Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 40, September 1996
TARAWERA ERUPTION - MARKING THE 110TH ANNIVERSARY
10 June 1996 marked the 110th Anniversary of the eruption of Mt Tarawera, the destruction of the famous Pink and White Terraces and of several villages, notably Wairoa, and the deaths of many people.
In the Christmas holidays of 1886/87, Mr T W Hammond M B E (1869 - 1967) and his friend, Jimmy McAndrew, made a walking trip from Thames to the site of the eruption. His memories were recorded on tape during the 1960s, by the late Mr C Murdock and we are grateful to his son, Mr R Murdock, Patron of the Paeroa and District Historical Society, for making the tapes available.
Following is a transcript of the tape.
About the year 1885 I should think, or as near as I can remember, Graham, at least the owner of the Lake House Hotel, Rotorua, was having some baths erected there in connection with the hotel and some Thames contractors had the work of constructing these baths. Among these were McAndrew of the Thames, Lidgard, Chappel and they proceeded to the work.
During the Christmas holidays my schoolmate, Jimmy McAndrew, paid a visit to Rotorua and stayed with his father and the other carpenters and on one occasion they went out to see the Pink and White Terraces. McAndrew was so taken up with these that he wrote a description of them in a letter he sent to me and when he returned to Thames he suggested to me that we should take a trip next year and see the Terraces. Well, I explained to him, I said, I couldn't afford to go. I said it would cost a lot of money to take the coach from Thames to Tauranga and then, I said, we would have to stay in Tauranga a night and then we would have to take the coach from Tauranga to Rotorua - that's another expensive trip. Then we'd have to stay in an hotel at Rotorua. Then we'd have to pay the Guide fees in going out to see the Terraces. I said it would cost too much money. He said, "What about walking?" he said, "We could do it in easy stages." I was quite agreeable and so it was decided that in the Christmas holidays of 1886 we would take our walking trip to Rotorua. We bought a tent, a 6 x 8 tent. We made groundsheets. Got calico 6 x 6, hung them up on a clothesline, gave them coats of linseed oil and then when they were dry we had our groundsheets made. We made all preparations for this wonderful walking trip to see the Terraces.
But 10 June came and that great eruption of Tarawera. It meant the destruction of the Pink and White Terraces. So there was no chance now of ever seeing them. McAndrew and I had a talk over it. So we said,'Well let us go anyhow. We'll make a trip and see what the country looks like after the eruption.' So it was agreed that at Christmas time we would make the trip. There were 3 or 4 others who volunteered also. There was quite a party of us. When the time came there were only 2 of us left, McAndrew and I. So after our Christmas Dinner on Christmas Day - we had quite a quantity of Christmas pudding and Christmas Cake left over - but on the following day, at about half past five in the morning, McAndrew and I set out, with swags on our back, to walk from Thames to Rotorua.
We left early in the morning, walked out to Parawai, across the old Kauaeranga Bridge, past Totara Point, right out past Kirikiri, right to Puriri. When we got to Puriri we made a halt, for a while, and went up to the soda water springs. We threw off our swags there, stripped off and we got into a natural bath that had been scooped out of the rock formation, near the soda water springs. We had a good drink of the soda water, spring water, and then on our journey, on past Hikutaia we went and when we got almost just past Hikutaia we were overtaken by the coach. Bradley was in charge of this coach and he offered to give us a ride. "Oh no", we said "we're on a walking trip and we'd rather walk", so on he drove. When we got to Komata we stopped by the bridge and there we stripped off and had a bathe in a pool, in the Komata Stream. We gathered together a few sticks, put the billy on and sat down for our first meal since leaving Thames. We had the remains of the previous day Christmas Dinner and a cup of tea and then resumed our journey.
At Paeroa we stopped for a little while at a store kept, I think, by a man named Robson. We bought there a little butter, some bread, some oatmeal and a few other things for our next meal and on we trudged. Right on from Paeroa we went and - it wasn't the old road then through the Karangahake Gorge - we seemed to go up hill and then through a bush and it brought us out near to Waikino. About Waikino we stopped and set up our tent for the night. We cut our teatree poles, cut teatree for bedding, spread out our oil sheets and we turned in. We hadn't been trying to get off to sleep for long before the buzzing of thousands of mosquitoes kept us awake. We were tormented by these thousands of mosquitoes. How to get rid of them? But McAndrew had had a little foresight and before turning in we'd scoured about the country and got some dry cow dung. This we put on the embers just inside the tent, put on the dry powder, closed up the tent and soon we were living in a cloud of smoke. It certainly stifled the mosquitoes but we were pretty well stifled ourselves and I think for the rest of our journey our blankets and everything smelt of this cow dung smoke!
However we managed to get off to sleep after our long walk and in the early morning we rose, went down to the river alongside, the Ohinemuri Stream, and here we had a plunge, a good wash, then our morning meal. Put the billy on, made a pot of good stiff porridge, oatmeal porridge, toasted up some bread, another billy can full of tea, then packed up our swags, then off we went on our journey.
