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Chapter IX. — Trails from the Coast to Tutira

page 62

Chapter IX.
Trails from the Coast to Tutira.

Maori footpaths in olden times followed the lines of scantiest vegetation such as open river reaches, unfertile hill-tops, ridges bare of cover, lines of ingress and egress, in fact, least liable to ambuscade. There were two main trails connecting Tutira with the coast, the one from Arapawanui on the east, the other from Tangoio on the south. These, as also the tracks round the lake and the outward track to the ranges, I shall use as threads on which to string our narrative; from them I shall invite the reader to listen to the legends, folk-lore, and history of the localities traversed.

Starting from Arapawanui on the coast, the track inland followed the general line of the river Waikoau as far as the eastern corner of Tutira. The going was fairly open and level; the river, flowing only a few score feet above sea-level, had deposited along its banks sand, grit, and limestone rubble washed from its upper reaches. At its great bend, near to the several boundaries of Arapawanui, Tangoio, and Tutira, precipitous marl cliffs compelled a deviation. Almost exactly opposite the spot where the Mangahinahina stream joins the main river, our trail crossed on to Tutira soil. Immediately after passage of the Umungoiro ford a faintly defined subsidiary track followed for a quarter of a mile the general direction of the river-bed to a little clearing in a patch of bush. Doubtless it had been the home of some outlier, a residence only habitable under the conditions of the second phase of native life on the run; like every settlement of that later period, it was marked by the presence of peach-trees. Reverting to the main track from the Waikoau, it followed the line of the Mangahinahina brook until that streamlet, as streamlets do on Tutira, narrowed into a gorge. It continued along a narrow ridge, first in a northerly line, then along the ridge of another page 62a
Newton or Tutira Range.

Newton or Tutira Range.

page 62b page 63 spur in a westerly direction. At the base of the long ascent, on which are situated the group of rock fragments called Te-Poa-Kore, it bifurcated the less trodden path turning south towards the kainga of Mangahinahina. This Kainga was perched on a rise near to woodlands of the same name. Here in ancient times grew the largest trees to be found on eastern Tutira. One of them, a magnificent totara named Te Awhiawhi, lay in the 'eighties fallen, topped, and rudely hollowed into the shape of a canoe. About the kainga itself were visible no signs of defensive works; in spite of this total lack of fortification the village belongs, nevertheless, to the old order of things, and is illustrative of what has been already told of the Ngai-Tatara—that their pas were in their heels. The kumara or sweet-potato plantations here were the largest on the run, the rich ground and excellent exposure well suiting the requirements of this tropical tuber. About the sites of the old whares grew also in the 'eighties the usual signs of the later era—peach-groves. Surviving from the garden plots of this derelict village I have found clumps also of another alien—a species of mint (Nepeta cataria).
Long prior to the 'eighties the “grubbed grounds,” as these cultivation lands used to be called, had reverted to a wild state. Only the name remained to show that they had been stumped by native labour. Thickly covering them, groves of ngaio, wine-berry, and manuka had sprung up, none of these natural plantations showing normal forest growth. The trees in each patch were of similar age; there was no admixture of species. They had evidently taken immediate possession of tilled ground abandoned and disused. The original vegetation of the “grubbed grounds” had probably been light bush, with just sufficient intermixture of bracken to carry a fire. The native had burnt this growth in a dry summer and afterwards taken advantage of the favourable conditions to clear the land thoroughly. The kainga itself was built on just such a site as the old-time natives cared for: its clustered whares stood on the gentle slope of a spur studded with huge limestone crags deeply sunk into the ground. One of the most lovely sites on Tutira, it was raised well above the damp of the wooded ravines on either side; it caught the earliest rays of the morning sun up the long rift of the valley of the Waikoau. If its inhabitants did not live happy in content and country freedom they must indeed have been hard to please. We know at any rate that at least one other person desired to be on that pleasant spot. She was a girl called Hariata, in love with Te-Iwi-Whati. page 64 Looking downwards from Te-Karaka, a high point between Waipatiki and Arapawanui, she could see, or nearly see, the dwelling of her lover. The following is the waiata composed for her singing by a friendly poetess, Kowhio:—

Akuanei au ka piki ki te Karaka ra ia
A marama au te titiro ki Manga-hinahina ra.
Kei raro iho na ko taku atua e aroha nei au.
Taku hinganga iho ki raro ra ko turi te tokorua;
Te roa noa hoki o te po tuarua e Iwi.
Oho rawa ake nei ki te ao, hopukau kahore, ei.

