The hero of Kakahi
Following the TV1 news on Sunday 14 June, featuring the hero of Kakahi we repeat TRM’s last report on this special place. We realise the vast masses up in Auckland and other major population centres may struggle to identify with the “Hero” status in a small town, way beyond the black stump in a place only trout anglers can identifty with. But Manu Lala means more to small town New Zealand than all the so-called celebrities and politicians combined. So this TRM last report on Kakahi includes two other local champions.
Manu took over the shop from his father about fifty years ago. It is the only general store remaining in the town.
Kakahi is well known to anglers on the access to the Whakapapa River via the cutting – described in McIntyre’s book – “The cutting is a reminder of a futile attempt to build a railway from Kakahi to Taupo for the timber trade back in the 1920’s.”. He goes on to say “The cutting is deep with vertical pumice banks lined with ferns, making an eerie half-light inside, even on the brightest days. At night myriads of glow-worms make the walls look like a city seen from a plane at night. It is one of the star after-dinner entertainments for our visitors.”
The cutting leads to the Whakapapa River where early attempts at bridges failed – swept away during floods. An image of one of the early bridges is on the book cover below
Even more fascinating comment in his book is about the history of Kakahi going back to the fifteenth century tribal wars. He writes the original people were the Ngati-Hotu – claimed to be a prehistoric or pre-Maori people. Maori tradition says that they were fair-skinned with reddish golden hair. In describing them the great Maori chief Te Heu Heu Tukino used the words kiriwhero meaning reddish skin, and urukehu, meaning reddish-golden hair. (Just in case they qualify for any Treaty claims I suspect I might be Ngati-Hotu?)
This red heads story is also confirmed in the above life story of Trevor Hosking who was best known as the official archeologist for MOW (Ministry of Works) during the major excavations for the Tongariro Power Project. This book refers to the early inhabitants around Taupo as the Ngati Korako – which translates as fairy folk. They were also white skinned with black or reddish hair and dark eyes. He found proof that pre-Polynesian lived in the Taupo region well before 945AD. i.e. before the Maori arrived in NZ. Fascinating stuff…
For more interesting trout fishing history of Kakahi – located at the confluence of the Whakapapa and W(h?)anganui Rivers – is also illustrated in other highly recommended (?) fishing books such as “The Flies in my Hat” (1967) by Greg Kelly and “you should’ve been here on Thursday” (1961) and “try again Friday” (1963) by E.G.Webber. They were all friends and neighbours at Kakahi in the 1960’s.