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The King Country; or, Explorations in New Zealand. A Narrative of 600 Miles of Travel through Maoriland.

The Frontier of the King Country

page 17

The Frontier of the King Country.

Chapter I.
The King's Camp.

Alexandra—Crossing the frontier—Whatiwhatihoe—The camp—King Tawhiao—The chiefs—"Taihoa".

Alexandra, the principal European settlement on the northern frontier of the King Country, lies about one hundred miles distant from Auckland, and a little less than eight miles to the west of the Te Awamutu terminus of the southern line of railway.

I reached Alexandra along a delightful road lined with the hawthorn and sweetbriar, and through a picturesque country, where quiet homesteads, surrounded by green meadows filled with sleek cattle and fat sheep, imparted to the aspect of nature an air of contentment and quiet repose. Indeed, when doing this journey in a light buggy drawn by a pair of fast horses, it seemed difficult to realize the fact that I was fast approaching the border-line of European settlement, and that a few minutes more would land me on the frontier of a vast territory which formed the last home of perhaps the boldest and most intelligent race page 18of savages the world had ever seen. In fact, when approaching Alexandra from the Te Awamutu road, with its neat white houses, embowered amidst gardens and groves of trees, and with its church-spire pointing towards heaven, I seemed to be entering a quiet English village; and had it not been that the eye fell now and again upon a dark, statuesque figure, wrapped in a blanket, and with a touch of the "noble savage" about it, it would have been somewhat difficult to dispel the pleasant illusion.

The township was not large, and a school-house, two hotels, several stores, a public hall, commodious constabulary barracks surrounded by a redoubt, a postal and telegraph station, a blacksmith's forge, and about fifty houses, built for the most part of wood, formed its principal features of Anglo-Saxon civilization.

On the day following my arrival at Alexandra I left, in company with a native interpreter, for Whatiwhatihoe, to present my credentials to the Maori king. Our ride across the frontier into Maoriland was a most delightful one. The steep, wooded heights of Mount Pirongia had cast off their curtain of mist, and stood revealed in their brightest hues; while the green, rolling hills at its base formed a pleasant contrast with the more sombre, fern-clad banks of the Waipa River, as it wound its devious course from the direction of of Mount Kakepuku, which rose above the plain beyond in the form of a gigantic cone. The country for miles around lay stretched before the gaze, forming a varied picture of delightful scenery, and all nature appeared budding into life; while the prickly gorse, with its page 19golden-yellow flowers, encircled Whatiwhatihoe like a chevaux de frise. The primitive whares1 of the natives imparted a rustic appearance to the scene, as they stood scattered about the country to the south, while, as the eye wandered in the direction of the north, the white homesteads of the settlers served to mark the aukati2—frontier-line—separating the King Country from the territory of the pakeha.3

The king's settlement of Whatiwhatihoe was situated on the west or opposite bank of the Waipa from Alexandra, and on a broad alluvial plain running along the base of a range of fern-clad hills. As a rule the whares were built entirely of raupo,4 and were scattered about the flat and on the low hills in its vicinity without any regard to regularity, and while some had a neat and even a clean look, others were less attractive both in their designs and general surroundings. They were mostly oblong in shape, with slanting roofs, which projected a few feet at one end of the building in the form of a recess, where the entrance, consisting of a low narrow doorway, was placed. Windows, in the form of small square apertures, were the exception and not the rule, and consequently the interior of these primitive domiciles was badly ventilated. A few blankets and native mats formed the principal articles of furniture, save where the owner, profiting by the advance of civilization, had gone in for articles de vertu

1 Whare is the native name for a house or hut.

2 The aukati signifies the boundary of a tapued or sacred district.

3 Pakeha is a term used by the Maoris to designate Europeans; it means a stranger, or a person from a distant country.

4 For a synopsis of the principal flora met with during the journey, see Appendix.

page 20on which the "Brummagem" hall-mark might be distinctly traced.

