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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 75

Crossing Huia-rau

Crossing Huia-rau.

We were astir at daybreak on the following morning, and preparing for the day's march. The "children" of the Kaumatua are on hand, and soon reduce chaos to order in the way of making up the swags of tents, blankets, and rations. By this time a divine Hebe, in the person of Riri the uru-kehu, appears with a huge "billy" of steaming tea, together with sundry and various viands of a non-luxurious nature. This trouble over, the carriers struggle into the swag-straps of their heavy burdens, and at a word from the Kaumatua go forward on their way. So, with the morning sun slanting down on Tahua-roa, and the voices of the Natives crying a farewell, we lift the Huia-rau trail for Waikare-moana.

The track for some distance led up a spur of the range which appears to head at Mount Rua-tahuna, from which peak the district derives its name, until we arrived at Te Mimi clearing, the site of a thriving settlement in former times, but which merely boasts of one lone inhabitant at the present time, a crippled old lady, who drags out some sort of an existence by the help of her descendants at Te Umu-roa. From here a fine view is obtained of the valley and district of Rua-tahuna. Far down the forest-shrouded valley, with Native clearings appearing at intervals, the range of vision is bounded by the hills closing in on the Whakatane River away below Mata-atua. Across the fern-ridge at Otekura is seen the roof of the great Council Hall of Tuhoe land, Te Whai-a-te-motu, which stands near unto the ruins of the more ancient one, Te Puhi-o-Mata-atua. To the right is Kiri-tahi, where, in the old fighting days, the Ngati-Porou contingent, under Major Ropata Wahawaha, built a pa and presented an aggressive shoulder to the wild and warlike bushmen of the Urewera. A fine view is here, looking down upon this primtive vale of Tuhoe land, untouched as yet by the Pakeha with his practical views of life.

The trail now descends into the Rua-tahuna Stream, and for miles we follow up its bed, cross and recross the rushing waters, and scramble along steep sidelings by the narrow track through brush-and forest and fern-clothed gulches. And as we march, the Kau-matua discourses on places and incidents after the manner of his king. For is not this the ancient war-trail of the Tuhoe Tribes? by

Uru kehu, light-haired: many of the Tuhoe people have light or reddish hair.

page 8 which they marched to attack the "Children of the Rising Sun," even from the days of Potiki and Ruapani of old; and by which also, those same "children," with their perverted ideas of the rights of man, were wont to countermarch on the mountain hamlets of Tuboe land in search of blood vengeance. How many a war-party has trodden this narrow track; fierce, tattooed warriors of the descend ants of Awa, with their tribal priest skilled in the black arts, by which enemies are destroyed more surely than with club or war axe!

And just here is a good example of the non-progressive barbarian the conservatism of neolithic man. Here is an ancient highway between two districts—a path trodden by the Maori for full twenty live generations—a path barely 6in. wide, and overhung with brush and ferns. Forsake it for a few months and the forest will obliterate it. It is like Mark Twain's house, inasmuch as it needs watching less it be indistinguishable from the surrounding vegetation. Yet the Steel Age is here, and the stone toki (axe) is replaced by the products of Sheffield and Pittsburgh.

All these lands traversed by us from Te Mimi to Waikare-moans are now unoccupied of man, though the Kaumatau points out many places up the Rua-tahuna Stream, and on the western shores of Lake Waikare-moana, where the Urewera or Tuhoe people lived in bygone times. But the old-time kaingas (villages) are once again dense bush, and Te Whai-a-te-motu are limited to a few scattered hamlets at Maunga-pohatu and Wai-mana, and the vale of Whakatane.

We stop at one of these ancient settlements, known as Kapiti, to "sling the billy" for dinner, and the Kaumatua seats himself by the fire and relates the origin of this place name:—

"In olden times certain men of the Ngati-Ruapani, went to Lake Waikare-iti to snare the wily parera (ducks), and by the little isle of Te Kaha-a-tuwai they arranged a set of snares. The kaha, of line, was stretched across the water and fastened to a stake at each end. To this line the snares were attached in a long row, the looks being so arranged as to be suspended just above the surface of the water. Ere long a flock of ducks (kawai parera) passed through the channel and under the kaha, with the result that each snare seventy in all—held a struggling duck. So stoutly did they struggle that their combined strength pulled up the stakes to which the kaha, was secured, and the long string of birds, with snares and line and stakes, rose in flight, and in that manner flew as far as [unclear: kap] where the line became entangled in the branches of a huge kahika-tea-tree, and they were secured by the people of Tumata-wbero Hence this place became known as Kapiti, or Karapiti, which [unclear: wo] signifies to be fastened in numbers side by side."