Instead of going through where the present township of Waihi is now, we cut off to our right and took an old track across the Waihi Plains. It was all scrub-covered country, scrub teatree with, here and there, little streams winding through it. You could see them in the distance from the raupo, see little green streaks every here and there where the raupo lined these small streams. On and on we walked, on and on and on 'til we came to the gorge. Through the Katikati Gorge we walked, and on, and at length we came onto a road and we got a fine view of the sea. "Hello", said McAndrew, "We're nearly at Tauranga. I thought we'd have had another extra day to reach Tauranga." However we were overjoyed to think we were going to be in Tauranga that night. We walked on a little further and we found a man working on the road. We went up to him and we said, "How far is it to Tauranga?" And he said, "Tauranga . . . now let me see . . . it's a, er . . . 8 miles to Katikati . . . and then it's another . . . 26 miles to Tauranga." "Goodness", I said, "34 miles. Why, we've got another day's walk. Oh we'd better go on." So on and on we trudged along these roads 'til we got to Katikati. At Katikati there was a small hotel kept by a man . . . and, er, they called it the Uretara Hotel then . . . there was a small store alongside where you could buy bread and butter and tea and a few groceries and a little post office was attached to it too . . . I think Barney McDonald was the name of the man who kept the pub in those days, if I can remember rightly. But, however, we weren't drinkers, we didn't even smoke in those days but we bought a few more groceries and then went on for about a mile until we came to a small stream and here we cut our tent poles, erected the tent and turned in. Luckily we were not troubled by mosquitoes that night and we slept a good, good sleep.
Next morning, up early, had our breakfast, and on we walked from Katikati, mile after mile, mile after mile along the road 'til we came to a house on the side of the road, a most peculiar looking building it was, on the left hand side. It was built in the octagon fashion - instead of having two side walls, a front wall and a back wall, just a square building, it was eight-sided - looked like a big concertina.
But when we came to a river called the Wairoa we stopped for a while, took off our swags, stripped off and went in for a swim. There was some small Maori children there. They seemed scared to see Pakehas coming, they bolted for their lives. But I remember in that river seeing black swan. There was quite a flock of wild duck and many pukeko. We crossed over the river, went on and on and on until we reached a little Maori settlement called Judea. It was alongside a small stream called the Jordan. Here we stopped - we knew we were close to Tauranga so we thought we'd better give ourselves a brush up and look a bit respectable before proceeding into the little township. But at this little Maori settlement, Judea, we saw a notice put up outside. It was a warning to all Maoris and to all visitors. There it was, 'Any person found taking intoxicating drink into the pa or coming in drunk will be fined 5/-'.
We changed our clothes, looked a little more respectable and on we went, walked on and on and on 'til we came into the township of Tauranga. There were beautiful shell roads. There was only one street in Tauranga then. I think they called it The Strand. It ran along the sea front, all the shopping was there. It was only a small place, very small indeed. But we had friends in Tauranga, a family named Robinson. They'd been in the Thames in the early days and they'd shifted to Tauranga. They had a young man about our own age, Walter Robinson. He'd invited us to come and camp in a big spare room they had. So there was no need to put up the tent that night, so we camped and we spent 'til about 10 or 11 o'clock that night talking over old Thames news. Then early in the morning, when we arose, we decided we'd take a trip to Mt Maunganui. But it came on very rough and that stopped all chance of going to Mt Maunganui. However, Robinson, Walter, was employed; he was only a lad; in the Bay of Plenty Times, a little paper then that was published about twice weekly - a small paper, just a couple of sheets. So we went around to his office to see how the paper was printed. There was a Maori boy working there and they gave him a peculiar name, Flyball. Why they called him Flyball, I could never find out, but Walter Robinson said to him, "Hey, Flyball. Suppose the policeman come along, eh?".
"Oh", he said, "The policeman come along, I shoot him".
So we said to Walter, "What's the matter with him?"
"Well", he said, "Flyball, one day, was walking along the street and a man came along, a Pakeha, with a saddle. He said to Flyball, 'You want to buy a saddle?' 'How much?' '5/-'. 'All right', said Flyball. He paid 5/-, and put the saddle on his head and started off. Before he reached home, a policeman came and tapped him on the shoulder, 'Here, where did you get that saddle?' 'Oh, I bought it.' 'You come along with me. You stole it'. And he locked the Maori up for the night. Next morning the Maori had to explain where he got it and they made enquiries and they found out the man who had really stolen it and Flyball was set free. However after that he vowed that he would shoot a policeman sometime for having led him in."
But however next morning we had to start on and resume our journey to Rotorua. We woke at about four in the morning. We had a cup of cocoa, a couple of scones, then off we started. Mile after mile we walked until we reached a little place called Oropi, after about a twelve mile walk, we reached Oropi, then we made a halt. The forest had commenced here and then we had to start our climb, up into what they called the "Eighteen Mile Bush". We halted by a beautiful little stream, got the billy on, got the fire going and soon we had another breakfast. A breakfast of oatmeal, good stiff porridge, plenty of toast, bread and butter, and then on. Our track now wound up along a great road through the forest, fine trees of rimu, tawa and other of the native trees lined the road on both sides. I suppose the road would be perhaps about a chain or two chains wide. It was heavy with pumice dust. We trudged our way mile after mile, mile after mile, under a baking sun, along this great road. A few native birds - we saw an occasional pigeon, an occasional tui, and on and on we went. Here and there along the road at intervals, perhaps of 3 miles or more, there was a little road maker's shanty, and the road maker had cultivated a little ground near his hut. Here he had maize, potatoes and kumeras growing. We never saw such beautiful looking maize and we thought what wonderful soil it must be to produce such wonderful stuff. However we walked on and on, on and on, until at length we came to a gorge, a gorge known as the Mangorewa Gorge, high cliffs ran up a couple of hundred feet high on both sides of us. Through that gorge we went until we came to a beautiful running stream. Here we made our halt for our midday meal. Throwing off our swags we went for a bathe into one of the big natural pools. Took off our singlet, socks, washed them thoroughly, hung them out to dry, then had our meal. We basked in the sun for an hour or more. By this time our singlet had dried, our socks had dried, we resumed our clothing, on with our swags, on and on we went. Now we came out into open fern country, mile after mile, mile after mile, we walked through this open country, looking down towards Rotorua.