As we approached the camp the whole place presented a very animated appearance; horsemen were riding about in every direction; long cavalcades of natives, men, women, and children, were arriving from all parts of the country, to take part in the korero1 to be held on the morrow; while many old tattooed savages, swathed in blankets, and plumed with huia feathers to denote their chieftainship, were squatting about, puffing at short pipes with a stolid air, as they listened in mute attention to one of their number as, gesticulating wildly, and walking to and fro between two upright poles set a few paces apart, he delivered a fiery harangue upon the momentous question of throwing open their Country to the advancing tide of civilization. Bevies of women and girls were busily engaged in preparing for the coming feast, and troops of children played and fought with countless pigs and innumerable mongrel dogs.

While pushing our way among the assembled crowds we were met by the king's henchman, a half-caste of herculean proportions, who conducted us to the whare runanga, or meeting-house, an oblong structure about eighty feet long by forty broad, solidly built out of a framework of wood, and thatched with raupo. It was capable of holding a large number of people, and the white rush mats covering the floor gave it a clean and comfortable appearance.

In the centre of this spacious hall sat the king

1 The word korero (to speak) is here applied as a general term to the meeting.

page 21flanked by his four wives, the principal and most attractive of whom was Pare Hauraki, a fine buxom woman with oval features and artistically tattooed lips, habited in native costume, with a korowhai, or cape, bound with kiwi feathers, thrown carelessly across her shoulders, over which her dark raven hair fell in thick, waving clusters. A number of chiefs of the various tribes
the maori queen pare hauraki.

the maori queen pare hauraki.

assembled, squatted in a semicircle in front of the king, who rose from his seat—a rush mat—as I approached, and motioned for me to be seated in front of him.

Tawhiao was habited in European attire, consisting of a pair of dark trousers, patent leather boots, and a grey frock-coat trimmed with red braiding about the sleeves, and which at the first glance reminded me page 22of the redingote gris affected by Napoleon I., and which obtained for him the sobriquet of the "little corporal." A black huia feather tipped with white adorned his hair, and in his left ear he wore a large piece of roughly polished greenstone,1 and in his right a shark's tooth. In stature he was a little below the medium height, sparely made, but keenly knit, with a round, well-formed head; while his features, which were elaborately tattooed in a complete network of blue curved lines, were well defined in the true Maori mould; and although he had a cast in the left eye, his countenance was pleasant, and as he spoke in a slow deliberate way, he invariably displayed in his conversation a good deal of cool, calculating shrewdness.

Among the principal rangatiras, or chiefs, present were Tu Tawhiao, the king's son, Major Te Wheoro, Manga Rewi, Te Tuhi, Te Ngakau, Wahanui, Whitiora, Hone Te Wetere, and Hone Te One. Tu Tawhiao was a tall, slim youth, with a thin, sleek face and dark moustache, and with a meek expression of countenance. He affected European costume, and had none of the strong Maori type of feature so characteristic of his father. He did not appear to be a very gifted youth, but he had a pleasing manner, and might be considered as a fair type of the anglicized Maori. Major Te Wheoro was a short, thick-set man, with heavy features and a somewhat shrewd look. He ranged himself on

1 The pounamu, or greenstone (nephrite), a species of jade, is much prized by the Maoris as an ornament, either for the neck or ears. It is only found on the west coast of the Middle Island, the native name for which is Wahipounamu, or Land of the Greenstone.

page 23the European side during the war, when he gained his commission, and at the time of which I write he was one of the four Maori members of the House of Representatives. Manga Rewi, like Tawhiao, was a Maori of the old school, and with all the physical characteristics of the race about him. His chief influence appeared to arise from the fact that during the war he was one of the principal Kingite leaders. Te Ngakau was remarkably thick-set and muscular, with a firm-looking yet intelligent face. He was dressed half as a Maori and half as a European, and was remarkable for nothing so much as for the enormous development of the calves of his legs. Whitiora was an antiquated, tattooed warrior, who during the war had won his laurels when gallantly defending the Rangiriri Pa against the Imperial forces, while Hone Te Wetere was known to fame in a somewhat doubtful way in connection with the White Cliffs massacre.

