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Yesterdays in Maoriland

Chapter XI In the King Country

page 165

Chapter XI In the King Country

'He tangata nui a,

0 te Epara o te Kiingi tanga o Ahitiria, i whaka ae tia e Kingi Tawhiao, kia pupuhi i nga tini ahua manu katoa, o nga takiwa ki Pirongia ki Whatiwhatihoe ki te Kopua. Kia atawhai nga Maori o aua takiwa kiaia, ko tou Tuhimareikura tena e te Maori, ko te Atawhai.

'Na Honana Majoha.

'Reta whakaatu ki nga Maori.1

In the evening I rode with Honana to Te Kopua. Next day I got ready for an expedition which would take several weeks, to Hikurangi, Kawhia, and Taranaki. I rode over the river, then over the plain and the highland, and presently saw smoke rising from a rapu hut, showing that my friend, Te Witiora, was already waiting for me. As I came near he called out, 'Heremai! Hoa!' ('I greet you, friend!)

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I had, of course, to eat with him — to refuse a proffered meal would be the greatest insult possible to a Maori.

We then rode on together over rising ground, through streams and swamps, to Hikurangi, a great Maori pa lying on a steep hillside. The village lies to the west side. East and south of it is dense forest. Every hut had a piece of land adjoining, where horses, cattle, and sheep were grazing. The chief, Paingahuru, received us hospitably at his hut and entertained us well. We spent the night there.

On the 16th I was introduced to several chiefs, and again presented with a huia's tail; also with a taiaha (chief's lance), and several other symbols of rank. I presented to the chiefs pipes, tobacco, knives, silver and gold ear-rings, pencils, mirrors, rings, etc., in return.

With the chief, Taneira, I went into the neighbouring bush to hunt kiwi, but we had no luck. We got a few pigeons, parrakeets, and tuis, and in the evening returned to Hikurangi.

Once this village had been the flourishing residence of the Maori King, but since Tawhiao had returned to Whatiwhatihoi it had been left but scantily settled. I showed my compass here. The Maoris name the north Tonga, the south Horaro, the west Maraungau, and the east Hauwaru.

The following morning I enjoyed a magnificent prospect. Northwards lay the Thames Range; northeast, the Haurakis, Wharepuhunga, Mangatautari; to the east the Hangahanga Range, behind which lay page 167the European settlement of Tauranga; east-south-east was Rangitoto; south-east, the mountains of Rotorua and the Taupo region, the volcano of Tongariro (also called Manu by the Maoris), the eternally snowcrowned volcano Ruapehu, and Ngauruhoe, whom the Maoris call the wife of Tongariro, maintaining that when in activity Tongariro fills up the crater of Ngauruhoe. To the south again is the Tihitauwa Range; south-west, Taranaki and Ngatiruanui; west, the harbour of King Tawhiao, with the village of Kawhia; north-west, the Pirongia and the Taurini Ranges. And as far as eye could see … bush!

On the 18th I rode with Te Witiora to his settlement of Hauturu. A narrow track led south-eastward through the bush, over steep and fern-covered hills. The kainga lay in a fertile valley on the Moakurarua River.

I was well received by the Maoris, who never tired of looking at me. In a hut, in the middle of which a fire was burning, half-naked muscular men and women were sitting, who bowed their heads by way of greeting. We went into another hut, where an old man was sitting with a beautiful flax mat over his shoulders. On my remarking on its beauty, he took it off, threw it over my shoulders, and said: 'Take it out of friendship for me.

When I saw him sitting naked there, I asked my companion whether the man had not another mat, but he said no. I began to regret now that I had accepted it, but might, under no consideration, give it back, for fear of offending the giver. I therefore sent him a blanket for his own use.

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From here we went to a place where formerly a runanga (meeting-house) had stood. High posts with beautifully carved heads of tikis were all that remained. I stood admiring them, and Te. Witiora asked me whether I would like to have them. When I replied that I would, he said: 'Taihoa, nga tapu!' ('Wait, it is still tapu!') He then lifted the tapu, and next day, with the help of the chief, I sawed off the heads.

