I.—The Hot Lakes in the North Island.
My visit to the Hot Lakes was made in company with the Duke of Edinburgh and several officers of H.M.S. ‘Galatea.’ Leaving Auckland, by sea, on the 12th of last December, we landed on the following morning at Tauranga, where the “son of the Queen” (te tamaiti o te Kuini), as His Royal Highness is styled by the Maoris, was enthusiastically welcomed by seven hundred chiefs and clansmen of the tribes of the Arawas and of the Ngaiterangis. It will be remembered that the last-named clan fought bravely against the British troops at the Gate Pa,* and elsewhere, in 1864; but they soon afterwards made peace with the Government, and now at the korero (or conference) held to greet the Duke of Edinburgh, they vied with our faithful friends, the Arawas, in expressions of loyalty to the Queen, and of good will to the English settlers. At the conclusion of his speech, Enoka te Whanake, a chief foremost among our enemies during the late war, said; “It is true that I fought against the Queen at the Gate Pa; but I have repented of this evil, and am now living under the shadow of Her laws. As for this Tawhiao, who styles himself the ‘King of the Maoris,’ let him be brought hither as a footstool for the son of our Queen, whom we welcome among us this day.”
From Tauranga we proceeded to Maketu, the principal kainga, or settlement, of the Arawas, and celebrated in their traditions as the spot where their forefathers, some twenty generations back, first landed in New Zealand.
[Footnote] * This pa was three miles from Tauranga, and was so named because it commanded the approach to the inland districts, at a point where the road passes along a narrow tract of firm ground between two extensive swamps.
No Europeans have as yet settled in the inland districts of this portion of the North Island, but the “Queen's son” was as safe among the Arawas in their own country as he would be among the Gordons in Aberdeenshire. We were however, attended by a guard of honour, consisting of an escort of the clansmen in arms for the Queen. The Duke of Edinburgh and his officers were much interested by the many striking scenes and incidents of life in a Maori camp, especially by the war-songs chanted by the Arawas around the watchfires which they kindled each night in front of our tents. On the other hand, the native warriors were delighted by His Royal Highness's power of enduring fatigue—by his good horsemanship and swimming—by the skill and vigour with which he paddled his canoe across their lakes—and, above all, perhaps, by his constantly wearing the kilt, which is the favourite garb of the Maori as well as of the Scotch Highlanders.
On the 14th December we rode a distance of forty miles, from Maketu to Ohinemutu, the principal inland settlement of the Arawas. It is situated at the north-western extremity of the beautiful lake of Rotorua, and has in front the lofty islet of Mokoia, famous for the legend of Hine Moa, the Hero, and of her lover, the Leander of the Maoris.* The road from Maketu to Ohinemutu, winding along the shores of Rotoiti and Rotorua, presents a succession of lovely prospects. It was spontaneously commenced by the Arawas, the chiefs and clansmen labouring together, for the use of the Duke of Edinburgh when his visit was first expected in 1868.
Ohinemutu still exhibits most of the features and scenes of a Maori pa and kainga of the olden time. The dwellings of the chiefs are surrounded with stockades, while many of them are adorned with grotesque woodcarvings, and are curious specimens of native architecture. The boiling springs—sure signs of the volcanic fires smouldering below—see the, bubble, and steam on every side;—among the houses, where they form excellent natural cooking places;—and in the tepid waters of the neighbouring lake, in which the natives swim, each morning and evening, as in a vast natural bath. On Sunday, the 18th December, a missionary clergyman, the Rev. S. Spencer, who had accompanied our party from Maketu, read the service of the Church of England, in the open air, on the shore of Lake Rotorua. It was a calm, clear, and sunny day, and the scene was highly picturesque and suggestive; with the little knot of Englishmen surrounding the “son of the Queen,” and the large congregation of Maoris repeating the responses and chanting the hymns in their own sonorous language; amid some of the finest prospects of lake and mountain, and near some of the most wonderful natural phenomena in the world; in the very heart, moreover, of the native districts
of New Zealand, and of the country most renowned in Maori song and legend;—and on a spot where, in the memory of men still living, human victims were sacrificed and cannibal feasts were held.