The most notable, however, of all the chiefs present was undoubtedly Wahanui, of the Ngatimaniapoto tribe. Standing over six feet, and of enormous build, he had a peculiar air about him which seemed to mark him as one born to command. His features, slightly tattooed about the mouth—which was singularly large —bore a remarkable appearance of intelligence, while his head, covered with thick white hair, was round and massively formed. He impressed me very favourably during the interview, and when speaking, as he did at some length upon the political condition of the King Country, he seemed to possess not only a great power of language, but a singularly persuasive manner which was at once both courteous and dignified. He ap-page 24pread to exercise a weighty influence over the king, and to act in all matters as the "power behind the throne," but he had evidently a conservative turn of mind, and had he been born in England, I think he would have developed into a nobleman of very pronounced Tory principles.

wahanui.(Chief of the Ngatimaniapoto Tribe.)

(Chief of the Ngatimaniapoto Tribe.)

When the king had learned the object of my mission, and that I had come to obtain his authority to explore the Maori territory, he was careful to inquire what other countries I had visited, and whether I had before travelled in other parts of the world with no other view than to see mountains, rivers, and plains. "The page 25Maori," he remarked, "never undergoes fatigue for such a purpose as that, but I know," he continued, with a slight touch of na?veté, "the pakeha is different to the Maori, he has the 'earth hunger,' and likes to see new places. If you wish to go into the country, you
manga rewi.((A. Chief of the Maniapoto Tribe.)

manga rewi.
((A. Chief of the Maniapoto Tribe.)

may do so when the meeting is over, but it is not good that you should go until the Maori has spoken with the pakeha at the korero, therefore I say wait, 'taihoa.'"

The latter word sounded somewhat unpleasant to page 26my ears, as I knew with the Maoris it was their gospel, and was synonymous with the Spanish proverb, "Never do to-day what may be done to morrow." I took the king at his word, but before I left his presence I mentally recorded a vow that, if I could not get into the King Country at the north, I would get into it at the south, which I eventually did a few months afterwards, as the sequel of this narrative will show.

page 27

Chapter II.
The Korero.

The Kingites—Half-castes—An albino—The King's speech—Maori oratory—The feast.

On the morrow after my interview with the king the meeting between the Native Minister and Tawhiao, with a view to bring about more friendly relation between the two races, was arranged to take place.

At the time fixed for the korero the Kingites, headed by their chiefs, assembled on the flat within the settlement. They squatted about in attractive groups, and the entire assembly formed a compact semicircle composed of men, women, and children of all ages; while the bright and almost dazzling colours of their varied, and, in many instances, eccentric costumes formed an interesting picture, in which were blended the most singular and striking contrasts. Some of the men were habited entirely in European attire, others affected more becoming native costumes, and had their heads decked with feathers, while not a few were got up in a style which seemed to indicate that they were undergoing what might be considered, from a Darwinian point of view, the "transition period" page 28between savage and civilized life. The women, of whom there were many, had donned their holiday finery, and although their flowing skirts were evidently not designed after the most fashionable model, this defect was made up in no small degree by the glowing effects of the bright colours of the variegated material out of which they were made. Crimson, yellow, and
major te wheoro, M.H.R.

major te wheoro, M.H.R.

blue were the prevailing tints, and one by no means unattractive damsel had her lithe form swathed in a shawl on which were depicted all the various designs of a pack of cards.
There were many half-castes of both sexes among the throng, and the strain of European blood, which in most cases might be distinctly traced, had evidently, by one of those singular processes of nature which it page 29is difficult to understand, aided to produce in them here, as elsewhere, a robust and healthy race of people. Many of the girls of this class, with their swarthy complexions and well-rounded limbs, were very comely-looking, and one young lady, habited in a well-fitting
te tuhi.(A Chief of the Waikato Tribe.)

te tuhi.
(A Chief of the Waikato Tribe.)

purple silk dress, and with a very handsome native shawl of many colours thrown artistically across her gracefully formed shoulders, attracted the admiring glances of all present. She spoke English fluently, and with her fascinating air, dark eyes, and remarkable Spanish cast of countenance, she appeared more page 30suited to grace the Prado of Madrid than the primitive marae1 of Whatiwhatihoe. In singular contrast to this attractive daughter of the King Country was an albino woman, with light flaxen hair, pink eyes, and a complexion which, if it had been washed, might have
albino woman, king country.

albino woman, king country.

rivalled the snowy whiteness of alabaster. Her lips were marked in the ordinary Maori fashion, and, so far as her outward appearance went, she was stout and well-built, and appeared to be as fine a specimen of her kind as I had seen in any part of the world.

