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The Diary of James Brogden, August 1871 – December 1872

21 February 1872

21 February 1872

“Arouse ye then, my merry merry men”! A cup of chocolate and a biscuit before day-light, - and now for a start! We soon hurry down to the canoe, carrying potted meat and potatoes for our provisions, and push off with our full page 68 complement of men. Our passage was a rough one across the Lake, We passed our former landing place, - all among the shag’s nests, - and under the overhanging trees, - then a turn to the right, and it seemed as tho’ another lake opened up. It was but a branch however, and we made for a little stream the entrance of which appears to be fenced, - and so it was. A conversation in Maori then took place between Hamlyn and “Aparo”, the substance of which was that the Chief of the Hapu, on Roto Mahana, -would no longer allow the White man to go to the sacred springs and would forcibly oppose such intentions. The Chief “Aparo” said if it were fenced, he would break it down and fight it out himself, - and we were to go on. So we put pulled into the hot and steaming creek, and had pushed thro’ the fence when we heard voices of the Maoris from the Hapu. We were told to land, and walk alongside the creek, so with our guide we marched thro’ the long flax, and toi-toi, and reeds up to Lake Roto Mahana, leaving the boatmen to work the canoe up the narrow, tortuous, and rapid stream and to tangi with the other natives. We had gone thro’ the fence, and they could not help themselves.

Arrived at the beginning of the stream, and whence it issues from Roto Manhana, we were carried over the creek in about 4 ft 6” of water to the opposite shore, and wended our way thro’ Manuka or Tee Tree to the first terrace, where the water was as blue as possible, tumbling over the curious material of which the terraces are formed. We scramble to the top of the mountain avoiding the hottest waters, and page 69 look into a boiling geyser spring, some height above the lake. The diameter of boiling water is about 40 feet. The stream, constantly breaking thro’ the body of water, throws it up and heats the whole to boiling temperature. This water is charged with a solution of lime, &c., including silica in suspension, and as it flows slowly away, leaving a deposit of soft stone which takes the form of terraces.

In these terraces basins have formed themselves one above another, about 4 feet -deep, large enough for a dozen people to bathe in at once without inconvenience; the waters of these basins becoming cooler the lower we go. Thus you may bathe in lukewarm water at first in the ascent, and then gradually got to hotter water, but the bath must be kept in motion otherwise the surface water, as it runs over fresh from the boiling spring above lake will become scalding hot. We all bathed, and leaping from bath to bath, thoroughly enjoyed the novel and wonderful sensation.

The total fall is between 200 and 300 feet; the breadth about one half. The luxury of the baths is due greatly to the beautiful quality of the stone which is smooth and soft. The stone work of the floor is fretted in the most delicate fashion by the action of the water, and the broad lips of the basins look as though they had been carved all round by some artist of wondrous skill. The water also encrusts the things placed in it with the same material as the terraces are composed of, - thus a duck, or birds, or twig page 70 or flower may get by chance in the stream, and is made into an object of beauty similar to petrified objects. The inside is not changed, the surface being merely coated. By the time we have dressed and descended, we are hungry and as the canoe has arrived, we seize our provisions, scrape our “praties with mussel shells, put them in a flax bag, and hang them in a small bubbling hot spring in which they arewhere they literally cooked, and taste delightfully good.

After lunch we take Canoe to the other side of the Lake. I have not before explained that Roto Mahana, the centre and gem of the hot springs district is a small lake, beautifully situated among mountains and is made tepid by the immense number of hot springs on its banks. On one side of the lake rise the series of natural baths, called the White Terraces; which we had just visited; and on the other side a similar set called the Pink Terraces to which we were rowing. The oppositeThis side of the lake appears all on fire, the hill side steaming in the most wonderful manner. No description can convey it to the mind without the view. I have procured a Photograph which will give a much better idea than anything I can write. On our way across to the Pink Terraces, we raise wild ducks in swarms from among the sedgy banks. This Lake was formerly “taboo” or sacred, and no one was allowed to visit it – it being supposed that “Taipo” (the Devil) had here gone to earth and created all this boil. The ducks therefore had it all their own way, but now at certain seasons they are killed and sold or eaten. There are several varieties, but beyond page 71 the ducks and fish, there appears to be no life. The first view of the Terrace is charming, the color being a pale Pink. The boiling pool or crater above differs from the other, and is about a quarter of a mile in circumference, the other is less. The boiling waters of both are blue and are perfectly clear. The Lake also is blue. The water in the boiling crater on the Pink Terraces is thrown up intermittently, and has formed stalact in the opening. It is a most extraordinary sight to look out of the bath, the head resting on the outer ledge, watching all the party blacks included, bathing, playing and laughing; and looking round on the wonders of this glorious and unique scene, - never, never to be forgotten. Roto Mahana is certainly a places of exquisite charms, and its glories amply repay the time trouble, and expense of visiting it. Before many years have passed, roads will be made, coaches and boats will run, and hotels will have been built, and these wonderful lakes and baths, hot springs, and warm rivers will be the thronged resort of tourists. We lingered till late and reluctantly took canoe for our homeward journey – this time rushing down the rapids of the narrow stream, brushing past against brushes, spinning round corners – what a pace we go, - the Maori boatmen [gap — reason: unclear] have all they can do to paddle the canoe, – and at last we dart out into the Lake Tarawara. We could not pass by the Hapu this time, our Canoe was stopped, and the Chief came up and spoke strongly. He gave me a letter to Ti Mackerini (Hon. D McLean, Native Minster, Wellington) which I politely promised to page 72 hand to him on my arrival. Soon after we left, but on our way some of our crew dived into a cave from which a lot of shags flew out, and brought our their eggs – It was nightfall before we arrived once more to enjoy the hospitality of the Chief Aparo and his Wife and Daughter. We ordered our guide to be ready early with the horses next morning, for starting, as our provisions had been much lessened by delay, and the addition of Mr Hamlyn to our company. We gave Aparo’s daughter a sovereign on leaving, but she did not care for it, and it was doubtless shared by the girls in general at the Hapu.