Here the Pakeha suggests that at least the stakes should be taken from the unhappy birds for their long flight over Huia-ran but the Kaumatua holds stoutly on to those stakes. And [unclear: wh] would you? for the kahika-tree still stands here, and Te Kah-a- page 9 tuwai is yet known of man. But these few clearings, hewn out with stone axes and enlarged by means of fire, cannot hold the forest in check, and when abandoned are soon lost again in the surrounding bush. So much for the Stone Age.

We now cross the Ngutu-wera Stream, and stop a while at Pou-tutu, so named from the circumstance of a chief of that name Belonging to the Ngati-Ruapani Tribe having been taken at this spot by the pursuing Tuhoe, of which more anon. On our left is a deep ravine wherein flows the Moetere Stream, of which we have seen the name origin, and up through the sombre tawai-trees comes the resounding roar of the falls. So far we have passed through a typical tawa bush, with rimu and tawai (Fagus) and ordinary undergrowth. We are now entering the higher regions, which are covered with a dense growth of tawai, tawari, and taw hero trees. The koareare shrub is here, the odorous leaves of which were woven into chaplets by the women of old, as also the tanguru-rake, which served a similar purpose. Further along, isolated on a peak of Huia-rau—to wit, Maunga-pohatu—are the kotara and pua-kaito, two rare and odoriferous shrubs, said by the Tuhoe people to be confined to that mountain. They were highly prized in former times, and were transplanted to the Native cultivations, though for some unknown reason it was considered an evil omen to transplant the kotara. For there were exquisites, mark you! in the days of yore among the warriors of Tuhoe land, and great pains were taken in the collection of sweet-scented leaves and herbs by the beaux of Rua-tahuna and Maunga-pohatu whereby to render themselves attractive to the fair-haired uru-kehu and the dark-browed daughters of Kuri. The oil of the titoki berries was scented with the gum of the tarata and the kopuru, a small plant found on rocks. In this oil was immersed the skin of a pukeko, or swamp-Ken (Porphyrio melanotus), which was then formed into a ball and suspended from the neck, the skin resting on the wearer's breast. But when the missionaries of the Pakeha came they condemned this practice as savouring of the Evil One, and calculated to lead the Tuhoean soul to perdition.

On this great range are also many of the common shrubs and smaller trees, the kotukutuku, papauma, houhou, and raurekau, With the singular and beautiful neinei, and the toi or mountain palm. As for ferns, of a verity are we in the very heart of fern land among the gulches and cliffs of Huia-rau, and the heart of the Pakeha goes forth in love for these youngest and fairest children of Tane, the god of forests. For here are many acres by the trail-pie covered with the beautiful punui (Todea superba), the reigning queen of ferns, and the graceful and feathery heruheru, the matata, and pipiko, and pakau-roharoha, and petipeti, and kawakawa, and many another, all interesting and all beautiful to those who will but look at them. Most common, however, here, as in many other districts, is the mauku, which, however, is not the less beautiful for being common. The young fronds, termed "pikopiko," formed an page 10 important article of food in the old pre-Pakeha days, and the matured fronds were rough-woven into coarse mats, used as clothing by the wild bushmen of these mountains of Tuhoe land For in former times many of the interior hapus (or tribes) seldom saw the open country, but dwelt in the fastnesses of the rugged ranges. And, by the same token, the Tuhoe Tribes did not possess the better kinds of flax which make good clothing; they merely had the inferior kinds of a brash-fibre, such as grow on cliffs and hillsides. Hence this use of the mauku, and hence the old sayings, "Rua-tahuna kakahu mauku," and "Rua-tdhuna paku kore."*