At length we could see the moon starting to rise, a great, glorious harvest moon, coming over Lake Rotorua. Our journey was not over, we had to walk down, down until we came to the flat before reaching Rotorua. Here we saw steam rising from the drains on both sides of the road. We came to an hotel called the Palace Hotel, Near it, just a few yards away was the Lake House Hotel, but that was not our destination. We walked round the back of Pukeroa Hill, on and on, until we came to Brent's Boarding House. Surrounding all the road near Brent's Boarding House was in high teatree. We had to cut teatree there for our tent site and there we camped. Where the Grand Hotel is now was high teatree, perhaps 6 or 7 feet high, in fact it was teatree pretty well covering the ground from the Grand Hotel to where the present Post Office is now; it was mostly teatree covered land. However we camped for the night by Brent's Boarding House.
The next morning, early, we were up and down to the Lake and back, had our breakfast and then we commenced to do the sights of Rotorua. Our first place to visit was the Sanatorium grounds. They occupied a very small area in those days, there were the Sanatorium buildings, then the Blue Bath. The rest of it was practically in scrub. Just as we entered the grounds, right in the teatree, was a deep pool, perhaps about 4 or 5 feet in diameter, and we looked down about 10 or 12 feet and we could see the beautiful clear, boiling water of the spring that supplied the Blue Bath with water. Around this was the silica formation and scattered about were the remains of the old kakahi shell, the shellfish where the Maoris had cooked them many years before. The shells were still lying about, around this spring. Not only were the shells there, but we saw quite a number of pig's bristles, where the Maoris must have scalded their pigs years before. I picked up a tin match box full of these bristles to take home with me as a curio. What a difference today! No sign of teatree and the whole place a paradise, compared to what it was then. But we went through the grounds and did a little bit of exploring work on our own, right down to the Lake, where we saw numerous boiling pools and then back again we went to the Blue Bath where we thought we'd indulge in a swim. The Blue Bath was then about 63 feet or so in length, perhaps about 24 feet wide and perhaps 4 feet or 4 feet 6 deep at the far end. It was a fine big concrete swimming bath. The water was a temperature of up to a little over blood heat, perhaps about 100 degrees, and in those days you wore no bathing costumes. There were hours set apart for men and hours set apart for women. Everyone had to go into the pool naked, perhaps to make sure no one was suffering from a skin disease. We paid 6/- for a dozen tickets. They were 1/- each but by taking a dozen we got them for 6 pence each, and being Scotch of course, we weren't going to pay double. However, the old bath keeper there was a chap named Jack Liston, an old Irishman, well, he wasn't old in those days but he had suffered fearfully from sciatica or rheumatism and had been treated in the baths at Rotorua for a considerable time. When he partially recovered he was given the position of bath keeper and that is where we made his acquaintance. Jack was a curious old fellow and later on I may just talk of one or two experiences I had with him. But we went on through the Sanatorium grounds. We visited one pool. It was called the "Laughing Gas". It was a pool of white mud, in the teatree, and when you breathed in the fumes from it, it brought on a fit of coughing, but they called it the Laughing Gas. Some people used it for curing skin diseases. They would strip off and go into this and plaster themselves all over with the white mud and leave it on for a while and then go into the lake to wash it off, However we didn't use it as a bath, but we examined this great bubbling pool of warm white mud.
From there we went down to the lake. Here were a couple of slabs of that siliceous sinter piled up and between them was a hot bath known as "Stonewall Jackson". We put our hands into it, but rather too hot to get into. So we went into another spring or a bath nearby. It was fairly hot. We soaked in that for a while and then we tried Stonewall Jackson. We had to get in very, very gradually and we hadn't been in it long before one would think that our skins were covered with red ink, either the acid in the water, or the heat of it. Well, we soaked in that for a while and then rolled out and into the cold lake alongside. No one came near. You could have been there all day long and you wouldn't see another human being. We saw quite a number of those old springs. There was that Stonewall Jackson, went along to another one, there was that Laughing Gas pool of mud, another part was the Painkiller bath, another, the Priest Bath. There was quite a number of old baths along the edge of the shore of the lake and we had a little experience of getting into every one of them that we could.
Then from the Sanatorium grounds we wended our way to Ohinemutu, all round that little point that ran out into the Lake. There we could see all the numerous springs bubbling up on that little peninsula. We spent some time there. Went back again to near Brent's Boarding House, where we had our midday meal. Then in the afternoon we went around to the back of what is Brent's Boarding House. There was a vast area of land there in very scrubby teatree with masses of this white silica rock in big slabs. When we turned some of them over we found a beautiful collection of yellow crystals of sulphur. We borrowed a crowbar from Brent's and we went along and we turned over quite a number of these places until we got a fine collection of sulphur crystals. This place was known as Sodom and Gomorrah in those days. We spent most of the afternoon looking around the general sites of Rotorua itself.
