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

Chapter XXVIII. — The Aukati Line

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Chapter XXVIII.
The Aukati Line.

Manga-o-rongo—Mangatutu River—The encampment—A sumptuous repast—The kainga—Surrounding scenery — Old warriors— The tribes—The Korero — Arrival of Te Kooti – His wife — His followers—A tête-à, tête—A song of welcome—A haka— Departure from Manga-o-rongo—Waipa River—Valley of the Waipa—Our last difficulty.

The nearest way for us to have reached civilization from Hengia would have been to travel straight to Kihikihi; but there was great talk of a native meeting; to be held at Manga-o-rongo, a settlement situated at some distance further south from where we were, and as it was stated that Te Kooti and a large number of natives from all parts would be there, I determined to attend the korero, as much as anything to see the ex-rebel chief of whom I had heard so much, and afterwards pass to Alexandra by way of the valley of the Waipa.

We left Hengia at daybreak with a party of natives, who were going in the same direction as ourselves, and took a southerly course through a district known as Wharepapa, and which led us in the direction of the Rangitoto Mountains. As we approached the valley of the Mangatutu River, the country became more page 329undulating, until we gained the bed of the stream, which wound in a remarkably serpentine course from the Rangitoto Mountains. In the bed of the river the natives pointed out several curious kinds of stone, in form not unlike the blade of an axe, and which were formerly sharpened and used as tomahawks by the tribes of the district. The country hereabouts fell rapidly from 500 to 300 feet, and gradually became of a lesser altitude as we went on. Crossing the river, we continued our course through the open, fern-clad plains known to the natives as Manutarere, passing on our right a rock which rose like a rude monument from the centre of a circular basin of low hills.

Beyond this point we passed through a native kainga, known as Patokatoka, and soon afterwards reached Manga-o-rongo. A large encampment of natives was already formed, and great preparations were being made for the gathering; pigs were being slaughtered by the dozen, bevies of women and girls were busy at work with delicacies intended for the feast, while mounted natives were riding to and fro in every direction.

We rode into the kainga with the natives who had accompanied us from Hengia, and were received with loud shouts of haeremai from the women, who danced about and circled their arms in the air in the wildest way.

When the hongi had been performed, and a tangi had been held—for they wept here as they had done at Pouotepiki—we were invited to sit down in a circle with the natives who had accompanied us, and soon afterwards a number of women and girls, who came page 330tripping along in Indian file, singing a wild refrain, brought us pork and potatoes and bread and kumaras, in plaited flax baskets, each hapu present contributing according to custom, a certain quantity, so that in a short time we had food enough around us to last us
native girl.

native girl.

for a month. We ate heartily of the good things placed before us, but we had great fights over our banquet with the half-starved dogs assembled from all parts of the country, and which became so audacious in their efforts to obtain our luxuries, that we had to keep our whips going right and left all the time.
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We remained at Manga-o-rongo for three days, during which time we had a good opportunity of examining the settlement and the general features of the surrounding country. The kainga, composed for the most part of a number of scattered whares separated by broad patches of cultivation, was situated in a deep, basin-like depression in the upper valley of the Waipa, and upon the banks of a small river called the Manga-o-rongo, one of the principal tributaries of the Waipa. The scenery of the adjacent country was very attractive, the Rangitoto Mountains forming a beautiful and conspicuous feature to the south.

The Rangitoto Mountains, the highest points of which attained to an altitude of about 2500 feet, were clothed to their summits with a dense vegetation, and flanked with lower hills covered with a luxuriant growth of fern, while winding valleys and deep ravines stretched far into the rugged fastnesses beyond. To the west-ward of the Rangitoto ranges were the mountains of the Kuiti, where the deep green forests were interspersed with wide stretches of open fern, which swept down to the undulating hills at their base. On all other sides the country around Manga-o-rongo was open, and presented a series of broad, rolling plains, covered with low fern, and where the dark alluvial soil was of the richest description.

