Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 3, April 1965

By C. W. Vennell

In the following extracts and notes I have endeavoured to establish by an examination of the evidence available, the route followed by the Rev. Samuel Marsden in 1820 when he first visited what he called "Towrangha". He was the first white man known to have seen Tauranga Harbour and to have crossed what is now the Waihi district between Paeroa and Katikati.

The Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden, 1765 - 1838: Edited by J.R.Elder 1932

P.258. On Friday, July l4th 1820, we were visited (on the Gulf of Thames) by a Chief from Towrangha attended by his son and daughter. The old man was much astonished at the sight of Europeans as he had never seen white people before.

(Prevented by bad weather and floods from making a tripto the Waikato, Marsden decided next day to take a trip to Towrangha by the head of the Thames (River). From the natives he learned that the route led up the Waihou River as far as a pa called Kaupa, which stood near the present site of Paeroa and thence across country. Marsden began his journey upstream on July l7th, partly on foot and partly by canoe. This took three days). Then on:

July 20, 1820. After breakfast we set off and in about an hour reached the banks of one of the main branches of the Thames (Waihou) called O Emanonee (Ohinemuri), above Kaupa. About four miles up this river stands a hippah upon a very high stony hill called Tipporari (Te Puriri).

We crossed the river O Emanonee at a ford at the foot of the hill. The ford was breast high, and the stream rapid; four New Zealanders carried me over on their shoulders in safety... I had 14 natives, including chiefs and their servants with me so that I was under no apprehensions of meeting impediments which, with their assistance I could not overcome.

At this part the country is very hilly and covered with timber: some of the trees are exceeding lofty and fine. The woods extended to the right and left of the pathway further than the eye can reach. O Emanonee runs through a deep chasm in the mountain (the Karangahake Gorge) at the foot of some very high conical rocks on the right, and we had to ford this river three times, and our path lay through the wood directly across the summit of the hill.

The wood may be about three miles wide at the place we passed through it, but of its length I could form no opinion as I could see no end to it even after I had got upon the high clear land on the opposite side, from which, as the country in the rear of the wood is all open, the hills that encompass Towrangha are clearly to be seen. They appeared to be about l6 miles distant, situated on the skirts of an intervening plain which is pretty level, covered with fern and completely clear of timber.

In this plain there are a number of natural springs of water by the foot of the hills which overlook Towrangha, all sending their tributary streams to the O Emanonee — this river being formed and supplied by the union of these waters....

The day was far spent when we reached the plain. We walked on till the sun was nearly set, when we stopped and prepared for the night. The servants who had the provisions to carry (these included a hog - killed and roasted for the journey) were very tired. There were no huts on the plain nor any inhabitants, and we were therefore compelled to take up our lodging in the open air. I was very weary, having had no rest the previous night and having come a long day's journey, so that I felt that rest would be very acceptable even on a heap of fern or on anything else...

Friday 21st July. We rose this morning at dawn, and immediately prepared for our journey. I felt much refreshed from the comfortable rest I had enjoyed. We walked fortwohours and then sat down, made a fire and cooked our breakfast. The day was favourable and our walk over the plain pleasant, as the road was tolerably good except where a few small swamps, produced by the springs, intervened....

When we reached the high hills that overlook Towrangha, which lies about a mile distant below them (actually two miles from Hikurangi summit - 1303 feet - to the foreshore) I sat down on the summit of one of the highest to take a view of the ocean, the islands in sight and the mainland around. The prospect from this height is truly grand...

(Te Morenga tells Marsden of his raid on Tauranga early in 1820).

When we had finished this interesting conversation on the hill we walked down to the settlement. Provisions in abundance for our whole party were immediately got ready and we spent the evening very pleasantly...

As far as I could learn no ships had been at Towrangha since Captain Cook was there - (actually Cook's nearest approach to Tauranga was to anchor off Mayor Island for a night). They are much in want of tools of every kind as they are not visited by any Europeans. Supplies for ships might be got here as they had plenty of potatoes and also pork.

Saturday, July 22nd. When we took our leave they (their Maori hosts) accompanied us up the hill with songs and dances. We here met a chief and his wife belonging to Tipporari, the hippah I have already mentioned, who accompanied us on our return. We reached before dark the spot on the plain where we had lodged before and remained there all night, having made a screen of brushwood and fern to shelter us from the rain which now began to fall.

Sunday, July 23rd. As soon as the day returned we prepared again for our journey... We reached the hippah about two o'clock....

(After a meal Marsden continued on to the Waihou River spending the night at a pa and leaving with the tide early on Monday morning, 24th).

Dr. Edward Shortland's Diaries and Journal, 1842 - 44: (MSin Auckland Public Library).

(Dr. Shortland, a younger brother of Lieu. Willoughby Shortland, R.N., was an M.A. of Cambridge. He was appointed private secretary to Governor Hobson in 1841, when he was 29. The following year he was made sub-protector of aborigines and later protector).

Note: In May 1842 the powerful Thames chief Taraia attacked a small numberof Ngai-te-rangi in Ongare Pa, near Katikati. The chief Te Whanake was surprised and killed and, according to Dr. Shortland his body was carried off, with others, and devoured on the track over which Marsden must have passed 22 years before. This is said to have been the last cannibal feast in New Zealand (vide Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Vol, II. P.366).