Then next morning we decided to make our journey to see the ruined village of Wairoa, the place destroyed by the eruption. We left early in the morning, wended our way on the road towards Whakarewarewa. When we reached Whakarewarewa we turned off to the left and took the road leading out to Wairoa. The hills then, facing Rotorua, all the hills facing Rotorua, were covered with a white deposit of volcanic mud, mud that had been thrown out by the eruption of Tarawera. Really, I hardly think it was the eruption of Tarawera that did it. I think it was mud thrown from the bed of Lake Rotomahana, because from Tarawera it was volcanic ash that was thrown, more like cinders, and they were thrown more in a northward direction. But I think that the mud that covered the land must have come from Rotomahana Lake. However all these hills covered with mud were deeply scored in places, looking like a ploughed field where the heavy rains had come and cut furrows through the volcanic mud. The road was pretty rough as we wended our way, mile after mile, towards Wairoa. At length we came to what had been a most beautiful bush, often praised by the tourists, known as the Tikitapu. Here was a scene of desolation, the mud from the volcano, or from the eruption, had smashed down every tree in the forest. Nothing remained standing, with the trunks of tawa and other trees stripped of every branch, just the whitened trunks standing, like the masts of ships. The ground beneath, volcanic mud. Mud everywhere. Hard baked, dry mud and this old forest standing up, what was left of it. We wended our way past that and then a descent brought us to what was once the beautiful Tikitapu Lake. That was called the Blue Lake because of the beautiful blue colour. Now it was milky white from the mud that had been thrown into it. We passed by this Tikitapu Lake and soon found ourselves at the next lake, Rotokakahi, the Green Lake; no longer green. It was also milky white. We had no time to spend here, so reaching Rotokakahi Lake we branched off to the left and followed the track 'til what had been McRae's Hotel. Propped up, half of it had been smashed down by the weight of mud that had fallen on the roof. A lot of it was still standing. Past that was Snow's Temperance Boarding House. That still stood, but sadly wrecked. There was the old flour mill, buried half way up in mud, just the top of the water wheel standing above the mud. There was a carved meeting house. We had to go down from the mud and drop down into it to get inside. We had a candle with us. We could light it up and look at the carvings. What struck us most was a circular pillar supporting the ridge pole in the middle. Standing in relief on that carved upright was a double headed lizard, the lizard perhaps about 2 or 3 feet long, carved out of solid wood. It was double-headed, one head looking upwards and the other, down. There were six legs on it. Then we went from there to visit the other places, Haszard's, the schoolmaster's house. That was a wreck of ruin, plates, boarding, everything lying, just as it had been scattered, and smashed everywhere. The guide, Sophia, her whare, where many had taken shelter during the eruption, that was still standing. We spent a good deal of time looking round all this ruined village, now all under mud. Not a tree standing, everything was stripped, stripped by the weight of mud that had fallen on the branches. Our midday meal - it was time for that - so we adjourned to what was left of McRae's Hotel, seated ourselves in there; made a fire going in the fireplace and got our billy of water on, when in came Warbrick, the guide. He sat down and had a chat with us, "And where do you boys think you're going?" he said.
"Well", we said, "we want to go to the top of Tarawera mountain."
He said, "You've got a hard nut to crack. Have you ever been there before?"
"How are you going?"
"Oh", we said, "we're going to follow the Green Lake round and go round the back of Lake Rotomahana."
"Huh!", he said, "You've got a big, big contract before you. It's pretty rough going. It'll take you 2 or 3 days. You won't do it too easily. However", he said, "when you get there, to the foot of the mountain, you'll find where I've made a bit of a rope walk up a steep path. You'll be able to use that to get to the top."
He gave us a few instructions and then we left. Packed up our swag and off we left, left Wairoa and found ourselves again on the shores of the Green Lake, or white lake as it was then, Rotokakahi. We followed that Rotokakahi along the edge of the lake; in places we couldn't follow it. We had to climb up the hill to avoid big land slips. Volcanic mud everywhere, no fern, no vegetation whatever showing anywhere. The land was just mud everywhere, as if covered with concrete. Deep furrows had been cut from the top of the hill, right down to the lake. In places we had to go to the top of those to avoid the crevasses.
At length we found ourselves at the far end of the lake where there had been a Maori village called Kaiteriria, an old military camp in the time of the wars against Te Kooti. Here the lake had risen 'til only the huts, the tops of the Maori huts was standing above the water. We wasted no time there - there was nothing to see - there was just the tops of these old huts above the water. On we went, more volcanic land, more "concrete" covered stuff. On and on we walked 'til late in the afternoon, when we thought it time to pitch the tent. We managed to get a few poles and while I put up the tent, Mac went to look for water. He'd been away for half an hour when he returned with the sad news, no water to be seen, everything was dried up. It was too far to go back to Rotokakahi for water. Away in the distance we could see, like a white patch, so off we set, with our billy can and an empty meat tin. Going over rock country, deep furrowed, up and down hill, we at length came to this white patch. It was a miniature lake, milky white, shallow. The water was clear but we could see whitish mud underneath. Well, we had to be very careful not to disturb it, so we gently, . . . we got in the water and with a billy lid we scooped the surface water into the billy and into the meat tin 'til they were filled. Then we wended our way back. Evening was coming on. It was rough going. We got half way back to the tent when Mac tripped in one of these big fissures and over he went with his precious can of water upside down. It was too far to go back for more so we went on with the one billy can that we had left. Made our way to the tent, prepared our evening meal and then turned in for the night.