For couch, a flax mat was spread out for me in the new runanga, on which I stretched myself. The natives sat around and sang their prayers, in which they mentioned King Tawhiao, as well as prominent chiefs of former times. In the evenings at six o'clock, and in the mornings at seven, prayers were said to the great spirit, Tukonata.

Next day I rode with Te Witiora back to Hikurangi. He went out with his people, looking for mushrooms. Because it was raining I seated myself in the hut of a young Maori, and began to work away at my tikis (the sawn-off carved heads of yesterday), which were said to have power to protect the village and runanga from fire, and to extinguish flames. As one of the carved heads was very heavy, I chipped off some of the superfluous wood and threw it on the fire. Immediately the Maori saw this, he snatched it out of the fire. I asked him why he did so. He replied that his wife was pregnant, and that the child would surely die and other evils come upon his family if I were to burn this god.

He became so excited about it that he would have sprung at me; but at this critical moment Te Witiora page 169came back, and freed me from an unpleasant situation by explaining to the infuriated man that he himself had lifted the tapu, and therefore all danger was averted.

I left Hikurangi with the chief, Taniera, in order to ride to Kawhia. The bridle-track led past little bushclearings with fenced-in Maori plantations; every hundred paces or so a high post stuck up above the fence, bearing on the top a carved head. On account of the rain the track was so muddy between the roots of trees that the horses in places sank up to the saddlegirths.

We therefore rode only a short way, and pulled up at a little hut before which a group of Maoris were gathered. They had come from Taranaki, where the great prophet Ti Witi dwelt, to visit King Tawhiao, and ask his advice, as they were being besieged by European volunteer troops. They were astonished to see me, a white man, in the Maori King Country, and did not trouble to hide their displeasure. As the weather became still worse, we rode back to Hikurangi. The following day Te Witiora took me with him into the bush in the direction of Hauturu, so that I could be present at the consecration of a new war canoe.

On February 24, I started off on a longer trip. A Maori lad and Cæsar were my companions. We first crossed the forest-covered Teraumea Range. The many fallen tree-trunks, the interlaced roots, and the mudpools, made our progress very difficult. We stopped that evening beside a creek, set up a shelter of fern-grass, page 170got ready our beds, and lighted a great fire. While my companion was roasting pigeons and sweet potatoes on a spit, I skinned my birds. After the meal we settled down to rest, but my Maori mate would from time to time lay more wood on the fire, to keep away evil spirits. The night was cold. At sunrise we left our camping-place, forded the Te Kauri creek, followed the Kahakatoa ridge, and so reached the good pathway which King Tawhiao's natives had built. The district is hilly and thickly wooded. Here and there glimpses could be caught between the trees of the wildly romantic scenery of the surrounding country, and right over to the sea in the west. We continued along this side, going downhill, coming into grass-grown valleys over little flats and swamps.

Soon afterwards we reached the harbour of Kawhia, the only good landing-place in the Maori King Country, which was barred to European ships. Numbers of scattered huts and a great Maori settlement lay spread out along the bay. A little rocky island lying, before the harbour is pointed out as the petrified double-canoe of those old days when the forefathers of the Maoris came here from Hawaiki.

In this neighbourhood are some old Maori burial-places in limestone caves, which are said to contain mummies. The tapu on such graves is indissoluble, and any one who disregards it is killed.

Late that evening we reached Pukekohe, the settlement of the chief, Te Kie Tainui, who received us hospitably. After a frugal meal we went to sleep in the meeting-house. On the 26th the chief took us into the page 171Aotea bush. I found a variety of birds, but no kiwi. We forded the Oparau creek, and climbed up on to higher ground. The thick of the bush swarmed with wild pigs, of which we managed to kill a few.

