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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 4 (July 1, 1939)

Pictures from Lakeland — Roto-Iti — And Its Historic Setting

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Pictures from Lakeland
And Its Historic Setting

Lake Roto-Iti which forms the subject of the accompanying article.

Lake Roto-Iti which forms the subject of the accompanying article.

(Rly. Publicity photos.)

Roto-Iti, the Little Lake, is the second jewel in that irregular chain of water which lies like a necklace of precious stones across the lap of the Rotorua uplands.

Steep mountain faces run down to Roto-Iti; there are forest-clad reaches, and white bluffs sliding into deep-blue water, and there are pale satin shallows where the lonely bittern booms in the reed-beds. Roto-Iti touches Rotorua by the thin silver link of the Ohau Channel; the main road to Tauranga passes between the two lakes by way of a bridge. At Okere the waters find outlet, rushing in strange abandon from the shallows of the lake in a clear green, glassy river, hurtling over the white drop of the Okere Falls, tumbling and zig-zagging in the dark gorges of the mountain country, until, passing through the green farming lands of the coast, the cold upland waters mingle with the blue salt tide of the Pacific.

Roto-Iti is very old in Maori history. Long, long before the coming of the white man, its grim headlands were ditched and terraced; sentinel posts crowned the heights; palisaded villages looked down sheer slopes upon the still mountain water. From bay to bay, through the long centuries, pealed the sound of the war-conch, harsh as vengeance.

It was here, little more than a hundred years ago, that the great sealord of the North, Hongi Hika, came portaging his war-canoes overland from Roto-Ehu by a road, which his warriors built in one night through the virgin forest. The main highway from Rotorua to Whakatane runs through Hongi's Track now, and the service cars flash under the green gloom of the long bush aisles which were once sacred to Tane the Forest-Lord.

But if you turn aside from the road, your feet will carry you by dim mossy pathways and cathedral pillars of fernsheathed tree-boles, by small shelving beaches where the peacock-blue waters of the lake lap the snow-white sand. In the forests of Roto-Iti, the fairies live. Your pakeha eyes may not be able to see them, but perhaps you have wondered why the long graceful fronds of the tree-fern droop so low. It is because the Little Green Ones, the Spirit-Elves of Tane, have perched there.

Close to Roto-Iti lies the amazing cauldron of thermal activity that is Tikitere. It is a hell of bubbling water and hissing mud, of garishly coloured scars upon the green earth, of strange springs leaping from fantastic rocks, of great steam-plumes billowing against the blue sky.

A few hundred yards away, just across the road, is a curious contrast. It is the cold tranquil crater lake of Roto-Kawau, held in steep circular cliffs of bushland, a cup of water as blue as a liquid sapphire. Of all the lakes of the thermal country, surely Roto-Kawau must be the least and loveliest!

Round about the farther shores of Roto-Iti, there is beauty of another kind, for here, upon the cool blue bays and inlets, are the cottages and dwellings of the holiday settlements. The road to Tauranga and the coast is conveniently close; many Tauranga residents own a cottage and boat at Roto-Iti, and spend lazy holidays and weekends through the summer, enjoying the safe boating and lake bathing, the fishing, and the cooler nights of the upland country.

Close against the white beaches the cottages cluster, brown and white and russet, with wooden fences, and hedges of roses, and boats tied up by the front doors. But they are not all holiday cottages. You will see permanent homes
The famous Hongi's Track near Rotorua.

The famous Hongi's Track near Rotorua.

page 62 that turn your mind to thoughts of a Maxfield Parrish picture, dark cypress trees and white boathouse steps by the deep Italian blue of mountain water, sun-golden porch pillars and window-embrasures looking across to the blue mountains.

But Roto-Iti is a lake of many moods. It is, perhaps, at its loveliest on a frosty winter morning, with the water as blue as a peacock's throat, and the low hills white as snow. In summer the water is pale and smooth as satin, shining with some strange subterranean light. But when the thunder-clouds hang low over the mountains, then the lake waters turn dark as steel, sombre and threatening beneath a storm-filled sky. Sunset is tranquillity. Long after the dazzling path of the sun has faded from the water, the colour lingers, until the hills grow dark and the first stars appear.