Next morning, early, we got up for our trip to Tarawera mountain. After a hasty breakfast we recommenced our walk, mile after mile under a baking sun, glaring hot from this white mud that we walked over. Hard white mud. It was hard on the eyes, hard on the feet, but on we trudged with our . . . perspiring very freely . . . we'd left our tent behind . . . then we went on and on . . . we thought we'd get to Tarawera and back that day, back to the tent that night, so we didn't take the tent with us.
After a long walk we found ourselves looking at Rotomahana Lake. What a distance to go right around that lake, in that boiling sun. We knew that we'd never reach Tarawera before sundown and then we could never get back to the camp that night, so we saw it was useless. So wearily we retraced our steps, back, back over that wretched country, rough, uninteresting, concrete covered land, 'til we came back to our tent. When we got back to it, here were three Maoris. "Ah", they said, "this is no good, camp here."
"There's no water here."
"No", we said.
"Why don't you camp somewhere else?"
"Well, we don't know where there's water."
"Huh! We'll show you where there's water. You come with us". So we pulled down the tent, rolled it up, made our swags and, with these Maoris leading, we followed them. We'd gone some distance from them over this pumice country 'til we came over the top of one pumice covered hill and when we got over the top, here was a change in the country. To our right there was the native forest, still standing, that hadn't been touched by the eruption and at the foot of this forest was a raupo swamp with a little creek running into it. And here on a flat, at the edge of the forest was some roughly built huts recently made by the Maoris. This was their camp. We lost no time in fixing up our tent and we were just preparing our evening meal when the Maoris came round to talk to us. One Maori I noticed had a headgear made of feathers. It was the skin of a bird. I said to him, "What is that you're wearing? What bird is that?"
He said, "That, that is the skin of a huia bird. Do you know why I wear that?"
"No", I said, "I don't."
"Well", he said, "you know the pakeha - when his friend dies? He puts that black stuff round the arm, the crepe."
"Yes", we said, "we know that."
"Well", he said, "that's what the Maori, when he loses someone, he puts the black, the huia feather on to show that he's sad for the people who've died."
"Oh", I said, "were you in mourning, you are sad for someone?"
"Yes", he said, "How far you come from?"
"Ah - you know Taipari?"
"Oh yes", we said, "we know Taipari - he's the Chief of the Thames, the Ngati Maru, the Chief."
"Well, he wrote a letter to us people and he said you come to Hauraki and we will give you land where you people can live. Well," he said, "we may go there but I shall tell you about the . . . why I wear the huia feather. The night of the eruption of Tarawera", he said, "we heard the roaring noise of that volcano and the whole place became dark. We could see no where, then came the light from Tarawera and then lightening, then thunder, then down came a rain of mud. The mud came everywhere. Our house got knocked down and I took my two boys, little fellows, one in each hand and off we went to try to get to where there was a bigger house in Wairoa. On we went and the mud came down, hit me on the shoulders and knocked me down. I felt round for the boys; I got them. On we walked, another lot of mud came down. Down we went again. I shouted. I couldn't hear my own voice. The roaring of that volcano, the mud falling. We didn't know where we were. Down we went again. By the time I got up and walked around I felt, I shouted, I couldn't hear the boys anywhere. I walked round and round and round and round and at length my hand hit the side of a house. I walked round 'til I came to the door. Here were more Maoris inside, sheltering from the eruption. I never saw those boys again. That's why I'm wearing the huia feather, or the huia skin on my head."
We asked him his name. He said his name was Hawea, Hawea, H-A-W-E-A, Hawea, so I wrote him out my address and told him that if ever he comes to the Thames, when he came to the Thames to see Taipari, to call and see me.
However, we were just settling down for our meal when a Maori boy came with a tin dish. In it he had some little dough boys, fried in fat and some potatoes they'd cooked. This was to supplement our meal. When we were turning in, the Maori boy said, "How many blankets you got?"
"Oh", I said, one each."
"Oh", he said, "too cold", and he went away and he fetched a tent to throw over us. Such hospitality from people that had suffered from the eruption of Tarawera, people that had never seen us before, never hoped to see us again perhaps, getting no reward for the hospitality or anything. Complete strangers. How many, if they saw wandering Maoris would have invited them into their house and given them the best that they had? No, we never forgot that treatment.
