The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 1, Issue 9 (February 25, 1927)
Impressions of a Trip from Rotorua to the Wairakei Valley—(Concluded)
After dinner (which was served at 6 p.m.) we took our seats in the car which went to Karapeeti (the safety valve of the North Island) and the “Huka” falls, a little higher up the Waikato.
Karapeeti blow hole is an escaping volume of superheated steam with a pressure of 180 lbs. to the square inch coming through an aperture two feet by one foot. The guide lit a sack sprinkled with kerosene so that the visitors could see the escaping steam in the darkness and after the sack had partly burnt away he picked it up on a stick and shook the burning pieces down into the blow hole. These were immediately carried up in the jet of steam and presented a very weird fireworks effect, the sparks remaining alight, proving that it was super-heated or dry steam. This blow hole, according to Maori tradition, has been constant for the last 200 years and the Maoris of the early days of New Zealand used this column of steam as a beacon to guide them with their canoes across Lake Taupo which is six miles distant.
It is very comforting to know that through this energy being dissipated, disastrous results that might follow if it were pent up for any time, are prevented.
We were then taken to the “Huka” falls, on which a searchlight was played, but, as there was a heavy fog, the effect was very disappointing. However, it enabled us to form an idea of the sight of this mass of water, which passes through a narrow opening in the rocks, pouring noisily over the edge into the space below. The lighting to supply the Geyser Hotel and surroundings is generated by the aid of these falls, for transmission at 4,000 volts.
This concluded quite a wonderful day's entertainment and the sights, if they had not been actually seen, would be really beyond the human imagination.
After a good night's rest, we were again bowling along the road to Lake Taupo, and took advantage of a beautifully clear morning to obtain a better view of “Huka Falls.” We also took a few snap-shots.
After a five-mile drive the famous Lake Taupo, 238 square miles in area (greatest depth 534ft.), came into view. This is the world's best fishing lake, and is situated right in the middle of the North Island. Taupo is a favourite resort of trout fishermen, some really excellent catches being secured right throughout the season. On the shores of the lake is the finest geyser in the North Island, but as our time was limited, we had to “take it as read,” and after having a good look at the outlet of the lake, where it empties into the Waikato river, we turned our car for the trip back to Rotorua.
The return journey was much the same as the cutward journey, with the exception that we had lunch at the “Waiotapu” (Sacred Water) Geyser Hotel, and, afterwards, saw the Lady Knox geyser playing, it having been soaped. (It plays for 20 minutes after being soaped.) We also saw the boiling mud lake and mud volcano and a few steaming pools.
We proceeded to Rotorua and, on arriving, took the bus to the Maori village of Whakarewarewa. This is by far the most popular of the sights of the Thermal regions as it is within a mile of Rotorua, the cost being within the means of all—the bus fare 1/6 return, and the round of the village 1/6- including the guide's fee. We were taken round Whakarewarewa by a Maori lady guide called “Bella Papakura,” the sister of the famous guide, “Maggie Papakura.” “Maggie” married an Englishman who became infatuated with her while acting as his guide and the couple are now living in Kensington, London. We were first shown the steam cooking holes. Here the food is lowered in flax baskets and a sack placed over the top. This imprisons the steam and cooks the food. Various concoctions undergoing the cooking process gave forth a savoury odour.
A little further on we saw a Maori woman and child having a bath in a pool with their clothes on; also a maiden doing some washing. The boiling of the copper on washing day, the lighting of fires and the calling of the coalman, are dispensed with here where nature provides the necessary. [It is at this particular spot that today's newspaper reports a subsidence in the front of the meetinghouse leaving a hole of boiling water, 15 feet deep and 10 feet wide. We walked quite close to this spot.] Here we were shown where a tourist took a short cut and the thin silica crust breaking, he slipped down to the armpits scalding his legs so severely that he died shortly afterwards. Close by there was a boiling mineral water pool. This is calculated to be 250 feet deep. The guide's uncle was lost in this pool and never seen again, so they page 31 christened it “Puhekohuru” (The Edge of Sudden Death). We were told to listen, and we heard what resembled the grunt of a pig. This sound originates from a bubbling mud hole the shape of which causes the peculiar sound every time the mud bursts up. It is called the “Pig's Grunt.”
