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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 1 (May 1, 1930)


Ohinemutu, which lies close to the north-western shore of Lake Rotorua, was founded, about five hundred years ago, by the Chief Ihenga, grandson of the leader of the Arawa Canoe. Since that day his descendents, known as the Ngati-Whakane branch of the Arawa tribe, have pursued a very pleasant existence, enjoying the good things of life without that toil and anxiety which ever follows in the wake of the white man. In the lake they found an abundance of indigenous fish; they had a climate never very cold and often luxuriously pleasant; and bubbling up at their own back doors have always been the perennial hot pools, serving the triple purposes of baths, cooking pots, and washing coppers. The cessation of inter-tribal conflicts and the coming of the white tourist introduced new elements of peace and comfort, while producing little change either in the picturesqueness of the inhabitants or the even tenor of their ways. Truly, more recent years have added many superficial modern touches, particularly to the younger Maoris, but the atmosphere of old times still persists strongly. Indeed, the Government is exerting itself to preserve in both this and the Whakare-warewa village all the essential characteristics of the typical Maori village, so far as that is consistent with modern needs in sanitation and convenience.

The main part of the Ohinemutu village faces the lake, some of it extends a few hundred yards inland over a slight rise. Naturally, the outstanding feature of interest to the visitor is the thermal activity. It is not spectacular, but eerie. Everywhere they bubble up, those fussy, energetic pools which you eye respectfully, but dare not touch. In the lake itself a tiny area close in shore steams and hisses furiously, while only a few yards further on, the water lies quiet and cool. At all points take care where you place your feet; you may be treading on solid ground, or you may blissfully be suspending yourself over the mouth of an inferno. Ordinarily, however, there is little danger to fear.