We turned in and next morning, early, we woke - we were getting our breakfast ready when the Maori boy came with some more dough boys, some more cooked potatoes. Then he said, "Now when you go, which way you going?" We told him we were going along past this mountain, this forest, until we came near to the road to Waiotapu. Then we were going to branch off there and go to Whakarewarewa and go through there into Rotorua. "Well", he said, "on the road before you get to Whakarewarewa, a long way this side, you'll see a Maori house on the side of the road. Old Hohepa lives there. When you go there, you say to him, 'Hohepa, homai te kai' and he'll give you plenty to eat". Well we didn't want - we had plenty of food in our swag, but, however we thanked the Maoris for their kindness and off we went. At length we came to old Hohepa's hut. He was there but we didn't say, "Hohepa, homai te kai". We said, "Hohepa, homai te wai". He pointed to a big cask of water. We went there and helped ourselves to the water, had a drink and on we went 'til we got right to Whakarewarewa. From Whakarewarewa, from the back of the village we found our way through, had a look at all the sights of Whakarewarewa. Here was the great geyser, Waikite. That was playing every 20 minutes. We'd see that geyser throw its column of boiling, steaming water into the sky for 80, 90, nearly 100 feet. You could take out your watch and you could time it. Every 20 minutes, as regularly as the clock went round you'd see that thing send up its great column of boiling water. They were very active - all the pools were in a very active state. After seeing what we could of the sights of Whakarewarewa, we crossed over a little narrow bridge over the Pouarenga Stream and wended our way for the two mile walk from Whakarewarewa back to Brent's Boarding House where we made ourselves comfortable again for the night.
When we were on our trip from this Maori camp where we met Hawea and his people, going towards Whakarewarewa, we came on a peculiar formation. There was a large lake of boiling water. The cliffs around it seemed to be hot. The water seemed to steam when they came in contact with it. Little, we thought, that we were looking on at what was going to be, in years to come, the famous Waimangu Geyser. Years after this, to be exact, in 1902 I used to go out and visit that famous geyser. On one occasion I was with Mr Arthur Iles, the well known photographer of Rotorua. We hired a buggy and drove out to Waimangu. We left our horse and buggy at the little accommodation place and wended our way over the mud-covered country, now getting grown with toetoe and tupaki bushes, until we came to the famous Waimangu Geyser. What had been a lake was now a large sandy flat known as the Frying Pan Flat because as you walked over it you could hear the sound as if thousands and thousands of sausages were frying in a pan. You could hear the sizzling noise as the steam came bubbling up through many parts. In fact the sand was so hot in places you could scoop it away and put a billy of water there and get it almost boiling. At the far end of this Frying Pan Flat was an area of about, a little more than half an acre, of dirty coloured water at almost, or practically boiling point. It looked a quiet, inoffensive looking pool with the cliffs rising around it in places, but one never knew when it was going to erupt and send up a column of boiling black mud and water, 500 - high up to 1000 feet in height. Iles and I took our cameras with us and leaving them at the end of Frying Pan Flat, walked over the hills 'til we could look right down into the basin of Waimangu. Here we sat down and opened our lunch basket and were about to have lunch. I asked Iles, "Do you think it'll play today?"
"Well", he said, "there's every indication. Do you see those black, dirty bubbles coming up all over the surface? When you see that they reckon it's a sign that it will play."
"Well", I said, "I hope it goes off. I'd like to see it go to 1000 feet."
He said, "Not while we're here", he said, "it'll be the end of us because the eruption of it covers the whole place where we are." He'd no sooner said this when we heard a deep subterranean rumbling roar. "Get up", he said, "hurry for your life", he said, "it's going off!". We grabbed our lunch basket, up over the hill, and up went this great geyser, sending up its column of boiling mud and water, fully 500 feet in the air. We took our station at the end of Frying Pan Flat, fixed up our cameras and there we were lucky in getting a series of good photos of the eruption. It played several times that day. At about 2 o'clock in the afternoon it ceased. We waited and waited. No sign of an eruption. Then, from the accommodation tent above came a guide. I think it was Shepherd, the guide. He came down with a lady, a visitor. He passed us, bade us "good day" and walked on across Frying Pan Flat 'til he came to the geyser. He had a stick in his hand. We could see him now as he splashed the water with his stick. The water of this great geyser. There he was explaining to this lady, no doubt everything he knew about the geyser and its eruptions. Iles said to me, "Look at that fool!" He said, "it only wants to go up 3 feet and they'll all boil alive". However the guide seemed to know something. He remained talking to this lady for nearly 10 minutes, then they wended their way up the hill, past the place where we were going to have lunch and back to the accommodation place and off they went. So Iles said to me, "Well, I suppose he knows by the indications that'll play no more today. We'd better pack up our gear and get away home."
"All right", I said, "before you pack up I think I'll go over to where we were going to have lunch and see what changes have taken place during the day."
"All right", he said, "I'll keep the camera open to take the last of you if it does go off", just as a joke. I left him there, wended my way up over the hill and down to this hollow, looking down into the crater. The crater lay below me perhaps nearly 100 feet. I could look down into this great chasm of black, dirty water, steaming. I stood looking into it when suddenly again came that fearful subterranean rumbling roar and up it went. There was no time to get out of the way. I thought 'here's the last of me'. Up it went, down, up again, down, up again, down - but luckily for me the mud and stones it was ejecting this time were thrown slightly to one side, perhaps 50 or 60 yards from where I stood but I was enveloped in the moist steam and fine dust, wet dust. I was in my shirt sleeves and I got well peppered. I felt as if I was being drawn right down into the chasm below me. It may have been the in-draught as the great column of air was being lifted sky-ward. The wind coming in to take its place must have made me feel I was being pushed towards it. However it came to an end and I lost no time in getting out of the road. Just as I came over the hill I met Iles coming, white as a ghost. "Thank God", he said, "you're alive. I never expected to see you again". He said, "Anyway I took a snapshot of it." That was my narrow escape. Had it sent its massive eruptive matter where it usually did, I'd have been covered. But that geyser was rather treacherous. No one knew when it was going to play. Sometimes it would go on for two or three days without playing. Other times it would be very active.