On March 1, we returned to Pukekohe. A few days later a number of Maoris came on a visit in order to lament over a dead chief. They were all on horseback, even the women sitting straddle-legged with pipe in mouth.

The head wife of the chieftain, Te Kie Tainui, came out of the chief's hut to welcome the arrivals, who seated themselves with crossed legs on the ground, with songs of welcome. The visitors hid their faces in their hands, and wailed aloud in a rhythmic tone similar to singing. This lasted perhaps half an hour; the chief then came out of the hut clad in a parawai mat, and bade his guests welcome with a song. After this ceremony the Maoris rubbed noses with their relatives, letting out further mournful wails.

Other natives had in the meantime fixed up hangis. The food as usual was served in small plaited baskets, the fingers being used for knife and fork. The meal lasted a long time. Afterwards they sat in a circle on the ground, while a chief stood up and made a speech — one might call it an obituary oration.

He enlarged upon all the deeds and good qualities of the deceased chief. While speaking he went in one direction, with earnest face and measured tread; returning he came quickly, covering the ground in a few springs, during which he executed fighting exercises with his mere. These addresses and songs, with whistling page 172and flute-playing, lasted several days, until the heapedup piles of food had all been consumed. Then the visitors left the village.

On March 7, my horse was caught. I thanked my hosts, and left the harbour of Kawhia laden with a rich booty of ethnographical and zoological objects. The night I spent in the bush.

The following day I sent my horse back along the track with the Maori who had accompanied me, and with Cæsar penetrated deep into the bush to look for kiwi, unfortunately without any luck. In the evening I prepared a camp under a great rata, ate my supper, and laid myself down to sleep. Small owls kept flittering round the fire, and rats nibbled away at the fragments of my meal or fought with one another. On the 9th I left my camping-ground and hunted high and low through the bush. At last, towards midday, I came on the Maori track to Hikurangi, and saw from the hoofmarks that my companion was somewhere on in front.

I sent Cæsar forward to stop him. After half an hour the dog came back, and another three-quarters of an hour brought me where the Maori, with the horses, was encamped near the track. I mounted, but we could make only slow progress through the thick pools of mud.

After riding a while we heard the beat of horses' hoofs, and voices. A party of natives came riding towards us. They were the Queen's bodyguard riding into Kawhia. As they came up to us they halted, inquired how I was, then asked if I had enough provisions with me. They gave me some beautiful page 173peaches. I thanked them, and we rode on. Late at night we reached Hikurangi.

My friend, Te Witiora, was very pleased to see me again. He had got ready several Maori weapons, implements, and mats for me, also feather decorations of an old war canoe, some tattooing instruments, and other things. I rode with him back to Whatiwhatihoi, where the King received me in a friendly way. He led me into his runanga, where Several people were assembled, and questioned me about my wanderings.

As it was my intention to get acquainted with as much as possible of the King Country, I wanted to pay a visit to the Mokau district, where lived Hemera te Rerehau, the chief who had been to Vienna, and was such a friend of Hochstetter. I knew that if I were to carry out my plan I should have to go across territory occupied by embittered enemies of the pakeha, and on that account I approached the King with the request to allow me to make the journey to Mokau. To my disappointment Tawhiao summarily negatived the proposal.

In the morning I rode back to Te Kopua, Owing to bad weather the creeks were so swollen that I had difficulty in fording them. Honana received me hospitably. On the 12th I went, with Cæsar, along the banks of the Moakurarua River as far as the swamps and marshes, in which the Maoris have their eelbreeding grounds. They consider the eel a great delicacy.

Thousands of eels live here; they are caught by the Maoris in eel-baskets, 3 yards long, plaited out of page 174vine-stems. Another method is to throw from a canoe a bundle of earthworms tied to a string of flax. Of an evening I have caught in this manner as many as thirty eels. The eels are hung to dry in a specially built hut, across innumerable bars, and I found one of these huts on each of the little islands. The Maoris assured me that in each there was room for over a thousand eels.

