfulness where energy may be renewed and the mind strengthened and prepared for new activities."

Can I add any more to this panegyric, except to say here that the therapeutic value of the baths is proved, and as far as limited funds will go, the health-seeking public is well catered for, and lastly the bush, baths, etc., are now lighted up with electricity drawn from the hydro-electric station at Waikaremoana, its sister beauty spot. The date of the discovery is given as 1884, and this is corroborated by the late Mrs. David Wilson, mother of Mrs. F. McRae, Springhill, who stated that in that year she saw Messrs. Walker and Bendall carrying samples of the water taken from the spot.

In addition to the natural beauties of the Morere bush must not be forgotten the curative springs which have proved so beneficial in certain ailments. These are not for a layman to describe, but it is only right that the analysis should be given as supplied by the Government Balneologist. The constituents vary and now that the several waters have been brought into one much of the medicinal value has been lost—it does not do to mix one's mineral waters any more than one's drinks. However, the health-giving minerals still remain and the department will, no doubt, find a way of providing the mineral baths of each class. The analysis quoted below was made in page 1571885, and I have not heard of any since. The analysis is:

Morere (Calcic-sodic muriated waters)—
Total Solids1,899.60
Temperature120° Fahr.
Kopuawhara, Mahia—
Total Solids1,241.65
Class III (Iodide muriated-waters).
Kopuawhara, Mahia—
Total Solids1,241.65
Total Solids1,858.07
(Also free iodine sufficient to tinge the water light brown.)

Of the iodide muriated waters the Balnealogist says in his report:

"Iodine is found in these waters combined usually with sodium or magnesium; in addition there is generally present a certain and varying amount of free iodine. The amount of iodine present is seldom more than about 2.5 grains per gallon, but even this small quantity exceeds the amount present in most similar European waters, one of the richest of which Heilbrun (Bavaria), is given in the Year Book of that date for comparison. The therapeutic value of such minute quantities of iodide has been questioned, though Neisser has, on the other hand, pointed out the potent effect on human metabolism of minute page 158quantities of iodine in thyroid extract. There remains the possibility, however, that the essentially active factor in these waters is not the iodide but the nascent iodine, which is almost always present. The pungent smell of this mineral may generally be detected for some distance round the source of an iodine spring, and where the thermal water is broken up by a fall into the spray or douche, under which circumstances free iodine seems to be liberated, the odour is unmistakably strong."

It is a well-known fact that there is very little goitre to be found among the residents surrounding the springs at Morere and though the up-rising vapour may not now be seen as formerly, no doubt the air is permeated by the minerals mentioned. The local Chamber of Commerce is now asking the Tourist Department to floodlight this beauty spot, and so add to its attractions.