I shuddered at such putrid prompt words for Three Word Wednesday to write in my blog when I crave for ones
of love and kindness and hope. However let’s see what happens:
It was a rainy day, a muddy
cold day and he was in a strange place, a foreign land, and his one wish, his
craving was that he would get back safely to his family at home. It was wartime
and the fighting had continued for long years and now his truck had broken down
and he was on his own. They might find him if he stayed by the truck, but it
might be the wrong they! As he pondered, exposed and scared he thought that
sitting in a target was not a good idea. So he wandered over to a ruined
building a short walk away to seek shelter.
He could keep an eye on the
road from there and maybe get a little rest. There amid the tangle of debris
and the creepers that made the most of the opportunity he pushed his way
inside. He heard the faint sound of breathing and saw to his amazement two
children squeezed up in the corner watching him. They shuddered with fear so he
stood stock still, took out his water bottle and a reached out his arm offering
it to them. They said not a word they were so frightened. So he loosened the
cap and put it within their reach and stepped away a little and sat down on
what was left of the floor. He leaned back and half closed his eyes in an
attempt to relax.
After a few seconds the
elder child leaned forward and stealthily reached out for the bottle, shook it
and offered it to her young companion. In turn they gulped down the water and
pushed the container back toward him. Their faces wore no smiles but their eyes
said it all as they were the real victims of war; not the trained soldiers from
both sides fighting on foreign soil but those children who would now be scarred
He observed the building
again and felt the first drops of rain fall in their shelter without shelter.
So he got up and started to look for some protection. The children grew frightened
and shook their heads as he lifted some of the debris away. His senses were
knocked back by a stench so putrid that he had to cover his face and his eyes
smarted. Clearly he had found the bodies of the children’s parents.
The elder child a girl
looked at him fiercely and the younger one just cried. He tried to get them to
go with him to another hideout away from the horror. They would not do this as this
was their home and he was the enemy.
Today April 25th is Anzac Day in Australia
and New Zealand.
It is a public holiday and is the most revered day in Australia’s
calendar.We remember the fallen from
all sides in war.
I had hardly been asleep a few minutes or so
I thought when I felt a nudge on my back. My wife whispered “Wake Up! There’s
someone at the door”.
My eyes opened reluctantly, I glanced at my
watch. It was 9 o’clock in the morning and we were in a hotel room. The gentle
tap came again and so I wrapped myself up and went to the door and opened it.
There smiling happily at me was a young Samoan girl all ready to clean the
room. I apologised and explained we had only arrived a few hours ago at 5am in
the morning after a night flight from Sydney.
“Could you come back a little later?”
She nodded reluctantly as the girls clearly
worked to a routine. We were visiting Western Samoa in the Pacific and
having done some research had chosen to stay at “Aggie Grey’s Hotel” on the
In the heady days of colonisation of little
nations by the world’s powers the Samoan
Island’s were disputed by Britain, Germany
and the USA
keeping their gun ships handy to stake their claim. In this case it was decided
that Germany was to be lucky
superpower and the two main islands Savaii and Upolu became their colony in
1899, while the United States
took over the smaller islands and much of the Pacific
Ocean waters in the vicinity. Robert Louis Stevenson the author of
several adventure books lived there with his extended family until his death in
1889. Western Samoa finally
gained it’s independence in 1962 after having New Zealand as its colonial master
So now we were in this warm paradise of
“South Pacific” fame staying in the timber framed hotel owned by the aging
Aggie Grey who had made her money trading with the occupying allied forces
during WW2. She now employed the young men and women from her home village in
the hotel and who were also the fia fia dancers at the evening’s entertainment.
We loved the place. At the swimming pool my wife found herself swimming with
the film star Robert Morley. The walkways had bunches of bananas hanging down
for the staff to eat as they worked (and also tempting the guests) and there
was all invading tropical perfume of exotic flowers and coconut oil. Needless
to say I was entranced by the shy smile of the girls plaiting flowers to
decorate the bedrooms as they sat in the walkways speaking to each other with a
sound like the gentle murmuring of the ocean.
We explored the capital Apia with it German colonial timbered
building and sat quietly in the numerous churches but kept clear of the
children who with machetes busily cut the lawns with skilful swipes.
It was humid and the first few days the walks
were short with frequent rests and long drinks and a cool off in the pool. We
explored the island on day trips and discovered waterfalls and swimming holes
and exotic beaches and so many churches that were told were built with building
material meant to mend the roads, which clearly never were.
Mind you it could have been the pigs that dug
up the road. They wandered about freely and wherever they wanted eating
whatever they could find.
The bus transport was mainly converted trucks
with seats and no windows. It was too humid for that. These plied their way to
villages collected the locals to take them to the market and to return later in
the afternoon with all their purchases in huge baskets or even building
materials tied to the roof or in the aisles so access was an adventure.
