Topic: Road to the Rainbow (1960) by Tony Walsh

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A Tony Walsh entry in the 2012 Memoir and Local History Competition.

Archived version here. 

The twin rivers leave the wilderness of the Urewera to mingle their waters at the hamlet of Whakarae, the last remaining settlement in the Waimana valley on the way to Tauwharemanuka.

A narrow, winding, gravel road follows one of these, the Tauranga, across a shallow ford to enter the northern gateway to the National Park. As it begins a gentle climb it narrows even further to bypass  the horse paddock and a set of cattle yards used by local Tuhoe in their informal grazing and farming of clearings alongside the upper river.

The road then continues its climb to a high bluff which provides the traveller with a glorious prospect of the entrenched river far below, sheltered by the dense overhanging bush. From the ford of the Ongaonga (tree nettle) an easy descent leads to Scotty’s clearing and an ancient high-sided wooden bridge. This large tract of regressing grassland was once well-fenced and is still grazed. Maori folk have planted fruit trees along the river fringes. Beneath a large fig tree stands a dilapidated whare. Nearby a grapevine sprawls its untidy tentacles over the encroaching bush.

Directly across the Tauranga is a bracken-infested plateau that has been occupied since ancient times. The remains of a rusting shack can still be distinguished beside a gnarled, lichen infested apple tree that deer occasionally visit to savour the tempting fruit.

Plunging northwards below the high bluff, the river drops into a formidable rushing gorge, canyon like in its depths and precipitous sides. Captain Gilbert Mair with a force of colonials and kaupapa attempted the traverse of these waters in the 1860s in pursuit of Te Kooti but his soldiers were ambushed by the warrior leader Tamaikoha and his warriors. The European force was soundly defeated and fled.

The southward path now taken by the road parallels the river below a canopy of native forestry to emerge again on the river’s edge at the Urewera Stream. The piece of water from there to Scotty’s is an angler’s paradise. It houses deep pools broken by bouldered riffles, the clear waters a natural habitat for wary rainbow and the odd brown trout.

Only a short distance to the south is Tunnel Creek, which is crossed by a wee open-sided wooden bridge. A six-foot high tunnel was carved through the solid rock by the early road builders. Water still pours through it when the course under the bridge cannot cope with the flow.

Within a short distance and at the next bend of the road the traveller encounters a further clearing. Above the road stands a Forest Service Hut built to shelter the deer cullers they employ. Beside it is a rifle range which they use to sight in their rifles before heading off to their assigned blocks.

To the west and below the road is the hay paddock of gently rolling terraces. There is a picnic area and swimming hole here and a likely spot to land a trout in the deep pool below the grey landslide.

The Tauranga enters the pools from another gorge of tightly-enclosed foaming torrents. The road cannot follow the river and climbs somewhat, becoming even narrower and demanding care. On dark nights the eastern face is festooned with glow-worms. In one spot a pinnacle of the bedrock protrudes from the surface of the road, a booby trap for an unwary driver.

A grove of kahikatea stands on the banks of the mill stream ford (the Ngutuoha.) Where the creek debouches into the main river an expanse of grazing country marks the southern extremity of the Boynton holding at Hopeone.  Forest-fringed, it makes a delightful picnic or camping spot.

The road continues from there to Hopeone proper. Bob Boynton farms a small herd on the acreage known to locals as ‘The Ranch.’ His homestead dominates the clearing from a commanding terrace sited to the warmth of the sun. Beside the road bisecting the farmland stands a cowshed and its dairy. Often the cows free range the river bed on the fringes of the park. The lead cow wears a cowbell hanging from her neck, its tonk-tonk making the cows easy to locate at milking time. Some of the more venturesome animals have a fence batten fastened securely in front of their shoulders to deter them from venturing far into the bush.

Another building at Hopeone houses the one-stand woolshed and adjacent sheep yards. There is a concrete plunge dip beside the river to take care of lice problems.

The traveller’s path accompanies the Tauranga beneath the forest canopy. At a high bend and screened from the road by a stand of kahikatea is the Eight Acre clearing. Well-fenced, it is an important grazing block and hay paddock.

From here the road makes a short, gentle descent to the Omutu stream. Above the road and quite difficult to locate for the unknowing is situated what once must have been a huge and formidable pa. Sited as it is, its northern flanks guarded by almost precipitous sides it defended the Tuhoe hinterland from enemy entry.

The main river here forms an oxbow, with a series of three deep green dark pools separated by short reaches trickling now over a shallow shingly bottom. Trout lie there to spawn undisturbed in the autumn.

The more gentle terrain from the Eight Acre to Tauwharemanuka allows the Tauranga to wend a more leisurely and meandering path only interrupted by the entry of the unruly waters of a major tributary, the Otapakawa. The ford on the road at this point is often treacherous and can frequently become impassable.

Beyond this stream the road continues to extensive fields at Tauwharemanuka. In times past when milking a few cows and separating the cream made for a reasonable income this had been a tiny settlement. By the 1950s it had become the realm of Tuti Boynton, the man on the big white horse.

The road ends here but the traveller now follows a narrow track along the bed of what had once been the access route to Tawhana. It climbs steadily through dense overhanging forest in and out of each narrow gully and side stream reaching the summit way out of earshot of the tumbling river far below. Thence it is all downhill to the crossing of the Otane. It is difficult to imagine that this was once a roadway traversed by the Rural Delivery operated by Bell and Hodgson’s store in Waimana. Henry Bell’s trusty old Model A Ford flat-deck truck brought in groceries for the local people and delivered large bags of flour and sugar for Rua Kenana’s settlement at Maungapohatu. From Otane Henry collected the cream cans for delivery to the cheese factory at Waimana.

The long defunct road, now barely visible, thus enters Tawhana. Surrounded by the encroaching forest and the bush clad Urewera ranges this large grassy clearing had long been the home for Tuhoe people. Now abandoned, their former gardens overgrown, their fruit trees unpruned, they have become the pantry for introduced deer and fossicking wild pigs.

A lichen-covered pataka leans drunkenly on its supports, the door swinging gently to and fro in the breeze. Under the old walnut trees a rusty iron whare stands, its open door gaping a welcome. A myriad of apples litter the ground beneath the old fruit trees.

A red and blue wharenui still stands on a knoll at the further end of the farmland, Nga Tau e Mahi, the loneliest of the meeting houses in the Waimana Valley, sheltered from unkindly evils by the bones of the ancestors in the urupa above. A circle of stones and a pile of ashes before the verandah of the meeting house are the only evidence of the occasional hunter. Beside it are the remains of a pair of one-roomed whare, holes yawning in their worm eaten weather boards. Sheep droppings litter their earthen floors.

A further two houses against the hillside have collapsed in on themselves. Another pataka stands in the shade of a weeping willow overlooking the river. A brace of kereru flutter from branch searching for cherries the orchard by the urupa. Here the Tauranga enters Tawhana from its upper gorges, the mythical home of the Hapu One One, the original people, the Adam and Eve of Tuhoe.

These deserted abandoned dreams are my first introduction to Tawhana, the home of the Rainbow.


About the author:

Tony Walsh has been married for 44 years with five children and seven grandchildren. Most of his working life was spent as a teacher and a school principal, during which he spent a great deal of time hunting and trout fishing in the wild. Since his retirement and as his legs got slower, he now fly fishes the rivers, tying his own flies. He published The Black Singlet Brigade with XLibris in 2013, an essential read for any bush adventurer, actual or vicarious. Tony presently edits the local Trout Fishing Club monthly magazine. Now retired, he lives, writes and resides by a trout stream. He describes this as Heaven on earth.


This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:

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