On the 12th I hunted in the neighbouring swamps, where many duck, swamp-hens (pokeko), and swamplark were splashing about. According to old Maori belief the song of these larks on a war expedition was a sure sign of success. Early on the 13th I rode back to Whatiwhatihoi in order to ask King Tawhiao and Wahanui once again about going to Mokau. The King's son was ill, on which account the King was, in a bad humour, so again he summarily negatived my proposal. Wahanui and other chiefs were present, but it was only old Te Witiora who took my part. He said: 'If you are against Ihaka Reiheke, then you are wrong. The old Maori tradition is hospitality. He is our friend, and we must treat him as such.'

Afterwards Wahanui took me off for a meal. I showed him three letters from Hemera te Rerehau, who had sent them me by messenger. Wahanui said: 'I cannot allow it, for you would have to go through several settlements, the inhabitants of which do not belong to my tribe, and though the land belongs to me, I cannot answer for your safety, for they all hate Europeans.'

By this he meant particularly the chief, Te Kuti, page break
Black and white photograph of Andreas Reischek's hut at Dusky Sound

Reischek's Hut in Husky Sound

Black and white photograph of Wahanui Huatuare

Wahanui, The Power Behind the Throne

page 175 who had invaded Poverty Bay and committed there murder and cannibalism; and Winiata, who had likewise killed a young man. I had frequently caught sight of the latter, but he always disappeared quickly when he saw me. I suggested to Wahanui that he should allow me to go, as I was certainly not afraid for myself.

Wahanui would not take the responsibility on himself, and told me to go again to the King. I went once more to the King, and found him sleeping by the side of his ailing son. The child waked him, and Tawhiao asked me what I wanted. I showed him the letters from Hemera te Rerehau, and asked if he would come with me to Wahanui. At that, Tawhiao asked if that was all I wanted of him. When I replied yes, he said that he could give me full permission to go where I liked in his country, only there I might not go, for I had a white skin, and many of the people from that district had never seen a white man, and had certainly heard nothing but evil of them. Once more, therefore, I was obliged to ride back to Te Kopua without having effected my purpose.

Early on the 14th I went, together with the chief, Ngaka Avia Popatato, into the Pirongia Range. We followed a track which led us over a fern-covered hill into the bush. We had to work our way step by step through thick undergrowth and over rocks to Mount Pukomumako; then we went downwards to the Wawarautauwa, which we followed upwards for 4 miles. Masses of rock and the confusion of tree-trunks and waterfalls hindered us.

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We climbed up from the right bank to the Koato Piko, which falls almost precipitously to the west, and which we therefore climbed from the eastern side. These peculiar rocks had allured me ever since I had heard an old Maori legend about them. Once, so the Maoris told me, there was a track from the Waikato which led past these rocks to Kawhia, but no Maori who had taken this track had ever reached his destination alive. Under the rocks of Koato Piko a giant lizard, Ngarara, lived in a great cavern, and he ran out upon and devoured every one who came by his lair.

A chief, who was bolder and more cunning than the rest, freed his tribe of this terror. He and his followers climbed up the east side on to Koato Piko, and loosened a great block of stone which hung on the edge of the precipice just over the dragon's cave. For bait he lowered a Maori fastened to a flax-rope down over the rocks. The monster scented his prey and came growling out of his den. At this moment the chief quickly drew the Maori up again, and at the same time let loose the block of stone, which fell on the monster, who remained lying before his lair with a battered skull. The bones of this dragon (they said) are there to this day, though a wizard kills any one who tries to go there.

In spite of this warning I climbed down a steep bank to the cave, but found no bones, only a beautiful group of dragon-palms — a rare coincidence. The leaves of these Dracænæ — called by the Maoris tohi-palms —possess flexible fibres out of which the natives weave page 177their waterproof rain-mats (pureke). I wore such a mat myself so long as I was living among the Maoris.