Close by is the geyser “Pohutu” which plays every 24 hours normally, but can be made to play by blocking the cold water from running in. This geyser plays to a height of about 25 feet. Next this is the “Cat's Eye Pool,” so named owing to the presence of black oil in the boiling mud. Every bubble coming up brings a spot of oil which centres in the middle of the bubble resembling the pupil of an eye.
We then visited the model Pa which stands on some high ground and represents the different buildings and whares (houses) of a Pa. There was the “Patuka” (Store House) and the “Whakarongatai” (Meeting or Listening House). These had carved figures on their front entrances representing some episode in Maori history. “Tutanekai,” a chief, is represented playing his flute. “Hinemoa,” a Maori maiden of a rival tribe holding the gourds she swam with to the island of Mokoia to see her lover, “Tutanekai.” “Maui” (The God of Fish) who, the legend tells us, brought up the South Island of New Zealand on his fishing line. The “God of Carving” is also represented. He is said to have had only three fingers on each hand, hence all Maori carved images have only three fingers.
With reference to “Tutanekai,” “Hinemoa” and “Mokoia” the story is told that Tutanekai, a very handsome young chieftain living on the Island of Mokoia, which is in the middle of Lake “Rotorua” (Twin Lakes), used to play his flute (an instrument made from a reed) which so charmed Hinemoa, a maiden of a rival tribe living on the shores of Lake Rotorua, that she fell in love with him, but her father would never consent to her being taken across the lake to Mokoia in the canoes. She eventually decided to swim across one night and, with the aid of gourds and directed by the sound of the flute of Tutanekai, she reached the island where she was found by Tutanekai hiding in the rushes. He at once took her to be his wife, much against the wishes of the elder chiefs of the Pa, but it is from this union that the present day population of the district sprang. The name “Hinemoa” is much honoured here, and the people living on the shores of Rotorua will quote:—
“Mine the enchantress who hither swam, Beauteous Hinemoa.”
One more sight and we finished Whakare-warewa. There are some silica terraces forming, and have been for years, by the water running away from some boiling pools on a slight rise in the ground. These are assuming all kinds of page 32 weird shapes. One is a complete boxing glove which looks as if it had been modelled out. It was very uncanny walking over these formations as one felt the movements underneath, and it was quite a relief to be able to move off on to what was considered more solid ground.
It is from these latter pools of boiling water that the famous “Duchess” Bath at Rotorua is supplied. This bath has a temperature of blood heat and is much appreciated by bathers. One of its characteristics is to leave the skin beautifully soft. Two of our party indulged on several occasions and after each immersion stated that their skin was getting softer.
On the evening prior to our departure, two of our party, who had terpsichorean tendencies wandered into a dance hall, whilst the other two, still under the grip of the skin softening process, went to the Duchess Bath and, judging by the enthusiasm of these two when met later, the effects of this bath must outdo the Kruschen feeling. Referring again to the dance, our reception resembled cold storage, no doubt due to our being complete strangers, and also to a pronounced shyness on the part of the gentle sex. A thaw, however, set in and as soon as our proficiency in the art became known, we were much in demand. After a few enjoyable dances, we managed to steal out of the room unobserved, which must have proved a severe disappointment to quite a number.
Thus finished our most wonderful two days' journeyings. They will remain a page of three-line type in the history book of our lives. For myself I have never appreciated a trip so much as this one.
Kia Ora. Kanui taku aroha atu ki a koe.
(Good luck. Great is my love for you.)
We are obliged to estimate probabilities, and we are obliged to shape our course according to a fair and reasonable estimate of these probabilities.