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No. 66 (March 1969)
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KUPE
The Polynesian Navigator and Explorer

Down through the oceans of time and space contained in Maori mythology, we learn that Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga the demi-god, fished up out of the blue water of the Southern Pacific Ocean, Aotearoa (The Land of the Long White Cloud), New Zealand, with the enchanted jaw-bone Muri-rangi-whenua, which he had fashioned into a beautiful fish hook. Legend records that Palliser Bay is the mouth of the huge fish and that Wairarapa Moana (lake) is the fresh-water eye of Maui-tikitiki-a-Taranga's fish, Te Ika-a-Maui (Maui's fish).

Early ancestors, by word-of-mouth transmission, tell that Te Ika-a-Maui had lain dormant for many, many moons throughout the space of time until the tall and handsome Kupe of Rangiatea, with his wife Kura-maro-tini, and their people, aboard the large and handsome canoe Mata-hou-rua (double canoe capable of carrying up to 300 people) set sail from their homeland, Hawaiki, to discover the promised land that the demi-god Maui had created for his Maori people. The magician Peka-hourangi, and a companion, Ngake, in the canoe Tawiri-rangi, accompanied Kupe and his people.

After a long and hazardous journey across the unknown ocean of Kiwa (Eastern Pacific), navigating by the sun by day and the stars by night, and after incredible hardship, the sea voyagers sighted Aotearoa.

Tradition records that the Polynesian explorers coasting down the eastern shores of the North Island, actually landed at Rangi-Whakaoma (Castlepoint) to replenish their food and water supply. While at Castlepoint, the sea voyagers were reputed to have startled a huge wheke (octopus) out of the cave under the headland. A great battle with the octopus (whose name was Muturangi) ensued, as the monster tried to wrap his many long arms or feelers around the canoes. Kupe and his people were kept very busy chopping the long arms off with their axes. After a long and desperate battle the octopus gave in, and, bleeding with its wounds, made off in a southerly direction into Cook Strait where Kupe and his people caught up with it in Tory Channel and killed it. The place where the kill occurred was Wheke-nui (big octopus), as it is known to this day.

After their battle with the octopus, Kupe and Ngake and their followers sailed into Palliser Bay to rest and recuperate at Matakitaki, to finally decide to make it their headquarters, where Kupe made history by being the first ever to circumnavigate the South Island and the North Island. Tradition records that he and his people were the first ever residents and pioneers of the South Wairarapa and were in occupation for more than two decades. The residence of the district by Kupe and his people began in the year * 952 A.D. Matakitaki can be located at Cape Palliser which Kupe had himself named. When he and his wife ascended a nearby hill, he saw across the blue waters of Cook Strait the snow-capped Tapuaenuku in the Kaikouras. From this beautiful view he named his headquarters Matakitaki (to look upon with admiration).

Down through the ages of space and time the Maori inhabitants of this district have had handed down to them by their elders the whakapapa (genealogy) of Kupe and legends of landmarks.

*Wairarapa genealogies invariably show Kupe as having lived only two generations prior to the last migration to New Zealand.

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A survey of some of the main landmarks is recorded here. I'm sorry to state that some of our younger generation are not conversant with them.

Te-Waka-o-Kupe (one of the locally-built canoes made by Kupe and his people) was wrecked on these shores. This wreck takes the form of jagged rocks stretching out to sea. Kupe's sail, which is well known to the Pakehas of the district as the Sail Rock, is the exact likeness of a huge sail close to 100 feet high, pushed up against the end of a high hill.

Te-Ure-o-Kupe, and Te Mimi is also a rock formation resembling the name it bears with a trickle of water beneath it.

Those visiting Kupe's fishing rock can very well spend quite a time looking for the following landmarks, which relate to Kupe and his wife, Kura-maro-tini.

Kupe's Mirror, or peep-hole, is a hole formation facing in a south-westerly direction out to sea. It was through this hole that Kupe was supposed to have kept watch for his wife's safety when she was out at sea fishing in a canoe.

While in residence at Matakitaki, Kupe and Kura-maro-tini were endowed with a family of two girls, the oldest of which, when 18 years of age, lost her lover, who was drowned while fishing at sea in a canoe. The girl, very much depressed and grieved over the loss of her lover, went on to Kupe's Fishing Rock and began to cut herself with a sharp piece of shell until the blood flowed freely and left red streaks on the rocks. These red markings are visible on the fishing rocks to this day.

The sacred pool, or Kupe's Well, is another noted place at the fishing rocks. It is where Kupe and Kura-maro-tini bathed themselves; also its condition forecast to them the approach of rough weather. Its waters were also a mana or power against evil. The pool was enclosed by jagged rocks and was replenished with sea water only when the tide was full. The pool was once endowed with several species of coloured fish — but it is sad to make known that some kind person opened up the pool by blasting the rocks with dynamite.

Kupe's Basin is a basin-like formation which is kept full of sea water when the tide is high. The basin was used to throw the catch of fish into, until the fishing was completed. The catch was then taken ashore to be cleaned and cut up. Fish was not allowed to be cleaned or cut up on the rocks. Climbing about on certain parts of the rocks was tapu (sacred), for in those days of long ago it was sure to bring rain or rough weather or mishap at sea. In days of old these precautions were mana (sacred or holy), and woe be to him who disregarded them.

Nga Waka-o-Kupe, are hills in the Hinakura district which are named after Kupe, the Polynesian navigator.

As a final word to our many Pakeha friends, also to some of our kith and kin who are not conversant with these laws of our forefathers; please do not leave our fishing rocks in the filthy condition that has occurred in the past.

The 4,900 acre Matakitaki block was presented to the Wairarapa Maoris by Her Majesty Queen Victoria in 1872, to commemorate Kupe's stay at Matakitaki.

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The Castlepoint cave where Kupe and his people startled the octopus