In 1902 it was particularly active. It was about that time, 1902, when Buckeridge and his mate made that famous voyage across the oceans to New Zealand in that little boat called the "Tilikum". One night Buckeridge was at the Grand Hotel with a crowd around him listening to his talk of his exploits on the "Tilikum". One of them, for a joke said, "What about going across Waimangu Geyser in a boat, Buckeridge?"
"Oh", he said, "I'd take it on if I had a mate."
"Oh - perhaps Warbrick will go with you."
"Well, if Warbrick will come with me, we'll take it on." Just then Warbrick came into the hotel.
One of us said, "Buckeridge reckons he'd go across Waimangu basin in a boat if you'd go with him."
"Oh, I'll take it on." So it was arranged there and then that they would go out on Sunday morning, take a boat on a lorry, a punt, and pull across Waimangu Basin. It was soon known all over Rotorua that this hazardous trip was to be made. And you can imagine the great crowd that thronged out to Waimangu on that Sunday morning to see some great accident. Iles, the photographer, went out with his camera to photograph the scene. He was telling me about it, how just before the boat was put on the pond, or the great pool, one of them came to him, Warbrick, said, "Iles, just look after my coat will you?" He wrote out something, scribbled it on a piece of paper, put it in his breast pocket and handed it to Isles. He said, "We're a pair of fools", he said, "the thing may go up any minute."
"Why don't you back out of it?", said Iles, "I would."
"Oh", he said, "Look at the crowd here today."
"Well, they only came out because they think there's likely to be an accident. If they knew there wasn't going to be one, they wouldn't have bothered to come out."
"Oh well", he said, "it's too late now to back out of it."
He went down, they pushed the boat in, he took the oars and Buckeridge took a couple of long lines of clothesline with an iron sash weight attached to take soundings. Out they pushed, out into the middle of this area of boiling water. Clouds of steam rose and obscured them. Then a wind would come, blow away the steam and you could see Buckeridge standing there, hauling up this rope to see what depth it was and Warbrick with the two oars. Luckily - they spent 15 minutes on that lake, boiling lake - luckily, no eruption took place. Out they came. Some of the photos were rather good. Unfortunately I didn't secure any of them myself, but you'd see where the cloud of steam blew aside with the wind, you could see Buckeridge there hauling on to the rope; you could see Warbrick with the two oars. They were lucky, there was no doubt. The crowd were no doubt satisfied too.
Not long after that another party went out on a Sunday to see Waimangu play. In the party was a young man named McNaughton, a visitor to Rotorua, two young ladies staying at the same boarding house. They'd come from Christchurch with their mother. They were in the party. They all went out together. They'd met for the first time. They were on the hill looking down from a point of safety, looking down into this great Waimangu Basin, wondering whether it would play or not. One of the girls said, "I think I'll go down below a little with the camera and take a photograph of the pool."
"Oh, no", said Joe Warbrick, a brother to the other Warbrick. He happened to be with them. He said, "No, I wouldn't venture because, if it goes off only 3 - 4 feet, there'll be an accident. You couldn't get out of the way in time. No, no", he said, "I wouldn't risk it. We're safe here."
"Oh", she said, "I'll only be a minute. I'll just go down and just snap shot and I'll be back again."
Headstrong, down she went and her sister followed. Well McNaughton, he thought he'd look a bit of a coward perhaps if he didn't go. He went with them. Joe Warbrick of course, he being with the party, he wasn't going to stand as if he was afraid - he went with them. They hadn't been there two minutes, looking down with the camera, when up went Waimangu. The great volume of boiling water, with black boiling mud swept them down and the four lost their lives. It was a tragic ending and I often think that if it hadn't been for that exploit on the boat they'd have been more cautious. I suppose they thought, well, if people go on a boat . . .
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. . . up Ngongotaha Mountain 'til we reached the summit. Here was a staging on the top, a fine staging, from the top of which we got a splendid view of Tongariro, Ruapehu, those snow clad mountains were quite - it was a beautiful clear morning. We could look out across Lake Rotorua, right out to the Bay of Plenty. We could see White Island, and see the steam rising from it, from the summit of Ngongotaha. We spent an hour or more on the top of Ngongotaha. On our way up we saw, about half way up Ngongotaha, on the side facing Mamaku, there was a canoe, half finished. Why the Maoris had never gone on with it, goodness knows. It could not have been left there so very long because in the fern we saw a few old potatoes still sprouting. I suppose that canoe has been removed long, long ago. From that we returned to Rotorua and then the day came when it was "goodbye Rotorua" and our homeward journey.
