pekehaua and the awahou river: Rangiwewehi version
The local tangata whenua Ngāti Rangiwewehi believe that the Awahou river is a place of healing protected by Pekehaua, their kaitiaki or guardian.
Some say, that Pekehaua carved the river with his tail, and if you dive down deep enough you can still hear Pekehaua swimming around in the depths. It is believed that when you swim in the river you are cleansed and Pekehaua takes away your taumaha or troubles and worries.
In the old days it was easy to fish for trout, eel, freshwater crayfish, morihana (karp) and whitebait during the season. The morihana was a delicacy for the elder people; very bony but also sweet. There was plenty to eat back then like fruit from the many trees which grew nearby. The tamariki also used to gather duck eggs from the river bank and harvest plentiful watercress which grew like a green carpet for miles along the river.
Sometimes, the tamariki swimming in the awa could feel Pekehaua close by and if they got tired, they might find a rakau, or log pushing them along and giving them strength to make it back to shore. The people of Ngāti Rangiwewehi believe that it is because he protects the swimmers, that no one has ever drowned there.
Pekehaua made his home in a dark underwater cave called Te Waro-Uri which connected underground channels to other waterways including Hamurana. He would sometimes use these channels to visit Hinerua, a female guardian of Hamurana who lived in Te Puna a Hangarua and the two had tamariki together which were born in the form of teretere or small fish.
In the 1960’s the land around Te Waro-Uri was taken by the local council and a pump station was built there which upset the people who thought it would chase away Pekehaua from his home. It was only many years later that the spring was returned to the people of Ngāti Rangiwewehi, some of whom believe that the spirit of Pekehaua and the life-force of Rangiwewehi is now free to return.
Although the river is known mostly as Awahou, it was named Te Wai Mimi o Pekehaua by a Te Arawa ancestor, Īhenga. He dedicated the name of the river after the special kaitiaki of these sacred waters, Pekehaua.
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There are other versions of the story of Pekehaua including one in which he is captured and killed by Pitaka.
You can read that version of Pekehaua’s story here:
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About the return of Taniwha Springs to Ngāti Rangiwewehi:
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This entry is related to these other entries:
Pitaka and Pekehaua