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PAPAITONGA.

LAKE OF THE TREMBLING

WATERS

Few Nmy Zeaianders have set eyes upon the little lake called Papaitonga, bub it may soon become much better known. Negotiations are now going on which. ■will probably result in the pur- . chase of the lake and its shores, wnere 'tha latie Sir Walter Jiuller had his hcnne. The bulk of the estate has been cut up and sold by the executors, of the estate, and realised big prices; but the i pretty homestead and the immediate environs oi the lake, with the native foicst thereon, are 'retained by the family, whose desire is that the place shall become a National Reserve for all time. The only trouble in the way is the price. Ten thousand pounds is asked,, but it is understood that the Government considers : this too much. However, it is to te-hoped ihat a- mutually satisfactory arrangement will be made, and thati Papai-tonga—"The ■ Beauty ■ of' the South"—will . become a State park1-and botanical garden, and that, the lake will continue to be what Sir Walter Buller made it, a. sanctuary for our shy and vanishing native birds. Topographically and historically there is much to interest one at Papaitonga. It is just a few miles south of Lake Horowhenua, a larger water-sheet,' and it is -more beautiful than Horowhenua, and it is rich in legendary and poetic associations. To reach the place one goes by train from Wellington, about 60 miles up the Manawatu }me, as far as Ohau or Levin ;• either is a convenient place for the short,drive to the lake, but Ohau is the nearer, a little less than two miles from the old Buller home. It lies between the railway, and the sea, a sheet of fresh water of 135 acres in extent, with two'.beautifuTislands covered with native, vegetation. Papaitonga, a name of beauty, really belongs to the larger island, btit it is now generally applied to the lake, superseding the original name v of the water-sheet, which is Wai-wiri, the "Trembling Waters." Wai-wiri is also the name of the tortuous little creek which flows from the western end of the lake to the sea. about three miles away; in this case the name may be translated las "Twisting Stream" —for "wiri" has several meanings. On the north and east sides the lake is enclosed by native forest, presenting a fringe of ferns and shrubs along the water's edge; towards the western end there is a thick growth of" raupo and other water-reeds, which affords shelter for the wild duck, swamp hen, teal, widgeon,, and other waterbirds, native and introduced, that live and breed here undisturbed. A BIRD SANCTUARY. For the "Trembling Waters" are tapu to the wild birds. . No gun is ever fired on the beautiful shores of Wai-wiri. The Maoris in the neighbouring kainga of Mohunoa and other settlements used to snare thousands of the brown duck here in former days. In the narrow parts of the lake, between the island and the shore, and; in some of the deep bays, there were renowned duck drives. The Maori stretched right across the passage, and just above the surface of the water, a thin flax line, supported by fixed stakes, with running loops .send nooses suspended from it, close to each other. A Maori in a canoe would gently drive the flock of ducks before him, in the gloom of the evening, when the isnares were not readily seen. _ Mr. Brown Duck was quickly fast in the snare of the fowler.,, .and not many moments -■ thereafter his,, uoiplc was,deftly wrung to save him further trouble. It is a pretty sight, to watch ; the water-fowl on Wai-wirij alias Papaitonga. Wild ducks, dabchicks, and teal sail about its placid waters, in peace and safety; in the shooting season they congregate here in their thousands for'they know well that the Trembling Waters is their most secure' retreat. Tho white swan is here, too, filling in the picture wjth its graceful beauty, and the English maHJard and other water-birds have been introduced. The white swan was first acclimatised here by Sir Walter Buller, who in 1893, turned out on the lake five cygnets, a gift from the Royal. flock at Kew Gardens, London. As the evening comes, the melancholy cry of the weka, the wood-hen, is heard on every side, although the bird is almost extinct in the surrounding country; the sharp call of the kiwi comes across the still waters from Papaitonga Island, where Btiller liberated several varieties of this fightless bird, the apteryx haasti, apteryx oweni, and ap.teryx mantelli, in- the early nineties. Truly a delightful home for our vanishing birds, this lake of the fern-tree and the gently swishing raupo. Since the Earl of Glasgow—then Governor of New Zealand —was a guest here and enjoyed some good sport among the ducks m' 1892, no shooting has been allowed on the lake, except for taking scientific specimens. Let's hope it will always be kept, as strictly tapu.