We were given quarters in one of the principal wharepunis in the centre of the kainga, which was dotted around with whares, tents, and other contrivances for the accommodation of the various hapus attending the korero. In a large whare close to our location were about a dozen or so of old men, who had page 332formed a kind of headquarters of their own. They were all true-bred Maoris of the old school, of Herculean build, and they appeared to be from eighty to ninety years of age, and it occurred to me that one or two among them could have counted their moons1 even further back than that; and as they sat squatting about in the sun, with their blankets wrapped round them, their weazened, tattooed features looked remarkably grim, surmounted, as they were in every case, by a thick growth of snow-white hair. Each one of them wore a piece of greenstone in his left ear, and all had wooden pipes, which they puffed at incessantly. It was remarkable to observe the difference in physique between these old warriors—for they had all been great fighting men during the war—and the younger natives. Although there were many stalwart and powerful fellows among the latter, in general they had not the same square build and muscular frames of the old men, who appeared to be perfect and well-conserved types of the primitive Maori race.

There were many representatives of the principal tribes of the surrounding country in camp, and especially of the Waikatos and Ngatimaniapotos; but, besides these, there were sections of the Ngatiwhakatere, Ngatiraukawa, Ngatituwharetoa, Ngatihaua, and Ngatiawa. All these various tribal divisions were represented by the principal chiefs and notables, both men and women, and, when assembled together, it was page 333easy to trace their different physical characteristics. There were many tall and powerfully-built men among the Waikatos and Ngatimaniapotos, but the women of the two latter tribes were not as sturdy in frame, nor as robust in appearance as those of the Ngatituwhare-
woman of the waikato tribe.

woman of the waikato tribe.

tribe of Taupo. In fact, the natives of the latter district were, all things considered, the finest tribes we had come across during our journey, the chiefs, especially of this division of the Arawas, being remarkable for their tall stature.

The principal business of the meeting, which had page 334brought the tribes together, was to consider a petition of the Ngatimaniapoto to Government, respecting the lands, and in which the chief Taonui, with Wahanui, had taken a leading part. Another important question was the settlement of certain tribal boundaries, and the consideration of the claim of the Ngatihaua, to alarge tract of country near to the Rangitoto Mountains, and which they claimed to have acquired by conquest over the Ngatiwhakatere, a hapu of the Ngatiraukawa. At this meeting the kaingatautohe, or debateable land, was formally surrendered to the Ngatiwhakateres, the originally conquered tribe, by the chief Hauauru, who claimed to be the direct descendant of the warriors who conquered the Ngatiwhakateres, when the territory in dispute was acquired.

On the second day after our arrival at Manga-o-rongo, there was great excitement in camp as a body of about fifty horsemen, headed by a woman, were seen galloping as hard as they could come across the plain leading to the settlement. There were loud cries of haeremai from the women, and shouts of Te Kooti from the men as the ex-rebel chief and his wife rode into camp at the head of a band of well-mounted though wild-looking horsemen.

When the new arrivals had pitched the tents they had brought with them, and were squatting in a circle round the hero of Poverty Bay, I went into the camp, when Te Kooti saluted me with "Tena koe, pakeha," and invited me to be seated. I took in his outward appearance at a glance. He was a man apparently of about fifty years of age, over medium height, of athletic form, broad shouldered and keenly knit, and with a page 335remarkably stern expression of countenance, which imparted to his whole visage a hard and even a cruel look. His features, cast in the true native mould, were strongly defined. His head was well formed, with a high arched forehead, and his lips were well cut and
te kooti.(From a Sketch by the Author.)

te kooti.
(From a Sketch by the Author.)

firm, while his quick, dark, piercing eyes had a restless., glance about them as if their owner had been kept all his life in a chronic state of nervous excitement. He wore a moustache and long pointed beard, which, for the apparent age of the man, appeared to be prematurely grey. There were no tattoo marks about his page 336face, but when he smiled in his sinister way every line of Ms expressive features seemed to be brought into play. Taken altogether, Te Kooti had a decidedly intelligent cast of countenance, in which the traits of firmness and determination appeared to be strongly marked.
te kooti's wife.

te kooti's wife.

His wife, who was apparently a few years younger than himself, was a strongly built, gaunt woman, with a remarkably bold expression of countenance, and I could well imagine that during the troubled times of the war she must have proved a daring and willing helpmate to her desperate lord.

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The followers of Te Kooti, who sat around, were mostly men of over six feet in height, powerful in build, and stern and savage-looking in countenance, and with the same air of watchfulness about them as was observable in the manner of Te Kooti, as if they, like their chief, had been ever on the qui-vive for their lives during their long sojourn of outlawry in the fastnesses of the King Country.