On the 15th I went with two Maori lads into the Wangapopo Range. The bush adjoins that of the Pirongia Range, and shows similar tree-growth and vegetation. I shot a few pigeons and caught a young kiwi (Apteryx oweni). I then went on into the Whanhanhakino. Whilst we were hunting our way up a hillside and forcing a path through the thick undergrowth with a slasher, the two Maori dogs began to bark, and plunged away through the bushes.

Soon I heard the snapping of teeth, and a wild boar dashed off, with the Maori hounds at his heels. The boar was standing back against an uprooted tree, and went for us as we came up with him. The two Maoris quickly clambered up into a tree, while I raised my gun. I did not get in a shot for a long time, however, for the boar attacked so viciously that I had to keep jumping out of his way. After dodging for long enough I at last got one in from a matter of a couple of yards right between the eyes. This brought him low.

Immediately one of the Maori dogs let out a piteous howl. The Maoris came clambering down from the tree, and began to cry out: 'Ngakuri, Ngakuri, Temato!' ('The dog, the dog is dead!') At first I believed I had shot it too, but when we took hold of the boar's feet and pulled the heavy body away, the dog crept limping from beneath, and I saw that the boar had only crushed him in his fall.

The Maoris were overjoyed, and began to dance and page 178sing around the boar. I disembowelled the animal there and then.

On the 16th I went with some Maoris to the Ngakakau, a ridge on which in autumn they catch many nestors.

As decoys they use tame birds fastened with line and ring to a slanting tree or a stake. Berries are hung on the branches, and as soon as a flight comes along, the tame ones begin to entice them. The Maoris, hidden among the leaves and branches, keep dead quiet until the birds flutter down to the berries. Immediately a Maori catches a parakeet by the head, smothering him before he can utter a sound, and passes him along to a second Maori, who puts the bird into a flax-woven basket at his side. In this manner a fair number of birds may be caught without the others being scared.

On the 17th I struck out in the direction of Hikurangi, but came into valleys so completely overgrown that I was forced to climb over the undergrowth. To have attempted to hew my way through would have taken too long, Only towards evening did I reach the clearings of Hikurangi, where my good friend Te Witiora received me with joy.

He said that he had sent out Maoris to look for me, for he had been afraid that I had gone astray. I eased his mind by telling him that it was not possible to lose myself so long as I had my compass with me or could see the sun, moon, or stars, or could come upon streams or creeks. When the search-party returned, they were surprised to find me sitting in Paingahuru's hut in conversation with Te Witiora. The Maori women page 179prepared pork and kumaras in a kapa-Maori, or cookingpit, which tasted famous after the fatigue of my tramp.

On the 18th I rode back to Te Kopua. Honana told me Hemera te Rerehau's son had come from Mokau with two horses to take me back with him. He had searched for me in the bush, but as he had not been able to find me, had turned back again. I was very sorry that I had missed one more opportunity of carrying out my intention to go there. This encouraged me, however, to ask the King once more. When he refused me yet again, I went to Wahanui, who said exactly the same as on the 13th, that I ought not to go. I asked him what he and the King would do if I went in spite of their prohibition. Instead of answering me Wahanui turned round, dipped his hands in water and washed them, just like Pontius Pilate of old. He intended it to mean: 'Do what you like as long as I know nothing of it!'

Yet he charged his nephew, a powerful young rangatira named Patupatu, to accompany me if I ventured on the journey. He also advised me to take no weapons. I could not very well follow this wellmeant advice, as my gun was indispensable for hunting purposes.



Mr. Reischek, who is a great personage from the Empire of Austria, has received permission from King Tawhiao to shoot birds of all the different kinds in the localities of Pirongia, Whatiwhatihoi, and Kopua. Let the Maoris in those parts show him hospitality. For hospitality, O Maori, is one of your greatest characteristics.

By Honana Majoha.