SIR GEORGE GREY AND PAPAITONGA.

Sir George Grey, who had a curiously strong desire to buy a New Zealand island for a home, once endeavored to purchase Papaitonga and its - surroundings, attracted by the beauty of the lake and the island. He,had tried to purchase Kapifci Island, but without success, and also Mokoia Island, in Lake JRotorua. In 1861 he approached the Maori owners of Papaitonga, intending if possible to make his home here; but at that time the section of the NgatiRaukawa tribe to whom it belonged were under the influence of the Maori king, and would not treat with the Governor's, emissary. Later on Sir George bought Kawau Island, in the Hauvaki Gulf, and lived there for many a year, far away from the distractions of the city. After Grey's time several Governors and others negotiated |or the place in vain. In 1891 lir Bailer succeeded in becoming the purchaser of the property, covering about 1,300 acres, and here he made his home, in a delightful sylvan solitude.

AN ISLE OF MYSTERY

There is something of mystic gloom as well as much arboreal beauty about that tree-clad island Papaitonga, sitting green and lone on the blue face of the Trembling Waters. It lies opposite the Buller homestead, a few hundred yards from the shore. The writer pulled across to it one day from the boatshed that stands on the reedy shore close to the historic carved pataka "Te Takinga," and the old Wanganui war-canoe "Te Ranga" (lately presented to the National Museum by Mr Leo Buller). The island is perhaps 30ft. high, with a steep, winding track, nearly obscured by the vegetation leading up to its centre. A sense of somehow being on an enchanted isle, a place of ghosts and wizardry, strikes in upon one. The bush overhangs the water; it is starred in the season of .flowers with the pure white blossoms of tho clematis and the Pohuehue, and the climbing rata vine crimsons a tree-clump here and there. In the deeper shades tfiere is a soft twilight even in broad day. . Karaka groves grow thickly, and there are dense shrubberies of mahoe, and the clumps of high flax and cabbage trees. Everything is eerie and silent; there are kiwi on the islet, but you

only hear them at night, and the doleful •morepork keeps them j company. At a turn in the path, in the glooms of the tapu grove, an eerie thing confront one —a human skull stuck up on a. short , pole, grinning as if in menace, a silent warning to- "keep off the grass!" This, oiuj finds, is an Isle of Skulls, a Maori Golgotha, and over the aricient battleground , and burial ground that skull on its/.-tapu. stick mounts guard. A few yards further on, and in a little open space on the summit of the island, a memorial of another and. more picturesque kind is found. A great canoe, an olden war canoe, carved and painted, rears itself above the trees; one end is firmly sunk in the ground, and stoutly braced to; keep upright. It is a stately memento more tapu to the manas of the tribal dead. '

Sitting here on his thrice-tapu island, witn a JNgati Raukawa companion from .the little village of Muhunoa, a mile or so away, one heard some thrilling tale or JLapaitonga's past. For this quiet island was a lively spot in the cannibal days, the early twenties of last century when Rauparaha and Rangihaeata and their musket-armed Northern warriers happened along. Papaitonga, like Horowhemia and, in fact, all this country trom Paekakariki to Manawatu and Rangitikei; was owned by the Muaupoko and Rangitane and some kindred tribes Ihe Muaupoko had a stronghold on tins islet; a stockade or tuwatawata encircled it There were many canoes on the lake; when danger threatened the people withdrew to the- island, taking all their dug-outs with them. It was in about the beginning of the year 1823 the Rauparaha and his Ngati-toa and J\ gaw-Awa invaded and captured this district. Muaupoko brought their fate on themselves to a certain extent by a massacre in this vicinity; but the wily Rau' had intended to take the place any way, so the murders only brought matters to a head a little quicker. One of the Muaupoko's prominent chiefs was lohenri; another ""was ,Tanguru, the father of the late Major Kemp. They or some of their fellow-chiefs, invited Rauparaha and his friends to a meeting at a place called Te Wi, near Papaitonga, promising him some of the canoes •on the lake, and a great feast of eels. ■Ilie Ngati-tqa, came—Rau' was greedy for canoes—but after they had had those eels they were treacherously attacked in the night-time by their hosts. Rail's daughter, Te Uira ("The Lightning") was killed, and he himself only escaped by the skin of his teeth, bolting naked from the fatal guest-house in the darkness.