The first question put to me by Te Kooti was to inquire where I had come from, and when Turner explained to him the course of our journey he replied, "They told me as soon as I arrived that a pakeha was in camp, and that he had travelled through the country; and I said, now that he has been through and seen all, let him remain. I did many a long journey," he continued, "during the war, but I never did a ride like that on one horse. I was always careful to have plenty of horses." I told him that I had seen the remains of his pa at Te Perore, near Tongariro, where one of his great battles was fought; and taking his left arm out of a sling, he said, "This is what the pakehas gave me there," and he showed me how a rifle-ball had struck him between the knuckle joints of the two first fingers, crippling them both. Ever since he was wounded in this way, he has always made it a rule to hide this hand as much as possible, and for that purpose he carries it constantly in a sling. He asked me whether I came from England, and when answered in the affirmative, he put many questions to me about the country, and was especially anxious to know whether the Queen was still alive, as he stated that he had often heard of her when at war with the page 338Europeans. He then said that the Maoris did not want that war, but the pakehas would fight, and the Maoris fought them. I remarked that it was now time for the two races to be as one, and that all the troubles of the past should be forgotten, and that the King Country should be opened by roads and railways. "I do not object," said Te Kooti, "to roads and railways; but," he continued, "we must hold the lands; it will not do for the natives to lose everything." I pointed out that in India a handful of pakehas ruled over 200,000,000 of people, and that roads and railways had been made in that country, and the natives had benefitted. Te Kooti, without a moment's hesitation, replied, "In India the pakeha rules justly; here the governments have not treated the Maoris fairly: one government has promised one. thing and one another, and they have all broken faith."

When I stated to him that since the formation of the colony one law and one sovereign reigned from one end of New Zealand to the other, and that that applied to the King Country as well as to any other part of the island, he replied, "That may be so. But," he continued, "you have your queen, and Tawhiao is our king. Whatever Tawhiao says, we must do."

At this stage Te Kooti burst forth with a wild chant—a kind of song of welcome, which was intended as a compliment to our visit. As Te Kooti sang, his voice was singularly clear and mournful, and his intonation very distinct, while every word, as it fell from his lips, appeared to be uttered with the wild impulse of a fanatic. During this time his followers, as they had page 339in fact done all along, sat listening in mute attention, as if anxious to hear the words of one whom they appeared to look upon as a kind of deified man, or as one endowed with a charmed life that had made him the hero of brave and extraordinary exploits, which recalled to mind some of the most daring and bloody deeds of Maori warfare, and as I listened to his wild refrain, and marked the earnest yet animated expression of his features as he sang, I could well realize the influence which such a man would exercise over the superstitious minds of the Maoris, and yet when I recalled to mind his remarkable career, his marvellous escape from the Chatham Islands with his devoted band, his desperate and bloody raid upon the settlers of Poverty Bay, and the series of daring achievements which rendered the name of Te Kooti a terror and a menace during the war that followed, I could not but help thinking that many of the Cæsars and Napoleons of history must have been made of much the same stuff as this fanatical Hauhau leader.

Our last night in the King Country was celebrated by a haka in Te Kooti's camp. Never had I seen anything so wild or so exciting. When the moon was up we went to a secluded spot surrounded by forest, where huge fires had been lit to assist the doubtful light of the Queen of night. The spectators squatted about in a semicircle, the ex-rebel chief taking up his position in the midst of his swarthy followers. At a signal given about fifty men entered the arena and nearly as many women. All were lightly clad; so lightly indeed that the costume of our first parents had not been greatly encroached upon. At a signal page 340given from the leader the dancers formed themselves into ranks, and the first step was made by striking the feet heavily upon the ground, and, as the excitement produced by this movement gradually increased, the limbs trembled from the feet upwards, until every muscle in the body appeared to shake and twist, as if from the thrilling effects of a galvanic current. Then they turned their bodies to the right with a swinging jump, keeping the elbows close to the ribs and stretching out the fore-part of the arm until the hands and fingers shook and trembled as if strung together by wires. Then, they swung the body to the left in the same attitude, and then, facing to the front, threw back their heads, thrust out their tongues to the fullest extent in a menacing way, and turned up their eyes until nothing but the whites could be seen, and which, gleaming beneath the bright glow of the fires, imparted to their distorted countenances a singularly ghastly look. Next a wiry, tattooed savage jumped to the front with a loud yell, thrusting out his tongue, and distorting his features until the blue lines formed a quivering network over his face. He challenged the best dancer in the throng, at which a woman appeared upon the scene, when the pair performed a dance which no pen or pencil could describe. Then they returned into the ranks, and another couple followed, and then a third, and a fourth, until the whole crowd mingling together danced and yelled in a marvellous yet diabolical way. The dark, streaming hair of the women fell over their well-turned shoulders or swept round their heads in a circle, as the dark syrens went through the most extraordinary gyrations, with the rapidity of electrified page 341humming-tops, while the men, twirling their weapons furiously in the air, yelled in a loud chorus which terminated in a long, deep, expressive sigh. Again and again these movements were enacted with protruding tongues, distorted faces, and fixed, staring eyes, time being marked by striking the thigh with the open left hand, so as to produce a sound which, mingling with the loud shouting of the furious dancers, added a curious effect to the wild and boisterous scene.