From Ohinemutu we visited the neighbouring geysers and solfataras of Whakarewarewa, which at intervals throw high into the air columns of water, with whirling clouds of steam and showers of pumice stone. Thence we rode over the hills, skirting the deep blue lakes of Tikitapu and Roto-kakaki,—both embosomed in overhanging forests and craggy cliffs,—to Tarawera, which surpasses in wild grandeur of scenery all its rival lakes. On the following morning we crossed Lake Tarawera in native canoes, and encamped for the night by the side of one of the famous terrace-fountains* of Lake Rotomahana,—the most striking marvels in this region of wonders, and of which no verbal description can convey any adequate idea. They have been likened to cascades of bright and sparkling water, gently falling from blue basins of turquoise over a succession of natural shelves, and suddenly turned, as they fall, into terraces of white marble,† streaked with soft lines of pink. Many rare and delicate ferns, and other plants usually found only in the Tropics, cling in green clusters round the snow-white margin of the fountains, and flourish in luxuriant growth in the warm and dank air.
From Rotomahana we rode back in two days to Maketu, and thence returned by sea to Auckland. Thus it will be seen that the chief points in the district of the Hot Lakes can even now be visited by active horsemen in an excursion of a week or ten days. The natives alone have hitherto made practical use, for the cure of various diseases, of the healing properties of these waters. But when, through the progress of colonisation, these springs, truly described by Hochstetter as the “grandest in the world,” shall have become more accessible, it cannot be doubted that, as multitudes of summer tourists from the cities of the old world now resort to the warm baths of Germany, and to the mountains of Switzerland, so thousands will hereafter flock from Australia, and from all parts of the southern hemisphere, to those regions of New Zealand where nature displays many of her most remarkable beauties and wonders in the most genial and healthy of climates.
I shall not trespass on your time and patience by dwelling at greater length on this part of my subject. The Lake district of the North Island has been fully described in the well-known and elaborate work of Dr.
[Footnote] * Named respectively Te Tarata and Otukapuarangi. The first of these names is said to signify “the tattooed rock,” and to refer to the strange figures and shapes formed by the silicious deposits of the terraces. The second name means “cloudy atmosphere,” from the continually ascending clouds of steam.
[Footnote] †The terraces of Rotomahana are encrusted by the overflowing waters with a white silicious deposit, the growth of many years.—See “Hochstetter's New Zealand,” chap. 18.
Hochstetter, and by other writers more competent than myself.* Let it suffice on the present occasion to say that all the authorities agree that the solfataras, geysers, and fumaroles alike owe their origin to water sinking through natural fissures into the caverns of the earth, where it becomes heated by ever-burning volcanic fires. High-pressure steam is thus generated, which, accompanied by volcanic gases, forces its way up towards the cooler surface, and is there condensed into hot water. It has been further remarked that even the legends of the Maoris correctly ascribe the origin of the hot lakes and springs to the combined agency of fire and water, in connection with the still active craters of Whakari and of Tongariro. The traditions of the Arawas relate that among the chiefs who led their ancestors from Hawaikit† to New Zealand was Ngatiroirangi, whose name, being interpreted, signifies “the messenger of Heaven.” He landed at Maketu, whence he set forth with his slave Ngauruhoe to explore the new found land. As they journeyed on ward they at length beheld, towards the South, the lofty snow-clad mountain of Tongariro (literally “towards the south”). Climbing to the highest peak to gain a wider view of the surrounding country, they were benumbed with” the cold, when the chief shouted to his sisters, who had remained upon Whakari, to send him fire. The sisters heard his call, and sent him the sacred fire brought from Hawaiki. It was borne in the hands of two taniwhas or water-spirits, dwelling in the caverns of the earth and ocean, from Whakari, through a subterranean passage, to the top of Tongariro. The fire arrived just in time to save the life of the chief, but the slave was already dead. And so the crater of Tongariro is called, to this day, by the name of Ngauruhoe; and the sacred fire still blazes throughout the underground zone along which it was carried by the taniwhas. It burns under the lakes of Rotoiti, Rotorua, and Rotomahana—under the thousand hot springs which burst forth between Whakari and Tongariro. Dr. Hochstetter (“New Zealand,” chap. 18) remarks that “this legend affords a remarkable instance of the accurate observation of the natives, who have thus indicated the true line of the chief volcanic action in the North Island.”
[Footnote] * See also the graphic and accurate account of the Hot Lakes in “A Ride through the Disturbed Districts of New Zealand,” by Lieutenant the Hon. H. Meade, R.N., London, 1871.
[Footnote] † The Hawaiki of Maori annals was probably Hawaii in the Sandwich Islands, or Savaii in the Navigators' Islands.