I will climb with the dawn to the top of Te Karaka
So that I may get a clear view of Manga-hinahina.
Just below lies my beloved one.
Whilst I slept alone, my tucked-up knees only were my bedfellow.
During the long night, twice, Iwi, I have dreamed of thee,
I awoke, I felt for thee; thou wast gone!

Returning again to the main route, it followed in a westerly direction the ridge of a very steep leading spur passing the group of limestone rocks, Te-Poa-Kore, already named, and later the minute tarn, Te-Roto-a-Hikawainoa. Still following the hill-tops it reached the elevation Te-Whare-Pu, and lastly the high ground called in most ancient times Kakeha, but more recently, in commemoration of a gross episode of the nursery, Tutae-o-whare-Pakiaka. Here the track again branched, the less trodden portion dropping in a steep descent on to terrace levels, known in modern times firstly as the “Reserve” and later as the “Racecourse” Flat. The other branch also dropping over the brow Te Puku, and passing the group of limestone rocks also so named, followed the unbroken line of a narrow ridge downwards towards Waikopiro—this jut or headland Te Puku being known as the “head,” the lakelets Waikopiro and Orakai as the “eyes” of Tutira.

For the present we can leave this path and describe the other line inland—the trail from Tangoio. From the important coastal pa Ngamoerangi, long since swept away by the sea, and in later days from the Ra-o-Tangoio pa, it followed for a considerable distance cultivated lands along the bed of the small stream, Te Ngarue, that debouched on to the flat lands from the north. At the junction of this stream with the Pae-a-Huru the trail forked, one branch ascending page 65 a steep northerly spur, the other proceeding along the Pae-a-Huru for half a mile, when it also turned north; on the first-mentioned path there are no signs of use, but forty years ago scattered peach-trees and grape-vines survived along the second trail. In early days these, and more rarely other foreign fruits, were planted by travellers as acts of good citizenship. The seeds thus dibbled in flourished extraordinarily; blights were unknown, there were no sheep to nibble, no cattle to break down and destroy.

Leaving the stream-bed when it became a gorge, the last-mentioned track rose by steep gradients up the Te Ngakau-o-Takoto spur, and followed several leading ranges of the interior of the Tangoio run in a north-westerly direction to “Dolbel's boundary gate,” Kai-arero, where the two branches conjoined. Later the track descended from the range Urumai by precipitous ridges into the valley of the Waikoau. Near that river flourished in the 'eighties a couple of small peach-groves, marking as elsewhere during the second period the unfenced cultivations of outliers, sometimes aged couples whose children had grown up, sometimes solitary individuals. This locality was called Tara-rere. A few yards down-stream from the site of the present bridge our track crossed from the Kaiwaka run to Tutira. It climbed the steep spur Tutae-o-Whenako, and continued along the western side of the limestone streamlet Te Hu-o-Manu. Where this rill joins the main river is situated the cave Oruamano.