It was a bright morning when we left Manga-o-rongo to do the last stage of our eventful journey. Although our horses had rested for two days, it was clear that they were utterly exhausted from their past fatigues, while their legs were so swollen that we could hardly get them to move along. Leaving the settlement, the whole broad valley of the Waipa lay stretched before us in the form of a wide expanse of open plain, through which the winding river, from which it derives its name, meandered in the direction of the north.

The Waipa has its source on the southern side of Mount Pukeokahu, which is situated a little to the eastward of Mount Rangitoto. It winds round the western end of the Rangitoto ranges, and finally pursues its way along the Waipa Valley. Besides receiving, however, a large portion of the watershed of the Rangitoto Mountains, most of the streams from the ranges of the Kuiti flow into it, while to the west it is fed by numerous watercourses from the high coast ranges. Its principal tributaries are the Mangapu, Manga-o-Rewa, and Mangawhero, with the Puniu as the chief. Beyond the head of the river page 342the watershed falls towards the Mokau, south of which the country is open for a considerable distance in the direction of the Tetaraka Plains, until the great central belt of forest country is reached.

The whole wide valley of the Waipa lies very low, its altitude near the margin of the stream being scarcely 100 feet above the level of the sea; but the country rises gradually towards the west into undulating fernclad hills, which mount in a kind of terrace formation, one above the other, until they reach the high wooded ranges which border the West Coast. The plains of this valley are composed for the most part of rich alluvial soil, which is everywhere covered with a dense growth of low fern. Many native cultivations and settlements are dotted about along the whole course of the river, and, taken altogether, this valley is one of the most densely populated portions of the King Country. From every point of view the scenery is most attractive, especially when looking in the direction of the north, where the tall forms of Pirongia, Maungatautari, and Kakepuku tower high above the surrounding plains.

It was already night when we had nearly reached the end of our journey, and just as we drew rein at a native whare to inquire the best point at which to cross the Waipa, my horse sank under me from sheer exhaustion as I sat on his back. A little coaxing got "Charlie" on to his legs again, and we hastened down to the banks of the Waipa to find that the river was almost at high flood. There was a canoe at the ford, but, as ill-luck would have it, it happened to be on the page 343opposite side of the stream. We shouted lustily, in the hope that some one would hear us, and come and ferry us across, but there was no response but the echo of our voices, and it seemed that we would have to pass another night in the open, or swim our horses at the risk of our lives. The night was bitterly cold, and we were naturally anxious to reach our long looked-for goal, and, just as we were making preparations to swim the river, voices were heard on the other side, and in a few moments more the canoe shot across the water under the skilful guidance of three young Maori girls. It did not take us long to unsaddle, and, putting everything into the canoe with ourselves, we swam our exhausted animals across, but not before "Tommy," by being swept under the frail craft, by the force of the current, had nearly succeeded in upsetting it in the centre of the rapid stream. Once on the opposite side, we pressed upon our dark deliverers all the money we could muster, and, entering the King's settlement at Whatiwhatihoe, we crossed the aukati line forming the northern boundary of the King Country, when the moon was high, on the night of the 18th of May, after a journey, which, taking all distances traversed into account, was not short of 600 miles.

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1 The Maoris count time by nights, moons, and stars. There appears to have been a kind of division of the nights into decades, as ten nights to the full moon, ten to its disappearing. The Maori year begins with the first new moon after the star Puanga is seen in the morning, which is in May