Te Paea Hinerangi, known simply as Guide Sophia, was one of New Zealand’s first tourist guides, taking European visitors to across Lake Tarawera and Rotomahana to visit the Pink and White Terraces.
Te Paea Hinerangi, known simply as Guide Sophia, was one of New Zealand’s first tourist guides. When the Pink and White Terraces started attracting European visitors, a tourism industry was created in the lakeside settlement of Te Wairoa on Lake Tarawera.
Born in the Bay of Islands, she had a Scottish father, and a Maori mother from Taranaki. She was married twice and had 17 children before becoming a famous tour guide at Te Wairoa. Described as attractive, bilingual and well educated, she was the principal guide, taking tourists across lake Tarawera to Lake Rotomahana to see the Pink and White terraces.
Warning signs at Lake Rotomahana
Days before the eruption, Sophia was guiding a group of tourists across Lake Rotomahana when they saw another canoe bring vigorously paddled. They called out and got no response, and as they looked closer, it appeared that the men paddling the canoe had dog’s heads. Despite their efforts, the canoe failed to move. They were curious as no other boats were due to be on the lake at that time, and after returning they did not see any other sign of the boat. This sighting of a ‘phantom waka’ was considered to be a warning of something bad happening, along with the lake levels which has risen dramatically. An old chief warned of an impending disaster but ensured that Sophia would remain safe.
Protection from the Mount Tarawera eruption
During the eruption of Mount Tarawera, many people from the nearby hotel sheltered safely in Guide Sophia’s whare (house). By some coincidence, she had taken her spade and garden fork into the house after gardening and they used these to dig their way out and discovered the devastation caused by the biggest volcanic eruption in New Zealand’s living memory. Te Wairoa was buried under volcanic ash, mud and debris, the Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley was ripped open and the Pink and White Terraces were thought to be destroyed.
She described the destruction of the Terraces as ‘a great loss to New Zealand’. She later became a tour guide at Whakarewarewa Village, where many of her descendants are guiding now. Guide Sophia died at Whakarewarewa on 4 December 1911.
You can find out more about Guide Sophia and her stories at Te Wairoa Buried Village.