90 Mile Beach Run · Far North · New Zealand


Saturday 27th March

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Te Houtaewa Challenge
& Waka Ama

27th March 2010

Waka Ama
20th March 2010



The Legend

E kore e mau i koe, he wae kai pakiaka

(A foot accustomed to running over roots makes the speediest runner)

TE HOUTAEWA was the fastest runner of his day and played many pranks on his peoples enemies. One morning his mother wanted kumara for the hangi (earth oven) and asked Te Houtaewa to go to the gardens at Te Kao, a short distance away. He agreed to fetch the kumara and told his mother to prepare the hangi.

Instead of going to the nearby gardens, Te Houtaewa set off for Ahipara as he wanted to annoy some Te Rarawa people who lived there. Carrying two large baskets for the kumara, he ran like a hare, completing the journey over the hard sands of Te Oneroa a Tohe (Ninety Mile Beach) in the few hours it takes a good hangi to heat up properly. On reaching Ahipara, he went straight to the people's kumara pataka (storehouse for sweet potatoes) situated at the foot of the hill Wangatauatia.

While Te Houtaewa was filling his baskets with kumara he was spotted stealing the kai (food). He was immediately recognised. "It is he, Te Houtaewa. Catch him, and we will make him a slave to work for us."  Te Houtaewa stood up with one kete in each hand. Looking around he saw a line of people blocking his way to the beach. Quickly he ran in the opposite direction up hill; the people not knowing his intentions, ran after him.

As he ran, the blockade which had been formed against him was broken and the ranks were opened. So he turned and waited for the oncoming host. As his pursuers drew close, Te Houtaewa rushed past them back down the hill sending them sprawling as he headed for the beach. Te Rarawa people were so astonished that they forgot to reform their barricade and before they could do anything to stop him, Te Houtaewa, still bearing his baskets of kumara had reached the beach and the road home.

Te Rarawa were very angry at being fooled by Te Houtaewa. They sent their best runners after him, calling on him to stop. But Te Houtaewa continued to speed along the hard sand, even though he was slowing down under his heavy load. "Yes, he must be tiring, carrying those heavy baskets of kumara" his pursuers thought as two of their fastest runners separated from the band and drew close to the wily thief.

Te Houtaewa put down his baskets of kumara and prepared again to face the enemy. On every occasion he outwitted his foe. When he reached home, Te Houtaewa found his mother waiting with the hangi, ready. She did not know what her extraordinary son had been doing during the time he had been away.

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