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Awarua, the taniwha of Porirua

Awarua, the taniwha of Porirua 1

Awarua was a taniwha who lived in the Porirua harbour many hundreds of years ago. In those times, the surrounding hills were clad with the tallest native trees and the harbour was much deeper than it is today.

Awarua would often venture out into Te Moana o Raukawa chasing food or visiting friends. But she would always return to the place she regarded as home, the Porirua harbour.

Rereroa the albatross was one of Awarua's closest friends. Rereroa would often watch for Awarua far below as she flew across Te Moana o Raukawa. She would then descend with outstretched wings and call out with an albatross karanga, to the delight of her friend.

Awarua and Rereroa could talk for hours. Awarua loved to hear Rereroa's stories of flying for years across the great oceans without having to return to land, resting and feeding on the surface of the sea.

Rereroa would stretch her great wings, extending them into the breeze, to illustrate how she could be lifted into the wind and taken away.

Awarua also had wings but they were small in comparison to her body and didn't seem to extend well at all.

Awarua, the taniwha of Porirua 2

Awarua was embarrassed by her inability to fly when she tried to imitate her friend. It was fortunate that Rereroa could see her embarrassment and didn't make a big deal of it.

"It's not so important to fly you know. I sometimes wish that I could just stay in one place, and have a home like you do" Rereroa offered, as words of comfort.

But Awarua wasn't convinced. "You are a good friend Rereroa, and I wouldn't ask this of you if I didn't think you could do it" Awarua hesitated, "but will you teach me to fly?"

Rereroa secretly thought that it would be impossible to teach Awarua to fly, but didn't let on. Instead, she tried to make an excuse.

Awarua, the taniwha of Porirua 3

"I have to keep feeding and flying to stay alive! I would find it very hard to stay in one place."

But Awarua was quick to reply. "Of course you will be fed with the most luscious fish from my larder, and you would also be expected to demonstrate the intricacies of flying with precision."

Rereroa could only agree to help and so returned with Awarua to begin training.

On the first day of flying practice Awarua was nervous. Rereroa reminded Awarua that flying took a lot of practice and perhaps quite a lot of time.

"Firstly you will have to strengthen your wings. Follow behind and copy my movements," Rereroa instructed.

Rereroa slowly flapped her wings, paddling with her feet, circling the whole harbour while Awarua followed behind. By the time they had returned to their starting point, Awarua was ready to collapse.

"That was harder than I thought, my small wings feel very weak," she said.

Rereroa replied, "When the albatross chicks first begin to fly they are the same. You will need strength in your wings and a focused eye to achieve your goal."

Rereroa then dove down to the sea floor and picked up two large stones. She placed one in each of Awarua's wings and told her to hold her wings apart. She instructed Awarua to follow her movements. Rereroa raised her wings so the tips touched above her head. Awarua tried to follow suit, but it was much harder with weighted wings. After ten such movements Rereroa let Awarua rest. This continued all day until Awarua was completely exhausted.

When the sun finally set, Awarua took a well-deserved rest. Her thoughts then turned to the evening meal.

When Rereroa saw the array of fish and eels that Awarua had in her larder, she was amazed. There was every type of fish imaginable and all swimming in her holding pool, ready to be eaten at her whim.

Awarua scooped up a wing full of fish and offered them to Rereroa, she politely took a few of the choicest fish and suggested Awarua return the rest. But Awarua was hungry after her days work and slid all the fish straight into her

Awarua, the taniwha of Porirua 4

mouth, swallowing them in one huge gulp. When Awarua leant into the pool to grab another wing full, Rereroa stepped in to stop her.

"You are in training now and will need to strictly watch your diet. I couldn't possibly stay airborne if my body was too heavy," Rereroa said.

Awarua sadly released the second scoop of fish, but was happy that her teacher was as serious as she was about flying.

Awarua's training continued in this way for weeks. Soon she was racing around the harbour and lifting her weighted wings with ease.

Finally the day arrived when Rereroa had an announcement to make.

"You have been a good student and have trained hard thus far, I think you are ready to try your first take off," she said.

Awarua was overjoyed, "Fantastic, I feel like I could fly right now".

The next day dawned fine and calm. Rereroa took Awarua to the south end of the harbour, and started with wing stretches to get the muscles moving. Rereroa then directed Awarua towards the centre of the harbour, facing Whitireia, the local maunga.

"Keep your focus, use all the strength and ability you have trained for and give it your best go," Rereroa advised.

Awarua, the taniwha of Porirua 4.5

Awarua took a deep breath, focused towards the north end of the harbour, and headed off. She gathered speed slowly but surely, her wings flapped furiously as she picked up the pace. As Awarua began to skim across the water, she raised her head, thrusting all her energy into her wings.

When she was nearing the other side of the harbour Awarua could hear a voice screeching into her ear.

Rereroa was effortlessly gliding beside her, encouraging her on.

"Push down on your wings and fly!" Rereroa cried.

With that, Awarua gave an extra hard push and lifted from the water. But the maunga Whitireia loomed in front of her quickly, she strained to gain more altitude but wasn't fast enough to get over the hill. Awarua smashed into the trees that covered Whitireia, which luckily softened her fall.

Awarua emerged from the tangle of broken trees with a huge smile on her face.

"Did you see, did you see me fly?" she screeched excitedly.

Rereroa landed bedside her friend and gave her a huge bird hug.

"You were absolutely fantastic, I saw you fly and you will fly again," she said.

Awarua was quick to try again. Rereroa gave her further advice, and they were off once more. This time Awarua flapped her wings extra hard from the beginning and gathered more speed for her take off. She lifted off the water further back than she did the first time and quickly gained altitude, easily passing over Whitireia.

Awarua was so excited she was busy howling at the top of her lungs and didn't see Mana Island looming in front of her. She hit the island with a mighty crash, sliding across it as if she were slipping through mud at low tide.

She landed in the sea nearby, unhurt and actually very proud that she had flown that far.

Rereroa laughed with her friend. Awarua had achieved a great feat through sheer determination.

Awarua continued to practise her flying and although she couldn't fly for long distances she was happy with being able to lift into the skies. Rereroa departed across the great oceans, also happy that her teaching had been so successful.

Awarua, the taniwha of Porirua 5

When Rereroa returned from her long fishing trips, Awarua would show her the new flying tricks she had learnt, often making some spectacular splash downs.

To this day the results of Awarua's flying antics can be seen in the landscape around the Porirua harbour. When she crash-landed across Mana Island, Awarua took the top off it causing its flat appearance. When she collided into Whitireia she caused a huge gully, which is where Onepoto park is now.

This is the story of how Awarua, the taniwha of Porirua, learnt how to fly.

(c) Wiremu Grace

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