1 Marae, an open space in front of a native settlement.

page 31

When Tawhiao appeared in the midst of his people, he had cast aside his European costume, and had swathed himself after the native fashion in a white blanket, with broad pink stripes upon it. At the moment of the arrival of the Native Minister the king was seated by the side of his wife Pare Hauraki, and in the centre of the semicircle formed by the Waikato chiefs and other natives, and as Mr. Bryce drew near he raised himself from the ground and approached to welcome him. As soon as the friendly greetings were over, the Native Minister and the king seated themselves upon the ground face to face, and, having regarded each other for some time with an air of mutual satisfaction, Tawhiao arose, and, resuming his original position in the midst of the natives, arranged his blanket in toga fashion across his breast, and raising his bare right arm, began his speech in slow, but well-delivered tones, and with the calm, confident air of one who had been accustomed to sway the multitude and to speak, as he expressed it in the figurative language of his race, "straight from his breast." His short harangue, however, was carefully framed with all the customary art of Maori diplomacy, and with a view to show that the occasion was simply one for the mutual expression of goodwill on both sides. Not the faintest reference at this time was made to his future line of policy, nor was there a single hint to indicate that any new departure was about to be initiated calculated to alter the political relationship existing between the Maori and Pakeha. It was in every sense a carefully worded discourse, and proved beyond a doubt that the trite saying of Voltaire, that page 32language was invented to disguise our thoughts, was equally appreciated by savage as by civilized races.

Tawhiao's speech, however, when finally declining the proposals of the Native Minister, when, in face of
whitiora wirouiru te komete. (A Chief of the Waikato Tribe.)

whitiora wirouiru te komete.
(A Chief of the Waikato Tribe.)

all the inducements held out to him, he stoutly refused to resign his mana, or sovereign authority, is worthy a place here, not only as an interesting example of the Maori style of oratory, but likewise as a touching proof of the deep-rooted desire of the old king to remain at the head of his decaying race. page 33
Tawhiao, who spoke with evident emotion on this occasion, said: "My word is, do not speak at all; only listen" (addressed to his people). "The best way of speaking is to listen. If this European" (the Native Minister) "rises, the best thing to do is to listen. This is my word, hearken you" (to Mr. Bryce). "I approve of you administering affairs on that side—the European side. But my word is, I will jump on that side, and stand. I have nothing to say. My only reason for going on that side is to hear—to listen, so that I may know. I say I will remain in the positions of my ancestors and my parents in this island of Aotearoa.1 I will remain here; and as for my proceedings, let me proceed along my own line. I have nothing to say; I have only to listen, so that I may know. After I have listened I will come back to this side of our line.2 Say what you have to say. That is my thought, that I will remain here, in the place where my ancestors and fathers trod; but if I had trodden anywhere else, then I could be spoken to about it. I still adhere to the word that existed from the commencement. The queen was not divided; her rule has been obeyed. Now, say what you have to say. With me there is no trouble or darkness. What I have said to you is good; it has been said in the daylight, while the sun is shining. I do not mind falling, if only I do not fall as my cloak would fall. I can traverse all the words. This is another word of mine. I am teaching; I will

1 Aotearoa is the ancient native name for the North Island; it is equivalent to "land of bright sunlight."

2 Meaning the Aukati or boundary-line separating the King Country from the European portion of the colony.

page 34remain here. You can remain on your side and administer affairs, and I will remain on my side. Let me be here, on this side of our own line. Speak while the sun is shining. It has been said for a long time that the Europeans are against me. My reply to that is, that the pakeha is with me. But let me remain
paora tu haere.(Head Chief of the Ngati Whatua Tribe.)

paora tu haere.
(Head Chief of the Ngati Whatua Tribe.)

here at Aotearoa. I will direct my people this very day as we sit here. I will not go off in any new direction, but will be as my ancestors were."