We left Rotorua early in the morning with our pack on our back, wended our way past the Fairy Spring, right out to Ngongotaha, to Tarukenga and then through that long bush leading to Tirau, or Oxford. Half way through the bush we saw an old woman, an old Maori woman. She looked to be over 80 or 90, a regular skeleton of an old lady with just a bit of sacking, an ordinary blouse on but a bit of sacking tied from her waist to her knees. On her back was an oil drum, apparently half full with water. And here the old lady was, wending her way with this water to her hut where she lived. "Well", said Mac, "apparently she knows where there's water. We'll follow her footsteps along the road 'til they branch off and we can see where she got her water, so we can have our breakfast". We could see her footprints in the pumice sand for a long distance and length it branched off to the side and here, where the road makers had cut away deep pits to get spoil for the road, here was water. It was stagnant water really, with mosquito larvae kicking around in it but however we managed to get a billy full of that to make tea for our morning meal.
On we walked through that great bush of Mamaku. It was a glorious bush in those days, far different from what it is today. We walked on and on and on until we came to a fast running stream. I have an idea it was the Waimakariri, a tributary of the Thames river, the Waihou. Here we camped for the night.
The next morning we walked on to Matamata. At Matamata we broke the journey. The whole place then was owned by J C Firth, an area of about 53,000 acres, owned by the one man. It was a great place and we happened to know the man in charge of the bee farm there, Isaac Hopkins. He had been an old Thames man, a friend of my father and a visitor to our place in the early days of the Thames. He was employed by Firth as manager of the great apiary there, the great bee farm where they took tons of honey every year, of that beautiful white clover honey. They had their workshops where they manufactured the beehives, the foundation comb and everything necessary to run a bee farm. We interviewed Mr Hopkins. "Oh", he said, "there's no need to put up your tent, now you make yourself comfortable in the workmen's cottage alongside." So we spent the rest of the evening around the great estate of Matamata. Here were 15 acres in one place of English gooseberries. The gooseberries were laying everywhere on the ground, ripe, and we did feed on them. He was going to commence a big jam factory there, a thing that never eventuated. Then he was running this great bee farm. He was growing wheat, hundreds and hundreds of acres of wheat. In fact it was a tremendous undertaking for one man. We spent the whole evening there and next morning, early, after breakfast, we made our way homeward.
When we reached the Waihou River we came to the famous Springs. There was a beautiful hot water spring, bubbling through pumice. There was a bit of a rock in the centre. There was a concrete wall at the back of it with three little projecting walls where people could use as dressing rooms. Here we undressed - threw down our swags, undressed and got in and soaked in the hot water. From there we could dive into the Waihou River alongside and then back again into the hot water. Some Maori boys from a settlement just below came and joined us. They informed us that that stone in the middle was of great importance. They said, "Now that stone, if that's taken up, there'll be no more hot water." The Maoris would never allow anyone to pull up that big stone because if they did they reckoned that was the end of the spring. However we enjoyed ourselves in this beautiful bath. Then we wended our way across the Waihou River, walked on and on, following the hills towards Te Aroha. The road was only being made along there. In places there was no road - we had to find our way across country, over swampy land, down into water courses, then up on to the road again. We passed on our right a beautiful waterfall, known as the Wairere where the water came from the top hills down, nearly 600 feet. It was a beautiful sight, that waterfall, broken in about three places. However, Mac, he sat there for a little while taking a sketch; he'd been taking lessons in sketching and he made a sketch of the waterfall.
On we walked, on and on and on, until we came to Te Aroha. There we went into a store kept by an old fellow called Dempsill. We bought some bread there, some biscuits and stuff, then wended our way down to the Waihou River. The banks of the Waihou there were lined with flax and raupo. A different looking bank from what it is today. Here we pitched our tent, made ourselves comfortable for the night.
The next morning we arose, had breakfast and then made our way to the top of Te Aroha Mountain. When we reached the top of the mountain we were graced with another beautiful fine day, similar to that when we'd been on the top of Ngongotaha. It was a perfectly clear morning, clear atmosphere and from the top of Te Aroha Mountain we could see Tongariro, Ruapehu and another snow clad mountain well over to our right. It may have been Egmont we could see, some well defined mountain. And on the top we could see that wonderful form of cabbage tree growing, a cabbage tree known as the Cordyline indivisa, great leaves, perhaps 6 feet long with a red midrib, a form of cabbage tree you see only about 2000 feet above sea level. On the top of Te Aroha Mountain we saw a tin, it might have been a cocoa tin. We took the lid off. It was full of scraps of paper on which was written the names of people who had made the journey to the summit, telling the date they'd arrived and the time they'd taken. We added our names to the list and then descended.
We had not gone very far, coming home, when we found ourselves coming down a spur that ended in a precipitous cliff. That was no good. We wended back to the main ridge, tried another. That was the wrong one. At last we came to another and that brought us out near Waiorongomai. We intended coming down by the Bald Spur but we'd missed our way. However we got back to our tent in good time and the next morning, early, we rose and proceeded on our way for Thames. We left at about half past five in the morning, walked by the old road which led - not the present road - but the one that led through the Rotokohu Gorge to Paeroa. At Paeroa we did not make a halt but walked right on to Komata where we got to our old camping place where we'd had our first meal when leaving the Thames. Here we got under the bridge, got our billy going, had another good meal. Then on we went to Hikutaia. From Hikutaia, on to Puriri and right on to the Thames reaching Thames at about half past two, or nearly three that afternoon, after a good long walk of perhaps 33 or 34 miles from Te Aroha to Thames.