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Pioneering Reminiscences of Old Wairoa

Waterfall Romance

page 52

Waterfall Romance.

Around Waikaremoana and up some of the most picturesque bays and inlets there are many beautiful falls, some of them worthy of the artist's brush, and all of them merit a visit from the tourist. In the summer time, of course, the volume and beauty of these falls is not that of winter, when the rivers are full. In a region peopled by folk so full of romance as the ancient Maoris were, it will not be wondered why the falls bear such poetical names, in keeping with less beautiful sights in the form of rocky headlands and dark and dismal caverns. One of these falls is named Te Tangi-o-Hinerau ("The crying of Hinerau"), and it probably was bestowed in order to account in some way for the formation of the lake itself and the massive mountains on its rim.

Hinerau, a Maori maiden of Tuhoe, lived in a kainga at the foot of Huiarau. She was famed for her beauty and goodness of heart, and many suitors sought to win her for a wife, but though the maiden liked them all, and was greatly impressed by their mana, she loved none, yet she was not unmindful of the fact that some day she must choose between one or other of her lovers; so she did as other Maori maidens did: she made herself as attractive as possible. One thing she determined to observe, and that was to keep her heart and mind clean and true and her person sweet, so that by no chance should she fall under the spell of the patu-pai-arehe (the fairies of Maoriland).

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She, therefore, sought out all those rare sweetsmelling plants for which Huiarau is famed, wherewith to prepare the ointments and perfumes so dear to the Maori maids. One day in her quest she went deep into the bush and climbed a high hill; soon she lost her way amid the trackless forest, for one tree was like another, and one fern the same as the one just passed—not even one of the patu-pai-arehe did she see, though these, perhaps, might have led her into the fairies' strongholds. Just as night was coming on she caught sight of a great sheet of water she had never seen before; it was the "Sea of the Dashing Waters," of which she had heard her elders talk. Here, she thought, might be found someone who would put her on the right track again for her kainga, but no one could she see, for Waikare seemed very lonely and empty. Then came a still greater misfortune. Suddenly, the land began to shake with a great shaking, causing Hinerau to become sick with fear. Some of the land went up towards Rangi and some plunged down to the Reinga, or the depths; and everywhere she saw tumbled masses of rock. A great cliff rose above her, which not even one of her lovers could climb, and surely, not the daintily formed Hinerau, supple though she was. Below her were the agitated waters, and on her right and left great gaps in the land opened up like the jaws of some great taniwha, sometimes open and sometimes closed. But, at last, the great shaking ceased, and the jaws of the taniwha remained open wide, so that there was no way of escape for hapless Hinerau. Shelter there was none, except what page 54a few flax bushes and some tumbled rocks afforded, one of which hung above her head and which looked as though a push might send it down and crush her. Hinerau slept little, for the Mararaa sailed across the sky, and she thought of the lovers who would all be ready to fly to her rescue, if they only knew the sad trouble which had befallen her. She called to all the gods of the Maoris, especially beseeching Rehua (the god of kindness) to send someone to her aid. Then she thought what she would do; she got a broad flax-leaf, and with a sharp shell, which she had found, she wrote a message on the leaf asking the finder for help. The leaf she cast far out into the waters after uttering many karakias. Soon the Mamma sailed out from behind a cloud and shone out in the heavens, flooding the waters with her light, and then the maiden heard sweet but weird music on the tide. Soon there came into view in the path of the moonlight the rakau tipua, sailing along by its own mystic powers, singing as it progressed. The end of the log caught the flax leaf and carried it over to the other side of the great waters. Meantime, Hinerau wept, and wept yet again; many tears did she shed by the side of the great chasm, and her tears falling into it became a rivulet and soon the rivulet became a torrent and the many tears falling over the rocks became a cascade; hence the fall is called Te Tangi-o-Hinerau. (the crying of Hinerau).

A night and a day passed, succeeded by another day and night and Hinerau became very hungry; so she called to the gods again for sustenance, and soon Rehua sent the kakas in great numbers page 55circling round the head of Hinerau. She caught some with a deft sweep of her hand, and thought of how her brothers bit the heads off when hunting in the forest; but this she could not do, being a maiden of tender heart, especially as she thought she saw something like a canoe crossing over.

… That morning at daylight, Te Toru, a chief of Ruapani, walked by the shore of the "Sea of the Rippling Waters"; soon he saw the rakau tipua and the blade of flax adhering to it. A little wave pushed it off, and it landed at the feet of Te Toru. The writing caught his eye, and he read the appeal for aid, signed "Hinerau "—the maiden he had often heard about, but had never seen. Here now was the chance the gods had sent him. But how to cross the "Sea of the Dashing Waters"? Turning about in his perplexity and wondering if he could emulate or excel the feat of Manaia, and swim over, he espied high up in the forest a small canoe, fit for one man to handle, if he were a skilful one, and this Te Toru claimed to be. Soon the canoe was in the water, and then, indeed, it looked still smaller. But, thought Te Toru, Hinerau, the dainty maiden of Tuhoe, must be small; and could not Te Toru swim by the canoe?

"I shall venture," he said. And, hastily dubbing out a paddle with his jade axe, he pushed off. Soon he reached the spot where Hinerau was marooned and, like the masterful chief that he was, took her in his strong arms to the waka (for she was very weak for want of food). He brought her to the other side—to his own home near Panekiri—and Hinerau became the wife of page 56Te Toru and she gave him many sweet-faced maidens and brave warrior sons to do battle for Ruapani. Te Toru made a god of the rakau tipua that brought him the flax-leaf message from Hinerau, the so-called maiden of Tuhoe Land. Nor let the sight-seeing Pakeha scoff at this tale of Maoriland, but seek to excel it.

"Less jaw, and a bucket of rum" was the slogan of the boss whalers in the early days of Wairoa, and a nice crowd they were to be sure. One of their comrades they stood upside down in an iron pot called a "go-a-shore," his head swelled, and the pot had to be broken to release him. Another who, apparently, had made himself obnoxious to the fraternity was placed on the fire as a back-log! The Law? Why did it not intervene, you say? There was no law in Wairoa then, nor at Waikokopu either, for the whalers were a law unto themselves. When the first Bishop of Waiapu desired to hold a service in an old whaling-gear shed at the Heads the whalers forcibly delayed the same till the arrival of a man and his sister, who both bore nicknames that were accounted blasphemous by professing Christians.

A good workman, he was, but over-fond of "the craythur," or poteen, as it was distilled up the Scamperdown in from the present Wairoa-Frasertown road. His good wife's usual greeting was, "Arrah, Jim, for what will yez be dthrinkin' that dirrty beerr?" And his invariable reply was, "Hould yer whishst woman, oim dthry." Quite an incontestable reason.