To a fisherman there is no lovelier sight than the evening rise of a trout, the splash, and the delicacy of the widening ripples. Great shining rainbows leap and play in the shallows of Roto-Iti, when the flies skim low across the tranquil surface. Favourite spot of fishermen is the Ohau Channel, beside the peaceful little saw-mill village of Mourea. The Channel is narrow, and the banks easy, and in the glassy green waters fine fighting fish disport themselves.

The Ohau Channel directly links the two lakes, Rotorua and Roto-Iti. Fishing and boating parties from Rotorua sail straight through the Channel, and have their choice of all the bays and reaches of Roto-Iti. On a calm summer afternoon, white launches and sailing-boats glide through the blue water that was once cleft by the fierce prows of Hongi's war-canoes. By the beaches where the wild war-cry once echoed, the fisherman hears the silken whisper of his cast, and the zipping song of the reel with a fine eightpounder fighting.

By the shores of Roto-Iti the Murillo or Spanish cherries grow.

If you drive in December along the lake roads, the Maori children will stop your car, and offer to sell you small flax-woven baskets of the bright fruit. The trees are very old now, bowed and gnarled, weathered grey by the long years of frost and rain and sunshine. They were planted as slender little whips away back in the old days when the black-robed Catholic missionaries sought to spread the religion of the Cross among the grim dignified fighting people of the Rotorua uplands.

When the brave little twigs broke into blossom in that unhomelike country by the strange lake shores where the swift-flowing springs boiled opal and green out of the trembling rocks, and the great steam-plumes burgeoned upward against the sombre face of the bush-clad mountain, the heart of the exiles must surely have turned wistfully back to their own blue Provencal country, with its grey stone walls running by peaceful villages, and olive-groves glistening kindly in the sunlight.

The missionaries are gone now, and their little wayside shrines are vanished, but the cherry trees still blossom in the lakeside settlements beside the white sand and the steam-plumes, and the deep Italian blue of the mountain water. The fruit has an odd lingering tang, so that, having once tasted it, you cannot completely forget it, but years later, and perhaps thousands of miles away, on thirsty days, you may find your mind turning back to Spanish cherries, and to the blue waters of Roto-Iti.

The “New Zealand Listener.”
New Radio Magazine.

For a long time, there has been a crying need for a really authoritative journal giving complete information on the programmes that are daily presented from National and Commercial stations for listeners. When the first copy of “The Listener” appears at the end of June, it will go into the homes of the 317,000 licence-holders in this country. And it is safe to say that it will function as the first real guide to broadcasts this country has had. It covers the broadest possible field of listening. For music-lovers, there will be news of their favourite artists and orchestras; sporting enthusiasts will be told of the latest sports activities; there will be a special section of interest to all men on the land; and there will be news for women, for play-lovers, for those who like talks, and even for the younger members of the family.

Listeners, whatever their taste, will find no difficulty in locating their favourite sessions, for by a system of quick reference charts, a summary of the week's programmes may be seen at a glance.

It has always seemed a pity that interesting talks are not preserved in more tangible form. “The Listener” will, from the beginning, publish the more interesting of the broadcast material which will be worthy of perusal even after the talk itself has been presented.

The first issue of the journal will go to 380,000 homes in New Zealand—indeed, it is safe to anticipate that it will go where other newspapers and magazines in this country have never penetrated—and subsequent issues may be ordered through money-order-offices or booksellers. Through money-order-offices the magazine may be secured post free.

This will be found to be the paper for which every listener and his family have been waiting.

New Zealand Centennial Publications.

We have received the following letter from Mr. E. H. McCormick, editor of Centennial Publications:—

“I have to thank you for the complimentary references to Centennial publications on the literary page of your issue of 1st June. Both the National Historical Committee and this Department appreciate the interest you have shown in our various publications. The writer of the paragraph is, however, under a misapprehension when he states that ‘each book will be published in two editions, one appealing to the student and the collector and the other in popular illustrated form. The fact is that we are producing two separate series of Centennial surveys, the first a series of pictorial surveys with the series title of ‘Making New Zealand.’ The second series will consist of some fourteen surveys of 30,000 words each written by authorities, but equally with the pictorial series intended for popular reading. The book of the second series will also contain illustrations, maps and diagrams, but in smaller number than in the pictorial series. With renewed thanks for the interest you have shown in our work.”

A hot mineral waterfall at Tikitere, Rotorua thermal district.

A hot mineral waterfall at Tikitere, Rotorua thermal district.