The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 75
We were in camp at Te Whaiti-nui-a-Toi—the "Great Cañon of Toi—in western Tuhoe land, when the word came to take the Rua-tahuna trail for Waikare-moana.
It was well timed, for the Kaumatua* was beginning to weary of the luxuries of life at the head camp, and to yearn for his beloved mountain solitudes, where the stern necessities of life suffice the hardy mountaineer, and the festive board is but indifferently well furnished; while the Pakeha† looked forward with keen pleasure to viewing the mountainous region of the little-known parts of the famous Urewera country, the snow-wrapped peaks and mighty ranges, the vast forest and rushing torrents, the lone lakes and great gulches which form the leading features of Tuhoe land. And, more-over, there comes to him, as there comes to all who truly love to view the face of mother Nature, the desire to look upon the un-wrought wilderness and note the war which has waged for untold centuries between it and primitive man—neolithic man, who has opened up the trails through the great forest he could not conquer—trails by which the incoming pioneers of the Age of Steel shall pass along, to leave behind them peace in place of war, thriving hamlets for stockaded pas,‡ fields of waving grain for jungle and for forest. And with this there also comes that strange sensation of vivid interest and pleasing anticipation which is felt by the ethnologist, botanist, and lover of primitive folk-lore when entering on a new field for research. For the glamour of the wilderness is upon him, and the kura huna—the "concealed treasure" (of knowledge)—loometh large in the Land of Tuhoe.
* Kaumatua, old man, a term of respect.
† Pakeha, a foreigner, a white man.
‡ Pa, a fortified village.
When the route came he said: "Friend! The word has [unclear: cau] forth that you and I shall leave the parts trodden by the white [unclear: ma] and go out into the lone places of the land, there to observe the [unclear: ho] of the old-time people—even unto the 'sea of the rippling [unclear: wate] which lies beyond the dark mountains of Huia-rau. It is [unclear: we] O Son! I will be your guide through the great forest and [unclear: acr] the snow-laden mountains, for I know well those rugged [unclear: ped] and narrow passes, having trodden them many times. And [unclear: m] young men shall go with us to bear the heavy burdens, [unclear: inasmuch] it is not wise to ascend among the snows of Huia-rau without [unclear: gu] tents and much food. But do you keep in mind the [unclear: anc] proverb, 'Ka luiere te mata-tatahi, ka noho te inata-puputu.'* [unclear: P] truly am I waxing old, and the rough trails of my native land [unclear: g] steeper year by year."
So that matter was settled, and, having sent forward by [unclear: paid] horse the necessary supplies as far as Te Umu-roa, the [unclear: Kauma] and the Pakeha set forth by the new road now being formed [unclear: fir] old Fort Galatea on the Rangi-taiki to Eua-tahuna, in the heart Tuhoe land.
The scenery along this road is extremely picturesque and [unclear: typ] of the country. Leaving the Government camp at Wai-[unclear: koti] eighteen miles from Galatea and sixty-three from [unclear: Rotorua,] road crosses the Whirinaki River at Rohutu, and winds [unclear: up] hill to Niho-whati. For some distance here the road [unclear: has] through vast deposits of pumice, in which are seen the [unclear: char] trunks of great trees destroyed by some great volcanic eruption the long ago. Looking back from the hilltop we see the fine [unclear: op] valley of the Upper Whirinaki, bounded by great forest [unclear: ranges.] historic district this, for here the "Multitude of the Marangarang the ancient people of the land, made a last futile stand against [unclear: t] conquering Maori, and the place teems with legends and [unclear: qus] old stories. Upon the terrace below is Te Murumurunga, the [unclear: lage] of the Ngati-Whare Tribe of aborigines, who are descended part from the autochthones. On yon bluff above the surging [unclear: r] are seen the ancient walls of the Pa-o-Taketake, where that of warrior fought so well nine generations ago. To the right [unclear: fr]
* This may be freely translated, "Fools rush in where angels dare not tread."
is Te Harema, a palisaded fort on the hilltop, where a garrison of mixed tribes fought our Native contingent during the last war. The very spot we stand upon is an old battle-ground, where the descendants of Pukeko fell in the old pre-Pakeha days. Further up the valley are the ancient forts of the once powerful Ngati-Mahanga Tribe, who fell before the avenging spears of Tuhoe; while far away at the forest line across the upper valley is the Great Cañon of Toi, from which rugged chasm this district derives its name, and connected with which is many a strange legend of the days of yore.