After the Native Minister had replied to the king's speech, the present of provisions given by the government, consisting of beef, flour, sugar, and biscuits, was page 35hauled to the front in bullock drays, and, after being piled into a heap, Major Te Wheoro stepped forward and acknowledged the donation on the part of the natives. When this ceremony was concluded, loud shouts of joyful voices were heard in the distance, and from each side of the marae two separate bands of about 200 women and girls came dancing along in variegated costumes, with small baskets in their hands made of plaited flax, and filled with cooked potatoes, roasted pork, and fish. They rounded up in front of the meeting with a measured step, between a skip and a hop, and when they had deposited their burdens in a heap, and grinned immensely, as if to show their white teeth, half a dozen stalwart men came forward with roasted pigs cut in twain, or rather amputated down the centre of the spine. When these sweet luxuries had swelled the dimensions of the kai,1 Te Ngakau stepped forward, and, taking up a pronged stick, or roasting-fork, formally presented this token of hospitality to the government, which in its turn, according to custom, and to avoid the incubus of a "white elephant," returned it with thanks to the natives.

Feasting then became the order of the day, and joining the king's circle, we partook of the kindly fruits of the earth with unalloyed satisfaction; and as table requisites were not plentiful, we dispensed with those baubles of modern progress, and ate after the primitive mode of our forefathers.

1 Kai, Maori word for food.

page 36

Chapter III.
Ascent of Pirongia.

Mount Pirongia—Geological features—The ascent—A fair prospect.

The steep, rugged heights of Mount Pirongia are at all times an attractive feature in the splendid landscape which stretches along the course of the Waikato River and thence through the valley of the Waipa to the very borders of the King Country. Rising to a height of 3146 feet above the level of the sea, the conical peaks of this grand mountain stand boldly out against the sky as they change and shift, as it were, with magical effect, when viewed from different points of vantage, now assuming the form of gigantic pyramids, now swelling into dome-shaped masses connected by long, sweeping ridges which lose themselves in deep ravines, and rolling slopes whose precipitous sides sometimes end in steep precipices, or open out into broad valleys covered from base to summit by a thick mantle of vegetation. When beheld from a distance, Pirongia appears to have been moulded by the hand of nature into the most subdued and graceful proportions, over which are constantly playing the most enchanting effects of light and shade, and it is not until one stands at the base of this stupendous mountain of page 37eruptive rock that one fully realizes the bold features of its rugged outline, as one contemplates in wonder the work of those terrific subterranean forces which, at some period or another, caused this volcanic giant to rear its rugged head above the surrounding plains.
hati wira takahi.(Chief of the Ngapuhi Tribe.)

hati wira takahi.
(Chief of the Ngapuhi Tribe.)

Beneath the bright morning light, or when evening spreads its mellow tints over the heavens, the mountain is seen to its best advantage; but when the heavily laden clouds from the west sweep in from the sea, they gather round the lofty summit of: Pirongia in a thick pall of vapoury mist, and then, bursting page 38into a flood of rain, roll down its steep sides to swell the current of the Waipa.
When viewed from a geological point of view, Pirongia formed evidently at some remote period of its history the centre of an extended volcanic action to which the extensive ranges stretching from this
tawhao ngatuere.(A Chief of the Ngatikahunu Tribe.)

tawhao ngatuere.
(A Chief of the Ngatikahunu Tribe.)

point in many ramifications to the west coast, and thence in the direction of Whaingaroa harbour in the north and Kawhia harbour in the south, owe their origin. When standing upon the summit of the mountain, it may be plainly seen that the Pirongia ranges diverge in all directions from a common centre, page 39formed by the most elevated portion of the volcanic cone which constitutes the highest point of the mountain chain. For a considerable distance to the north and south, and as far west as the coast, this mountainous system extends in an almost continuous line, and assumes an elevation which varies from
a chief of the ngatiproa tribe.

a chief of the ngatiproa tribe.

nearly 2000 to 3000 feet above the level of the sea, but it gradually diminishes in altitude towards the east, in the form of low hills and undulating slopes which finally merge into the broad plains which mark the upper and lower valleys of the Waipa. Throughout these extensive ranges there is little or no open page 40country, but mountain top after mountain top, ridge after ridge, ravine after ravine, stretch away as far as the eye can reach in a confused rugged mass covered with a dense and almost impenetrable vegetation. The summit or highest point of Pirongia, which assumes
paratene te manu.(A Chief of the Ngatiwai Tribe.)

paratene te manu.
(A Chief of the Ngatiwai Tribe.)

the form of a large oval-shaped, though now much broken, crater, was evidently the central point of eruption of the volcanic forces which caused the various higher ranges and loewr hills to radiate from this point and assume their serrated and disjointed form, and it is here, as well as in the numerous gullies page 41and ravines which spring from it, that the geological features of the various rocks may be more distinctly traced. As in all formations of the kind in its vicinity, the igneous rocks predominate, and of these trachyte is the most common; huge masses of this rock cropping up everywhere above the surface of the mountain. Scoria, obsidian, pumice, and other volcanic rocks likewise occur, their gradual decomposition serving to form a dark rich soil, which covers the sides of the mountain and gives life to its splendid vegetation.

