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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 6 (October 1, 1930)

Enchanted Waters — The Fountains in the Fern

page 37

Enchanted Waters
The Fountains in the Fern

Legend of the Fairy Spring

Some of the dew-clear streams which flow into Rotorua Lake are not much more than a mile in length, yet they are of large volume. They have their origin in the hills, but flow underground for the greater part of their course, far from the light of day, until they suddenly find an orifice giving them access to the world above. Then they spring upward, bubbling and sparkling and exulting in their freedom, and go purling and singing down through the fern and green bushes to the lake. They are cold as ice when they issue from the under-world. Some of these streams, like the Awahou and Hamurana, are of good size and are navigable for canoes and boats right up to their sources.

And, as amongst all primitive peoples, these riverheads and fountain-wells are intimately associated with the local folklore and local religion. The Old World belief in water-deities and in such uncanny beings as water-wraiths and kelpies has its counterpart here. The Puna-a-Tuhoe is a “Holy Well,” such as we hear of in Celtic folk-talk; the Hamurana and the Awahou and Utuhina have, or had, their water-genii, their taniwha and ngarara. Unlike the Greek Naiades, the lovely nymphs who haunted the forest-shaded springs, the Maori water-creatures were generally of a repellant, often ferocious, order. They resembled huge saurians in appearance, from the traditional descriptions handed down, and they devoured human beings.

The Puna-a-Tuhoe (“Tuhoe's Fountain”), popularly called the Fairy Spring, is situated in a little ferny valley, alongside the Rotorua-Tauranga road, and close to the foot of Mount Ngongotaha, about three miles west of Rotorua town. A large cold spring of remarkable translucence gushes up, and forms the source of a beautiful trout stream, flowing down through the manuka thickets to the lake. The circular basin is shaded by kotukutuku and makomako shrubs, bending their branches over the clear waters, and ferns fringe the shady edge of the pool. The spring is floored with white sand, and through the glistening bed bubble up the fountain's mother-waters, the manawa-whenua—the “heart of the land”—ever rushing, ever pulsing. With the beating of the water-heart the fine sand itself swirls and eddies on the shining bed just where the fount has its source. Countless fish dart here and there, glittering iridescent in the transparent waters, and where the sunshine strikes the spring there is a play of rainbow colours, an ever-changing gleam and sparkle of iris hues.

The Puna-a-Tuhoe is as thick with fish as a trawler's net after a big haul. So crowded is the pool with rainbow trout that the wonder is where they all obtain their food. Many of these trout seem never to leave this fountain head; and not only at spawning times—when the fish in enormous numbers make their way up stream from the lake—but all the year round the puna is full of trout. Tuhoe's fount is tapu to rod and line. It is a sacred breeding place, protected by the Crown

Legends cluster round this fairy spring in the ferny dell. It is not surprising to learn from the old Maoris that it was the work of a ngarara—a monstrous saurian—which burrowed down here to the under world, and so formed the goblin well. The chieftain after whom the place is named was the eponymous founder of the Tuhoe tribe (also called Urewera) and the progenitor of many of its leading page 38 families. Centuries ago he dwelt in his pa, Karaka, on the top of Pukewharangi, the hill which overlooks the spring, and this was his mystic wai-tapu or pool of incantation. The spring was a “wai-whakarukuhanga-atua”—that is, a pool into which the gods dived. The tohunga, who were believed to be the kaupapa or mediums of Tuhoe's war-gods Tu-nui-a-te-Ika and Te Pou-tua-tini, lived in the pa above, and this was the sacred water to which they came to perform their ceremonies, and to consult the oracles. The two war-gods were believed to take the form of meteors (whetu kokiri) when they were called upon by the priests, or when war was at hand. If the shooting-stars darted across the sky in the direction of the enemy's country it was a clear invitation to attack the offending tribe, and an omen of success in battle. After the wargod had thus pointed out the path of the war-party, it would return, say the Maoris, and plunge into this pool and disappear where the water bubbles up through the always-moving sand in the bottom of the clear fountain-well.

One Of The Most Fascinating Sights In The Rotorua Wonder Region. (Rly. Publicity Photo.) The famous Fairy Spring, Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand.

One Of The Most Fascinating Sights In The Rotorua Wonder Region.
(Rly. Publicity Photo.)
The famous Fairy Spring, Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand.

Spanish Railway Progress.
(From Our London Correspondent.)

Marked success attended this year's gathering of the International Railway Congress Association at Madrid, and the meetings afforded delegates from every land an opportunity of seeing something of the progress that has in recent times been effected in the Spanish railway world. Spain's first railway was that linking Barcelona with Mataro, 28½ kilometres distant, opened in 1848. Almost all the early Spanish railways were financed by Britain, and the bulk of the locomotives and other equipment came from abroad. In 1924 the Spanish lines were put under State control, the numerous independent systems being amalgamated into a number of large units. The most important systems to-day operating are the Northern, the Madrid, Saragossa and Alicante, the Andalusian Railways, and the Western Spain National Railway. The largest system—the Northern—is 3,706 kilometres in length, and owns 1,169 steam locomotives, 23 electric locomotives, 1,888 passenger carriages, and 30,700 goods wagons.