As we go onward many more varieties of shrubs are met with, the tapairu, and whinau-puka, and patu-tiketike, and tawheuwheu, and ngohungohu, and the kai-komako; which contains the sacred seed of fire according to ancient legend, for was it not to Hine-kai-komako that the primal fire fled in the days of Maui of the evil deeds, who deceived Mahuika, the goddess of fire? And to whom came Ira, with fair words and beguiling tongue, to whom was given the task of regaining fire for the sons of man. And the seeds of fire are stilt contained within the heart of Hiue-kai-komako, and the generation thereof is well known by us. Here is the harsh tu-o-kura, from which the son of that famous warrior Te Kahu-o-te-rangi was named in the good old fighting days, and by yon stream is seen the hue-o-rau-kata-uri; on the cliff above is the trailing wae-ka.hu or Lycopodium. But the day weareth on apace, and he who lingers long by the wayside, of a verity shall he lay cold through the watches of the mountain night. After winding up the range above Ngutu-wera for some distance we arrive at Te Wharau-a-Te-Puia, which may be translated into the shelter of Te Puia. This gentle man was an ancester of the Ngati-Awa Tribe, who flourished some eight generations ago. When leading an expedition against the East Coast tribes he camped a night at this spot, and caused a shed (wharau) to be erected wherein he might pass the night—hence the name. Some distance further on we come to Te Wai-tuhi-a-Te-Ao-horomanga, a small place with an overgrown name, and where, doubtless, Te Ao, &c., tarried awhile to assuage a fine thirst induced by swagging his colossal cognomen over Huia-rau, inasmuch as wai-tuhi is a term applied to water which has collected in a hollow of a tree or log, and does not apply to water lying in pools on rocks or the ground. However, the tree containing this wai-tuhi has long since returned to mother Earth, and the next time Te Ao wends hi weary way over Huia-rau it would be well were he to leave his name behind him, or bring a "billy" along.

At Te Pakura we strike the snow-line, and go in to camp for the night. The carriers cast down their heavy burdens with a sigh of relief, the tents are soon pitched, and the broad leaves of the toi palm collected for bedding. But the worst task is the kindling of a

* Rua-tahuna of the mauku garments. Rua-tahuna without property.

page 11 fire, no easy matter at this altitude in midwinter, for between rain and mist and snow everything is wet and sodden to a painful degree. It is fully an hour and a half before we can raise sufficient fire to "sling the billy" on. It is accomplished, however, at last, and the primitive "William" swings low to the unwilling flames Supper over, we get under our blankets as quickly as possible, for the cold is intense on the snow-line, the same being raw and damp from the recent rains. The Pakeha regrets in mournful accents the dry cold and huge fires of abertine and pitch-pine of olden camps, a remembrance of the Rio Plumas and Sierra Nevada of the far north, So we lay to rest on the rugged shoulder of rocky Huia-rau, being literally sub tegmine fagi, and listen to the wail of Tawhiri-matea* on the snowy peaks above.

There were no laggards next morning, for the cold roused us out at daybreak, and we were soon mounting the steep ridge of Te Pakura, which leads direct to the summit. Here we pass a fine grove of the mountain palm (toi), with leaves 5in. wide; and here also is a small clearing, the first seen since leaving Te Mimi. Our progress is by no means swift, for the swags are heavy and the Kaumatua must be considered, albeit the old man keeps sturdily though slowly on the march. As we rise the summit we find the snow lies peep, and has obliterated all signs of the trail. The summit is covered with a dense growth of scrub, growing strong and close, a typical chaparral, and no attempt has ever been made to cut a trail through it, so that when a heavy fall of snow lies on the ground it is somewhat difficult to keep the right track. The Kaumatua, however, never seems to be at fault, but trudges on barefooted, with a serene indifference, through the ice-cold snow, dislodging heavy masses of the same from the sturdy bushes as he pushes his way through the thicket. We are fortunate, however, in having a fine clear day to cross the summit, as would-be trans-Huia-rau travellers are often detained on account of heavy snow-storms at this season, though the trip is a most enjoyable one in summer, when one can dispense with a tent, or even blankets, for a few nights. The brush being dense, we get no view of the lower country as we traverse this lone and silent region until we suddenly break out on a clear brow at Te Whaka-iringa-o-te-patu-a-Te-Uoro.

Here we rest awhile, for the name has tired us. Te Uoro was a chieftain of Tuhoe, who flourished in the classic vales of Tuhoe land some seven generations back, and as he was urging on his wild career across Huia-rau one fair morn he encountered at this spot one Te Amohanga, a lady of Ngati-Ruapani of that ilk, who dwelt by the rippling waters of Waikare-moana. After some conversation on the subject of tribal land rights, they decided that this place should be the boundary-mark between the two tribes, on which Te Uoro hung his weapon (patu) on a tree hard by as a sign of the compact. Hence the above name, "The suspension of the weapon of Te Uoro."