On one trip we boarded the crowded tourist
bus last and I had to sit next to the driver with the pretty young guide wedged
in beside me. She chatted about everything under the sun and told me her surname
was Schmidt which clearly came from the German colonial era. As the bus rattled
along her bare leg and mine frequently touched and at one time she looked at me
and said you are browner that I am, proudly placing her arm against mine to
Later we took a trip to the larger but lesser
of Savaii and walked over
the lava fields from an old volcano eruption and shown the “Virgin’s Grave”
where a young girl died in a lava flow. Later we nodded thanks at a refreshment
stop when the owner proudly showed us her husband's grave in the garden outside
the back door as we made to leave.
On the short flight back to Apia’s
airport only we were weighed not the luggage before we boarded the light plane
as there are some very big people in Samoa!
The flight was delayed a little as a mother and her young child boarded late to
be taken to the hospital on the main island. As she nursed her child I held the
bottle of saline drip attached to his arm while my wife sat next to the pilot
Another night at the hotel the staff also
performed in the Fia Fia nights entertaining guests with their seductive
dancing and singing and the girl that had served me in the hotel shop earlier
now danced enticingly before me. The lights were turned down and the men
juggled with their flaming brands.
When we returned I said I really wanted to go
again but my better half shook her head and said “Wake up, the first time is
magical but it would never be the same again.” Yet even she had been entranced
with one of the male dancers!
It is nearly thirty
years since we went there and I still remember the eyes the girl that danced
before me and who looked only at me.
Ahu and Ahuahu’s eldest son Tangaroa had
married Hatiti’s first child Horowai. She was the daughter of Hatiti’s first
husband Kaihautu but he had died in an accident at the Hot Springs when Horowai was but a year old.
Hatiti then widowed was allowed by Ahu to stay with her to help feed Hekehoru
and then to become Ahuahu’s second wife. Ahu thought that she was ill and there
would be no one to look after her children if she died. She knew Hatiti had
always loved Ahuahu after he had saved her life after the tidal wave when she
had been swept out to sea and was thought to be drowned. She had been rescued by Ahuahu; he had found her washed up in the trees some way from the
village a day or two later. Hatiti had loved him from that day on.
Horowai and Tangaroa now lived at the Hot Springs in a whare
provided by Kaihutu’s father who was overjoyed that his granddaughter should
live close to them. His name was Ikaroa which meant the band of stars in the
sky we call the Milky Way. He liked Tangaroa. Even though the young man had
been brought up as a fisherman, he said he wanted Tangaroa to become the
hereditary leader of their community after him to look after the Hot Springs and conduct
the rituals and welcoming ceremonies there.
Tangaroa and Horowai had been brought up
together and he had always been the one to look after her and protect her and she
followed him everywhere and always thought they would eventually be married.
Their first baby came quickly and it was not long before Horowai went down the
women’s birthing site to deliver her child. Ikaroa was especially pleased when
their first child, his great grandson was born. Ikaroa had become quite old and
frail and could hardly walk or speak any more. The new born baby was placed
carefully in his arms and Tangaroa said to him “Ikaroa, Horowai and I have come
to ask if you approve that we call this child Kaihautu after Horowai’s father.
Ikaroa nodded, “But should he not be called
Ahuahu after your father Tangaroa?”
Tangaroa shook his head, “Ahuahu has three
sons and two daughters; there will be many boys for his name to be passed on to
in the future. You had but one son, Kaihautu and he had but one child Horowai.
Where will Horowai’s history go if we do not remember it now?”
The old man looked down and shed a tear. “There
must be a wind blowing the dust, I have something in my eyes. Do what you will
Tangaroa. But yes, it does please me very much. Next time Horowai” he said
glancing up at her and wiping his eyes, “Bring me a girl child for your
Tangaroa tried not to smile at the old man’s
tears. He returned the baby to Horowai, grinned at her and in doing so rubbed
noses too. She placed the baby at her breast and it immediately began to
suck at her greedily. Everybody laughed when the old man said “Perhaps his name
should have been Takapu, the gannet, for he really dives in for his food”.
For more Ahu stories click on Ahu in the labels bar
continuing story of Ahu and Ahuahu her husband in a Maori village in Aotearoa
before European settlement of New
Zealand. (Have you missed an episode? Click on Ahu in
the labels bar for previous posts)
Tiemi the botanist who had come to record the
plants that grew in the Black Sands area had come to the end of his work. He
had been treated with respect but despite this Ahuahu’s family had made it
clear to him how much the land meant to the Maori people. No matter what he
said about the wonderful things the pakeha could do for them they were stubborn
in their attachment to their traditional way of life. He knew that hundreds
possibly thousands of new settlers would spread out through New Zealand as his
people called their land over the next few years and it would change regardless
of the Maori people whether they fought the intruders as many communities in
the north island did or quietly tried to hang on to their own way of life as
they did here at Black Springs. Ahuahu wondered whether his attitude had
changed in the weeks he had been here and whether it was Houhia that was the
cause. She was strong and outspoken unlike any woman or girl he had ever known
even in his home country Britain.
Even though he had clearly upset her and Hinewai he still looked at her with
affection…and she knew that he did. After writing up his daily record for the
last time he spoke to Ahuahu.