On the right below the high top called Pou-nui-a-Hine is another small cave beneath a limestone projection, in ancient times the home of a kumi. The story is still related by the Ngai-Tatara of a visit by a Waikato chief to Tutira. He had heard of the kumi at Pou-nui-a-Hine, but derided the tales that were told concerning its powers. Maybe, however, he was less of a disbeliever than he posed to be. At any rate, he was persuaded by one of the tohungas—wizards or priests—who had power over the kumi, to visit the spot. They climbed the heights, and eventually reached the projecting ledge beneath which the creature lived, in the likeness, I am given to understand, of a tio—a bivalve of some sort. The tohunga then recited the necessary incantations, with the result that the shell gradually opened, revealing a small lizard-like reptile, moko-parae. The Waikato man was interested but still unconvinced. The tohunga recited further incantations, which had the effect of making the kumi visibly grow. The attitude of the page 66 Waikato man began to change. He saw with his own eyes the reptile increasing into a formidable monster. He dared not watch longer, but becoming panic-stricken, took his departure as fast as his legs could carry him. His flight was the signal for the kumi to give chase. Down the cliffs they hurried as fast as they could go. When they reached the “Racecourse” Flat they were seen by Hine-kino, a wise woman or priestess or female tohunga, who also had considerable power over the kumi. She saw the predicament into which, by pride and presumption, the Waikato man had put himself. Straddling out her legs, she called to him to run between them. The Waikato man—his choice the devil or the deep sea—did so, with the result that the kumi stayed its chase and returned to its home below Pou-nui-a-Hine. Now, in olden times, except in the case of a wife, it was not proper that a woman should pass over any part of a man; sitting at night with legs outstretched around the whare fires, a woman about to move across the circle will always for that reason give notice of her intention, the menfolk tucking up their legs to avoid contact. When, therefore, the Waikato man rushed between the legs of the priestess Hine-kino, he lost mana—authority, prestige, reputation,—the word is hard to translate; he had sued for protection; he had forfeited his highly-prized attributes of rank and chieftainship; no longer would he be recognised as a leader of men in the lands of the Ngai-Tatara. His travelling mana had undergone what the Maoris termed tararo—a casting down.1

Our track still rising, now passed on to the “Racecourse Flat.” Much of these rich washings from the hills above has been worked, the Maoris having taken advantage, as in the case of the burnt bush of the Mangahinahina, of favourable natural conditions. Through its cultivation-patches the track proceeded towards Tutira lake, passing a large square rock upon which has been growing, during my ownership page 67 of the station, a handsome kowhai tree. This great quadrilateral, Te Pa-o-te-ahi-tara-iti, was in bygone days a favourite haunt of the village children, who played on it “King of the Castle” and other games common to children the world over.

Proceeding, the track passed on the left the locality Wai-hapua, on the right the locality Wai-hara, then on the left Mahia. Here exist several deep pits, near which used to stand a couple of boundary-stones—pou-rohe; these pits—ruakumara—which are too minute for the storage of any potato crop worth garnering, were probably, as their name denotes, used for kumara. Far to the left, distant perhaps half a mile in the river-bed of the Waikoau, lay the locality Patuna-o-Tamarehe. The low rounded spur or hillock, Te Rua Awai, the ancient burying-ground of the tribe, was next passed on the right. Near-by grew the great ti—cabbage-tree (Cordyline australis)—on whose branches the bones of the dead were exposed previous to final sepulture. The burial-grounds, the tree, and the pit Piraunui, were alike deeply tapu—sacred—in ancient times; nor even now is the recollection of the tapu entirely gone; old Te Hata-Kani, whose recollections go back some eighty years, and to whom I am indebted for many of these old-world legends, was most circumspect in his perambulations, and though he said nothing, scrupulously forbore to tread on consecrated grounds.

Here for the present, conjoined on the southernmost shore of Waikopiro, we can leave the trails connecting Tutira with the ocean and the outside world.

1 A well-known instance of this custom occurs in Percy Smith's ‘Maori Wars of the Nineteenth Century’: “Te Ao-kapu-rangi, a woman of rank of the Ngati-Rangi-wewehi tribe, being anxious to save her own people when Mokoia was attacked, insisted on going with the taua or war-party. She importuned her husband, and through him Hongi Hika, to save her friends. To this Hongi at last unwillingly consented, making it a condition that all who passed between her thighs should be saved. She was in Hongi's canoe when Te-Awaawa—owner of the only musket in the island—crept behind a flax bush just where the canoe landed, and fired, knocking Hongi over. Hongi's fall, though protected from a wound by his steel helmet, created a sort of panic, during which Te Ao-kapu-rangi sprang ashore and, quickly making her way to a large house belonging to her tribe, stood with her legs straddled above the doorway, at the same time imploring her people to enter the house, which they did until it could contain no more, and all these were saved; hence the saying, ‘Ano ko te whare whawhao a Te Ao-kapu-rangi’—‘like the crowded house of Te Ao-kapu-rangi.’”