When I made the ascent of Pirongia it was in the pleasant company of Mr. F. J. Moss, Member of the House of Representatives. The country around the eastern base of the mountain was composed of a series of low, fern-clad hills, intersected by small swamps and watercourses fed principally from the mountain springs.

The moment we left the fern hills and entered the forest all the varied beauties of its rich growth burst upon the view. The steep ascent of the mountain began almost at once, and our path lay along the precipitous ridges which sweep down on every side from its summit, clothed with a thick growth of enormous trees, and rich in all the wondrous creations of a primeval vegetation. Among the many giants of the vegetable world was the rata, which, clothed with its curious growth of parasitical plants, towered high above its compeers of the forest. Many of these trees were of enormous size, especially when they grew in the low, damp gullies, where they attained to a height of considerably over a hundred feet, with a girth of page 42from thirty to forty feet at their base. A few of these giants were scattered about the high ridges, but they appeared to thrive best, and to attain their greatest girth, near the low, damp beds of the small watercourses, which, bursting from the adamantine sides of
tukukino.(Head Chief of the Ngatitemat era.)

(Head Chief of the Ngatitemat era.)

the mountain, and leaping along their rocky course, formed the only music that enlivened these bush-bound solitudes.
When we reached the summit of the mountain, we emerged from the thick forest on to an open spot which commanded a delightful prospect. Turning page 43towards the west, we stood on the brink of a precipice which fell in a clear descent of 1000 feet into the ravine below; here and there a jutting mass of rock stood out in rugged grandeur from the adamantine wall of stone, but otherwise a thick growth of matted
te raia ngakutu te tumuhuia.(Head Chief of the Ngatitematera tribe. Last of the New Zealand Cannibals.)

te raia ngakutu te tumuhuia.
(Head Chief of the Ngatitematera tribe. Last of the New Zealand Cannibals.)

scrub covered the sides and bottom of this enormous fissure, and so dense and entangled was the vegetation as we looked down upon it, that it appeared quite possible to walk upon the tops of the trees without falling to the ground. Far beyond this, mountain after mountain rolled away in the distance, until the page 44eye rested on the grand expanse of Kawhia Harbour, dotted with its broad inlets and numerous headlands, which rose in picturesque beauty above the deep-blue outline of the distant sea. North-westerly from this point the bright waters of Aotea Harbour lay embosomed in a semicircle of hills, and, beyond again, Mount Karioi rose from the borders of the ocean to an altitude of 2300 feet. East and south of this the Whanga Ranges bounded the horizon, and right opposite to Pirongia the bold peaks of Maungakawa and Maungatautari rose into View. Between this wide area there were lower hills which radiated from the mountain ranges, but it could be plainly seen that the greater portion of the country was formed of level plains dotted here and there with small lakes and extensive swamps, through which the Waikato and the Waipa, with their numerous tributaries, could be traced as they wound for miles away in the distance. Here and there upon the cultivated flats the white houses of the settlers, embowered amidst orchards and gardens, dotted the landscape, while Alexandra, Kihikihi, Hamilton, and Cambridge, and numerous other settlements, served to mark the spots where future cities may ere long grow into existence, and add wealth and prosperity to this fertile land. It was, however, when gazing in the direction of the south, where the King Country lay stretched for miles before us in all the wide, rich beauty of a virgin country, that the grandest natural scenery burst upon the view, and charmed the imagination with the thought of a bright future. The aukati or boundary-line could be distinctly traced, on the one side by farms and homesteads, and on the other by page 45the huts of the natives; but beyond these features there was nothing to denote that the territory to the north was the abode of enlightenment, and that the land to the south was a primeval wilderness still wrapped in the darkness of primitive barbarism.