“My work here is finished, Ahuahu. I want to
thank you for letting me visit you and to see your land. As we are alone may I
talk to you in confidence?”
Ahuahu nodded but then said “What if there
are words you speak that I do not understand would it not be best to have
Hinewai or Houhia here to listen too?”
“Not Hinewai, she is too eager to use her
dagger. Better it be Houhia as she will only cut me with her words which are
sharper than any knife.”
Ahuahu laughed. “She is very proud and will
fiercely defend our land, you are lucky her words are her weapons.”
Houhia was called in and she tried
unsuccessfully not to look at Tiemi.
So Tiemi began to speak. “Ahuahu, each year
there are hundreds of pakeha coming to your country to settle and to farm in
their own way. Whether you do nothing or whether you fight like so many other
villages do is not my concern. There will soon be more pakeha than Maori and
they will govern the land. Our chiefs will be your chiefs our ways will become
your ways. Already there are many Maori that work for us and many live in the
settlements we have established. When I return and report on the land here and
the plants and any crops that could be grown very few will be encouraged to
come. The hot springs
and the black sand beach and the poor soils will not attract settlers. My
report that will be seen by the pakeha governor of the colony who may well discourage settlement here and as
far north as Gannet
“You have not mentioned Rocky Outcrop,
Tiemi,” said both Houhia and Ahuahu together. Ahuahu then said “Our families are linked and
we work together and share our land.”
“Some white men have already found gold there
a few miles from the coast,” answered Tiemi.
“So what will happen to us then?”
“I expect you will be left alone as you are
some way from the roadway north to the main city we have established at Auckland. Already the
authorities know you are not aggressive to the white man”. He paused here to
say with a smile “Except Hinewai perhaps. You will be allowed to continue your
traditional way of life.”
At this “Houhia smiled and said “Thankyou
“Please do not thank me, Houhia. What it will
mean if you do not integrate is that you will be isolated and it will be hard
for you to survive. For hundreds of years you have traded what you need to
exist with other communities. These soon will be few and you will need pakeha
money to buy goods or trade what you do have with us. Even your own people will
want money before they give you what you want. The richness of your life will
disappear as even your neighbours will want payment for the timber you need for
building, or the agate for the jewellery, or the fruit you cannot grow here.”
Tiemi paused. “Your fishing grounds feed you but it is not sufficient for your
neighbours too. You are surrounded by the pakeha. Your young men will leave for
the pakeha towns to earn money but they will spend it there and not bring it
back home. One day perhaps things may change but there are hard times ahead for
you if you want to retain your traditional way of life.”
Ahuahu nodded, “I hear you Tiemi. I thank you
for being honest with us. I will discuss this with the village council.” He
then turned to Houhia “Houhia, you will discuss this with no one, yet.”
Houhia nodded and tears formed in her eyes.
Tiemi then said, “I want to thank you for
letting me stay here Ahuahu.” He then brought out a purse and placed it in
front of Ahuahu. Here is some pakeha money that I offer to you for your
hospitality to me. I am sure that Hinewai can explain what each piece is
He then turned to Houhia, “You will see many
changes in your lifetime Houhia. Try to make use of them and do not fight
everything we do. Remember one day when we are at peace you may even say that you
have learnt from us too.”
Houhia kept her head bowed as he talked to
her. She just whispered, “And if we ever need to speak to you, where can we
Tiemi took out a card with writing printed on
it “This says, James Harcourt, Botanist
on it. You will find me in Auckland.”
He then turned to Ahuahu to say goodbye and bent down and rubbed noses with him
then turned back to do the same with Houhia but she had already slipped out the
Houhia had gone to her sleeping quarters and
lay down looking at the card whose writing she couldn’t understand and she cried.
She cried more than she had when she had her tattoo done. She had lost
something today that was very precious but she had found something too that she
thought was hope. She didn’t know which one she really wanted or if they were
both the same thing as they both hurt.
when the treaty of Waitangi was signed by many chiefs to establish peace, most
of the North Island of New
Zealand was in Maori ownership. A few years
later most of that land had been bartered, mistakenly sold or stolen from the
original occupants by the pakeha settlers. I like to think that the small strip
of land with the Black Sands settlement on and their hot
springs was but a few that remained in Maori control along with Gannet Island.
It was many decades before some of the stolen land was returned to their
rightful Maori owner’s descendants.
At the early
census to count both the pakeha and the Maori inhabitants plural marriages were
frowned upon and such families were often ignored and not counted. Luckily
Hatiti was told to say she was a widow with two children under the protection
of the village chief. Ahu agreed that she would allow Hatiti to sleep with
Ahuahu for a whole month for denying that he was her husband to the pakeha. As
Ahuahu’s son Tangaroa had married Hatiti’s daughter Horowai many years ago the
pakeha did not query the arrangement as they knew the Maori punished incestuous
the last chapter that will appear about the inhabitants of Black Sands as a
regular serial. Occasional stories of their lives will appear at intervals if the
prompt fits and provided they are still talking to me!