We move on. The valley of the Okahu, a tributary of the Whiri-naki, is entered. Here the road is hewn out of the great rock bluffs which range steeply upwards, so that we look down through the tree-tops upon the rushing waters of Okahu far below. But a narrow gorge this Okahu, with high ranges on either side, covered with the far-reaching forest. Here is Ahi-manawa, so called from the fact that a chief named Tarewa-a-rua was here slain by his enemies, his heart torn out, cooked, and eaten by his delighted captors.
A warning cry comes from the "Children of Wharepakau," and we jump for the shelter of a protecting point. With a thunderous roar that makes the solid cliff tremble again a huge mass of rock leaps out from the bluff, and is hurled with a rattling crash upon the forest trees far below. The "children" have buried the war-axe, and taken to pick and bar and shovel. Oro-mai-take. another old Maori fort, is on the spur yonder, whence the warriors of Kihi fled from the men of Tawhaki after their futile attack on Te Hika Pa.
And so on, every hill and gulch and streamlet having its tale to tell of war and battle and sudden death, in token of the "good old days." And now a changed and changing land is here, for behold! that fluttering fragment hard by beareth the fearsome legend "Old Judge," and the guileless sardine-tin lurketh by the wayside. An ominous sign, my masters!
* "Climb not the peak of Te Pu-kiore," but most probably meaning "desecrate not," &c.
But it is a far cry to Huia-rau, and so we leave the road of the white man and descend the steep range by the pack-trail, over which supplies are sent forward to the survey parties ahead of the road. A bush-track of the most primitive description winds down the rugged spurs and through the beautiful forest until we strike the Manga-pai Stream, a thousand feet below. Here is Te Wera-iti clearing, an old settlement of the Tuhoe, now long deserted. From here we travel down the channel of the stream through a wild forest gorge, with high ranges and rock bluffs on either side. After some miles of this mode of travelling, we leave the stream-bed and rise the terrace, emerging into the Native clearing at Te Umu-roa.
We are now in the heart of Tuhoe land, and within four miles of Mata-atua, the principal settlement of the Rua-tahuna district Here reside the main body of the Tuhoe or Urewera Tribe, and here they have been for unknown centuries, for these are the lineal descendants of the ancient inhabitants of New Zealand. Century upon century have they held this mountain valley, ever keeping aloof from the tribes of the plain lands and of the coast, maintaining ever an aggressive attitude towards their neighbours, and holding in contempt those who could not trace their descent direct from Toi and Maru, and those deified ancestors who figure so largely in their ancient history. A strange people in a strange land, whose ancient system of karakia* is most intricate and elaborate; who have per served in these incantations hundreds of words from some archaic language of the shadowy past, and who are the remnant of a most ancient primitive race. And across the dark forest ranges which shoulder the rising sun, dwelling within the shadow of the sacra mountain Maunga-pohatu, are the remnant of Nga-Potiki—the "Children of the Mist," for are they not descended from Hincpukohu-rangi, the Goddess, or Maid of the Mist? who lured to earth Te Maunga, or the Mountain, and whose issue was Potiki, when comes the tribal name.
However, our route does not lie in that direction, and we camp at Te Umu-roa for the night. This is the furthest point to which a horse can be taken in the direction of Waikare-moana at present, and from here the route lies up the Rua-tahuna Stream for some miles until the Ngutu-wera Creek is crossed, whence the track winds up the range to the summit, at Te Whakairinga, near the Whakataka Peak.
