Page:Picturesque New Zealand, 1913.djvu/415

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CHAPTER XIX

A Great Maori Carnival—Interviewing a Much-Married Prophet—In a Hauhau Village—A Call on King Mahuta

At Ngaruawahia, once the capital of the Maori kingdom,—a very limited monarchy confined to the Waikato country,—is held once a year a great Maori carnival. Here, at the junction of the Waikato and Waipa Rivers, from ten thousand to twelve thousand natives and Europeans congregate on St. Patrick's Day to see exciting war canoe races, comic canoe hurdles, stirring hakas, and the graceful poi.

From the north and the south, the east and the west, people travel in long excursion trains to witness the chief Maori festivity of its kind. Especially from Auckland, about seventy-five miles distant, thousands of excursionists journey to Ngaruawahia in passenger coaches and goods trucks.

On the day I left Auckland to see the carnival I reached Ngaruawahia about noon. At that hour the banks of the Waikato were thronged by thousands of people and hundreds more swarmed through the town, and nowhere more so than inside and outside the bars of the two hotels. The whole was a moving panorama of colors, ill matched, many of them, but worn none the less proudly for that by their Maori owners.

Heading for the forty side-shows in the grove, I first