* The God of winds.

page 12 This couple appear to have been well pleased with each other, for it is seen by a reference to tribal genealogies that the fair Amo was taken to wife by the warrior Te Uoro, though the weapon-suspending act would appear to have had but a transient effect, inasmuch as the aggressive sons of Tuhoe contracted a habit of shifting the weapon from tree to tree, and so the line crept further down Huia-rau year by year until the grim forts of Tuhoe rose one by one on the shores of the "Star Lake."

But it was worth the climb; for away below us lay the grand panorama of the lower country, the realm of the ancient Tauira, who held those lands by right from the god Maru of old, who held sway of Te Tini-o-Maru, far back in the very night of time From the dark-blue waters of Waikare-moana, glistening in the trail of the sunlight, and gleaming between the wooded spurs 2,000ft below: from the white cliffs of Pane-kiri to the massive range of Nga-moko, and far across the broken mass of ranges to the greart bluffs which guard Kupe and Ngake, in the lone vale of Waiau, where nestle the lakelets of Te Putere, erstwhile the home of the banished "Children of Manawa," and sweeping northward across chaotie ridges, spurs, gulches, ranges, by the gloom-laden canons of Hangaroa and the silent caves of Tae: and past the sullen Reinga with its old-time memories, where the roar of the great falls crashes through the darkling gulch as in the days of old when, five hundred years ago, the ill-fated and lovely Raka-hanga went down to death in that dark cañon: and drifting over the lonely lakes of Waihau, and the historic island fort which fell to the prowess of Tuhoe-potiki: to the bold peak of Whakapunake, the home of quaint legend: and Te Rau-o-piopio, where the mountain fortress of Rakiroa fell to the army of Ngapuhi, and Tuhoe and Tana-kakariki went down, and Te Ure-o-whata was abandoned of man, and Wai-reporepo was deleted from the roll of Kahungunu pas: then to the fair east-lands and Te Whakaki-nui-a-Rua, with the great solemn ocean looking so near and yet so far away—the ocean of Kiwa of old—to far Tei Mahia, where Waikawa breaks through the golden haze, seventy miles away. From white-browed Whakapunake to the dim Matau a-Maui, which looms afar off upon the horizon—the whole of this noble scene is spread out below us as we stand on the snow-wrapped crest of giant Huia-rau. Then the silver mist, lying low down upon the foot-hill, breaks, opens out, and drifts away up the dark gulches which have scarred the seared backbone of Tuhoe land from the days of Maui of old.

The bright inlets of the Star Lake run far up between the bushclad ribs, which trend downwards to meet them from the mother range above. And over all the wondrous scene a great silence reigns; the wind has died away, no sound comes from the voiceless forest, the rugged crags, the shimmering waters—silent, imposing, and grand—lies the untouched wilderness as upon the morning of the first day.

Even the talkative Native is silent, some looking upon the grand page 13 scene for the first time, others scanning the lower lands to locate some old-time camp, or the scene of some fierce struggle of the days when they raised the war-axe against the invading white man.

And then the silence is broken by the mournful sound of a Native tangi*. Standing alone upon the cliff brow, the Kaumatua rests upon his staff and, looking down upon the well-remembered scene below him, chants a long wailing lament for his old comrades who have passed on to the Reinga; for his ancestors who dwelt and fought here in the long ago; for the lands they paid for in blood, and anguish, and much suffering. And listening to the lone old warrior as he gives vent to his feelings in a strange, weird lament, the Pakeha recognises the names of many an old-time hero of Tnhoe land, of deeds long passed away, of fights fought long ago.

