Guide Sophia and the birth of tourism

Ngāti Ruanui

Te Paea (Sophia sew-fire) Hinerangi was the main guide to the Pink and White Terraces of Rotomahana for sixteen years before the Tarawera eruption in 1886.  Her name is forever associated with this “Eighth Wonder of the World” as from the early 1870’s she took visitors to the terraces. This was the very beginning of commercial tourism in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
 
Guide Sophia was an excellent speaker of Māori and also English, which was taught to her by missionaries. A woman of great character, she was renown for her sense of humour.  She arranged tours and worked as a “Guide, philosopher and friend” to thousands of visitors.
 
Guide Sophia is famous for sighting a phantom canoe on Lake Rotomahana 11 days before the Tarawera eruption. She was out on the lake, with a group of tourists and paddlers, when she noticed an unusual rising and falling of the lake waters. It was then that she sighted a waka in the distance. The waka became bigger as it drew closer and the heads of the 13 paddlers changed into dog’s heads. This was believed to be an omen of terrible events to come. On the night of June 10 1886, 10, 1886, Tarawera erupted destroying villages, killing over 120 people, (nearly all Māori), and completely covering the Pink and White Terraces.
 
Sophia survived the eruption along with 62 people who sheltered in her whare. After the eruption, she moved to Whakarewarewa where she continued her guiding career.
Sophia became the caretaker of the thermal reserve, guiding a number of royal parties through Whakarewarewa.
 
She died on 4 December 1911 and is buried on the hill in the thermal valley.

Qualities: innovation, relationships, wellbeing

Did you know?

You can see a famous portrait of Guide Sophia by C F Goldie at the Auckland Museum.