The following extracts are from Dr. Shortland's Journal, 1843:

January 30th, 1843. Pulling up an inlet which ends in a mangrove swamp, we breakfasted, then began to ascend Hikorangi (sic). Having reached the summit over which the path, like most in New Zealand leads, we sat down to wait for the boys and had ample time to enjoy the view which, at this time of the morning, was magnificent.

Descending for about two miles we reached a brook on the banks of which, by the side of the path, were several large hangis. Here Te Whanaki had been cooked and (sic).

We now entered a plain, crossing small swamps here and there and, after walking about 10 or 11 miles, entered the woods which commence at a pass in a range of hills which divides the eastern coast from the River Waihou.

In the midst of the plain about 8 miles from Hikorangi, is an island of forest (motu Ngaherehere) a remarkable object, being about half the journey. About 1½ miles to the east of this, Hikorangi is nearly lost sight of, the path turning round some hills to avoid the swamp to the southward...

We crossed the Ohinemuri River several times. Emerging from the woods we began descending through the vale of this river. Magnificent scenery; path overgrown with tall fern... The path runs along a ridge of hills, on "the summit of one of which is an old...........(rest of page missing)

January 31st, 1843. Having breakfasted we crossed the river and commenced our march back to Tauranga. We arrived at the scene of Whanaki's banquet late in the afternoon, but not being able to make up my mind to rest there pushed on in order to cross the mountain before sundown.

Reaching its base we filled the kettle with water from the swamp, and reached the summit of Hikorangi just before night, when we lit a fire. The pinnace was lying just off Katikati and fired two guns on seeing our fire.

February 1st, 1843..Got on board and proceeded towards Matakana.


If anyone feels inclined to test over the ground my theory that Marsden saw Tauranga harbour from the top of Hikurangi, a few miles to the north of Katikati. I would like to suggest a few points for his consideration.

First of all Marsden's own description fits the particular piece of country to be found between the Waihou River, near its junction with the Ohinemuri, and the northern end of the harbour - allowing of course, for some of the bush having been cleared away in the meantime.

Modern maps (Provisional 1 mile Series - Paeroasheet) show that hisassumed route measures about 22 miles.

This is almost exactly in step with the result gained by examining Marsden's and Shortland's estimate of the length of the various sections of the route covered by them.

From my own experience of bush travel - a good deal of it in the ranges bordering Tauranga harbour - I would say that an average of two miles in each hour of walking is reasonably good going for a fit man. This would give 11 hours actual walking time as the least in which the crossing might reasonably be made.

But Marsden had to make threeor four crossings of the Ohinemuri - a turbulent river at the best of times, but in the middle of winter, more than likely in flood and walled in by almost sheer rock. Three or four hours might well have been absorbed by these crossings.

Then followed an ascent of a precipitous 840 foot hill - another good hour's work.

When open country was reached after passing through three miles of wet, slippery bush not conducive to speed, as all those who have experienced it know, a halt had to be made while a meal was cooked - and eaten - involving anything up to two hours. Detours to avoid small swamps had to be made and the gradual ascent of Hikurangi from the north would be fairly slow going for a man in his middle fifties. The descent on the other side after what must have been a fairly long halt to admire the view and to hear Te Morenga's story, would be almost equally so.

Adding all these factors together our 11 hours non-stop estimate under the best conditions is stretched out to something like 17 or 18 hours, or the best part of two days. This is actually the time occupied by Marsden's journey, which as has already been indicated, was undertaken in the middle of winter when there would be less than ten hours of daylight.

Dr. Shortland did the Journey in one day, but he did this in the middle of summer when there would be 14 hours of daylight. Marsden was 55 at the time of his journey; Shortland only 30. Fit as the young sub-protector was at that age he could not have lost any time to have completed his 22 mile tramp between daylight and dark, allowing him stops for meals.

In making these points I have no wish to be dogmatic. They occurred to me after an examination of the sources I have mentioned. Others may occur to those of you who care to cast a critical eye over my account and, perhaps, over the ground. Should their conclusions differ from mine I would be very glad indeed if they would pass them on to me.


By Lawrence M. Rogers

In his article in this issue, Mr. C.W. Vennell has quoted extracts from Samuel Marsden's Journals describing his journey to Tauranga in 1820. As Mr. Vennell has quoted direct from Elder's edition of "The Letters and Journals of Samuel Marsden", he has included the editorial identification of place names. Research has made it clear that some of these editorial notes are misleading and others are inaccurate. Although these do not affect the main purpose of Mr Vennell's valuable contribution, it makes an appropriate opportunity to make some corrections and comments, for the substance of which we are mainly indebted to an article by the late Leslie G. Kelly in the Journal of the Polynesian Society, pp.189 CC, Volume 54, No.4.

"a pa called Kaupa". Elder spells the name of this village Kowpah, but the initial letter should be "R" and the village was Raupa situated on the then junction of the Ohinemuri and Waihou Rivers. A flood control scheme has diverted the source of the Waihou, and this diversion and the erection of stop-banks, as well as a considerable amount of erosion, has destroyed much of the original pa site.

"O Emanoee". The Ohinemuri River.

"Tipporari". Elder's note explains this as referring to Te Puriri. Although Marsden's spelling suggests this interpretation, it is obviously wrong, and his geographical details makes it obvious thathe refers to the TAPUARIKI PA, which was built on the first hill as one enters the Karangahake Gorge. The hill is often called to-day TE MOANANUI, but this is wrong. The Maori name was and is still TAPUARIKI.

"hippah". Marsden's spelling of "he pa", apa.

"Towrangha" Marsden's spelling of Tauranga.