"Hail! Ye lands of the rippling waters; all hail, ye lands of our ancestors of Tuhoe and Nga-Potiki. Hail to ye! Children of the mountain, whose bones lie beneath the dark waters, in the burial caves of old, on many a hard-fought parekura. It is you, O ancient Hatiti, who fell at Te Maire there below, in lonely Whanga-nui. And you, O Toko! of the strong arm, who died as man should die—in battle with upraised weapon. O helpless women and little children! whose bodies choked the Cave of Tikitiki—whose blood reddened the waters of Wai-kotero—your bones have long since been dust, but the hearts of Tuhoe still remember you. Rest you in peace in your chamber of death, beneath the silent waters of Wai-kare, for the forest holds the crumbling walls of Nga-whakarara, and from Te Ana-o-tawa, which darkens yon cliff at Ahi-titi, methinks I yet hear across the waters the wail of Ruapani as we drove them through the gates of death as utu for your lives. Greetings to you, O Children of the Mist! for your kainigas (villages) are silent and deserted and your lands trodden by a strange race. No smoke rises around the silent sea, even from Te Mara-o-te-atua to Te Korokoro-o-Tawhaki, and I alone of your generation am left—I alone remain of the fighting men of old. Remain in peace, O children! for the strength I held to avenge you in days gone by has now passed away, and the thought grows, that this is the last time I shall climb this great ika whenua§ to greet you. E noho ra!"|

As the old patriarch of the "People of the Mist" finished his tangi for the dead of his tribe, he grasped his staff and strode forward without a word. As silently the carriers take up their burdens and move on after the Kaumatua.

Just below Te Whakairinga the trail descends a cliff and strikes She head-waters of the Wai-horoi-hika Stream, misnamed by us as Huia-rau. The snow upon the face of the cliff is frozen and objectionably slippery, which renders our progress somewhat slow, prom this point the track simply follows the creek-bed for miles, at

* A lament for the dead.


Payment, revenge.

§ Backbone, main range.

| Equivalent to farewell.

page 14 first over smooth rock, worn out by the erosive power of many waters until it resembles a huge trough. There are many falls in the course of the creek, some of which necessitate a detour by cliff or crevice. Lower down the bed of the stream is full of huge boulders, some of colossal size, which means much scrambling for the traveller. To those who have traversed this region it is some what amusing to be asked if horses can be taken to Waikare by the Huia-rau trail. The rocks here appear to be of three different kinds, papa,* shell-conglomerate, and sandstone. But little water flows in the stream-bed as we descend, though we note great drift-logs stranded on rocks 20ft. above its surface. This, together with the worn channel and bare banks, betoken what great floods must pour down this steep, rough gulch, when the rains are heavy and the snows are melting on the ranges above. The sight must indeed be a grand one at such a time.

As we fare on down the canon the channel is enclosed by cliffs and steep ranges on either side. For some distance the hills are covered with a dense growth of scrub, the larger trees (tawai) having been killed by a bush tire years ago. Lower down we strike the bush again, and, looking down the rocky channel of Wai-horoi-hike it presents a singular appearance, as the sombre beeches stand thickly on either side and their branches mingle overhead above the rushing stream. On the hill-sides are huge rocks and isolated masses, worn into strange forms by the weathering of many centuries, and high upon their soilless summits are gnarled and stunted tawai trees, which have sent long roots down the rugged rock-faces to seek nourishment far below. And so by cliff and fall and rugged ways we wend our way adown this mountain stream until within a mile of the lake, where the track leaves the creek and rises the spur, continuing down the top thereof. Here we pass through a fine open forest of tawai, tawhero, tawari, and toatoa or tanekaha and also a good deal of neinei, which present a beautiful effect when their clean branches and tassel-like bunches of long narrow leaved Very handsome sticks and canes are made of this shrub, for when the bark is removed the surface is found to be fluted in a singular manner; also, as in the case of the toatoa, if the bark be removed by the agency of fire, the surface of the wood assumes a red colour which same is highly esteemed by stick-collectors of Tuhoe land. On the brow of this spur, where the steep descent to the lake commences, is a little opening in the forest, from which we see the blue waters of the Whanganui Inlet lying beneath us—a charming scene as viewed through the trees, for the bush-covered hills tread abruptly down to the waters below. So we pass down the gully where stand huge tawai of 6ft. and 7ft. diameter, and in a few minutes emerge into the world of light at Herehere-taua, the head of the, Whanganui arm of the lake. Here we find the boat, lately placed upon the lake by the Government, with its Native crew

* A bluish-grey marl.

page break
Near the outlet, Waikaremoana

Near the outlet, Waikaremoana

page 15

waiting for us, and in a few minutes we are seated therein and pulling out across the placid waters of Waikare-whanaunga-kore* to One-poto, where the weary are at rest.

* Waikare, relationless; so called because its winds and waves are no respectors of persons.