So we are at Te Umu-roa, and preparing to camp for the night when an offer is made by sundry young ladies of the Tuhoe clan to prepare for us our simple meal, or, as the sons of the Southal Cross put it, "to sling the billy." This offer we accept with cheer-
* Karakia—ritual, incantations, invocations, spells, charms, may all be in cluded in this word as a general one, each division having its distinctive name.
ful alacrity, albeit we are well aware that these fair damsels have a Seen eye to possible biscuits and cigarettes, two highly-prized luxuries in Tuhoe land. We then proceed to make ourselves corn-portable in the wharepuni, or sleeping-house, where we are immediately surrounded by young and old, for the Pakeha is a new-comer in these parts, and is an object of curiosity to the primitive people of Rua-tahuna. The Kaumatua holds forth upon the subject of the outer world, and of the strange things he has seen in the camp of the white people at Te Whaiti-nui-a-Toi. And the Pakeha lights the pipe of peace and listens to the conversation going on around him, noting the different types to be seen among these people, and the angular nasal twang peculiar to the denizens of this district. Not pat the latter sounds unpleasantly; rather the reverse, the women speaking in a soft, low-toned drawl, which may be noted among the high-dwellers of Tennessee and other southern States. The subjects of conversation in these sleeping-houses appear trivial to a man of the outside world; animated discussions are held anent the most minute details. This custom would seem to supply the place of written language to a primitive people, inasmuch as conversation supplies the place of literature.
And it was here in the wharepuni at Te Umu-roa, far away from those of his own race, and surrounded by the descendants of the unfortunate heroine, that the Pakeha first heard the sad story of Moetere and Houhiri, who died amid the snows of Huia-rau in the long ago. And as the tale applies to a certain place on our route we here relate it:—
How Moetere and her Lover perished amid the Snows of Huia-rau: A Legend of the Great Snowy Range.
* The ancient name of the Whakatane River.
When Manu-nui heard that his children were lost to the world of light, he resolved to search for their remains, that he might take their bones to his home by the great ocean, that the sacred ceremonies pertaining to the dead might be performed over these and that they might be laid away in the sacred place of his fathers.
So the old man journeyed to Rua-tahuna, and to Te Umu-ros, and to Te Mimi, where he entered the dark forest towards Whakataka. And as he went he murmured an ancient prayer of the Maori to enable him to find the bones of his son. Behold! by the power of that prayer did Manu-nui succeed in his quest, and the remains of his child were revealed to him by the gods of the ancient people. And the patriarch raised his voice in the wilderness and wept as he gathered the bones of his loved son, bleached by the snows of giant Huia-rau.
Then the heart of the old man went out to his daughter Moetare, and he traversed the rugged backbone of the ika-whenua* in search of her death-camp—that the bones of his children who loved each other so well might lie together, through the holy pure† in far away Whakatane. And as he went by low peaks and through the darkling woods he uttered the sacred karakia, which contracts or draws together the earth, for such were the powers and strange works of the men of old. Neither was it in vain, for it brought his to the dark pond where stands the lone rock, and on that rock lay the remains of Moetere and a few fragments of her clothing Even so, O Pakeha! did Moetere and her lover perish on the great mountain, over which lies the trail to the Sea of Waikare, and before to-morrow's sun is lost behind the peak of Maro, you shall look upon the stream, which yet bears the name of Moetere, and camp amid the snow's of Huia-rau.
And the childless old man went down through the silent forest to the low lands, bearing his sad burden to the shores of the Sea of Toi. When he came to Whakatane the sacred pure fire was kindled, and the cry of Manu-nui-taraki went forth: "O children Here is food for the holy fire which gleams on Mou-tohora."
* Literally the "land-fish," the main backbone range of the country. The North Island is "the fish of Maui," hauled up by him from the ocean depths.
† Pure, purification.
The bones of our ancesters were then placed upon a stage, and a portion of the sacred food was given to the dead—that is, the aria* of such food was absorbed by them, not the substance thereof.
Such is the story of Moetere, as related by her descendants in the wharepuni at Te Umu-roa. But it is now past midnight, and we must follow the example of the Kaumatua, and sleep that we may acquire strength.
* Aria. essence, spirit, medium.