Muaupoko paid very dearly for their kphuru," as the Maori terms a treacherous slaying. The Northerners assaulted, and captured the island forts on Lake Horowhenua, and the late owners thereof were mercilessly chevvied by Rauparaha and his musketeers. Papaitonga' fell, and Kapiti Island was taken by Rauparaha soon afterwards.

HOW PAPAITONGA WAS CAPTURED.

Th© Maori story goes that this island was taken by the invaders in a daring manner. The Ngati-toa swam across— not finding any canoes —and stormed the pa with ferocious savagery. One qf the warriors, Te Tipi, won fame "by firing his from the mainland. Foes who could fire double-barrelled flint musket as he swam their guns whilst swimming were too much for the nerves of Muaupoko. The islanders had no guns, and they'fell, and there were some grim deeds of Wood on this little island that day of long ago. To this day the piace is a perfect necropolis of human bones; but they are concealed and protected by the dense growth of evergreen vegetation that now covers the site of the ancient pa. The island was never occupied after that disastrous day. The invaders from the North drove the Muaupoko hack into the dense forests, where they made little- clearings and lived a precarious and hunted life. Later, a remnant was permitted to settle at Lake Horowhenua, which is still the home of the small tribe that once were the lords of all the country hereabouts.

HOW MUAUPOKO BUILT AN ISLAND.

There is another island in the lake, a smaller but not less beautiful one] lying near the western side of Waiwiri: We rowed- along to it from Papaitonga. It is but a dot of an isle; its soil almost level with the waters of the lake. It is per haps 30 yards or a little more in length ; and no part is more than two or three feet high. It Is a thickly clothed with karaka trees, sfci-palms, tall flax, and. beautiful ferns that it seems a treegrove ißstiug on the face of the waters. We landed under the . karakas —they were planted here long ago —pushing our boat up through the flax, and explored what we could of the lovely little spot. > lV

This island, which is called Papawharangi, has a curious history. Like some of the islets in Lake Horowhenua, it is of artificial origin. It was hitilt by the Muaupoko people in the ancient days, as a kainga and refuge place. This is how it was made, as described by a Maori of-the Ngati-Raukawa tribe, the successors of Muaupoko as lords of the soil:—

"First of all poles were driven into the shallow lake bottom to define the extent and shape of the proposed island. Then masses of 'niggerhead' bullrushes, with the earth attached,to their roots, were brought from the lake-edge and cast into the water within the line of the poles, and this was continued until a mound was formed level with the surface of the water. Next great quantities of kakahi' shells from the refuse heaps of the kaingas were brought in canoes and cast upon the platform of 'niggerhead' ; and after this many canoe-loads of soil were thrown on top. Then dry fern and more 'niggerhead,' and all kinds of rubbish were spread over 1 the surface, and soon there was dry land ,in the midst of the lake. Upon the low island so formed huts were erected; there were four built on it. Formerly it was larger; it used to extend to where the raupo grows near the shore. The boundary poles are still to be seen there ; and there are also many slaills and dead men's bones." A BOTANICAL GARDEN. At the Bailer homestead on the lake shore the owner made a real botanical museum. Rare plans and shrubs from other parts of New Zealand were introduced and planted, with the intention; of forming an epitome of the indigenous vegetation. Sir Walter Duller thus wrote of the place: "Here are brought together, and all in nourishing condition, the puriri and the kauri, from the Far Northj and the pohutukawa, potted by himself and sent by Sir George Grey from his island home at Kawau; the Isrge-leaved and now nearly extinct Meryta sinelairii from the Hauraki Gulf, and the beautiful olearia augustifolia, from Stewart Island; the graceful todea superba from the Ruahine Mountains, and the edible horse-shoe fern from the foot of Mount Egmont; the rare toi from tho Murimotu Plains, and ti-tawhiti from the Wanganui River; Hoheria populnea. with its wealth of "orange blossom," from'the South, and flowering pittosporuns of various species from all parts of the country."—James Cowan, in the Auckland Star.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/HNS19120120.2.89

Bibliographic details

PAPAITONGA., Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume LXII, Issue LXII, 20 January 1912

Word Count
2,421

PAPAITONGA. Hawera & Normanby Star, Volume LXII, Issue LXII, 20 January 1912

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