Set amongst land that was originally around 14,000ha of swamp called the Moanatuatua peat bog. The swamp was created around 25,000 years ago when the Waikato River first broke through at Karāpiro and began discharging into the Waikato Basin through the Karāpiro Gorge. What’s a peat bog you ask? It’s a build-up of partially rotted plant material which forms in wet areas like a bog. Peat is highly productive and when drained makes great soil for farming.
When Europeans arrived, a man named Thomas Walker acquired the land from local Māori and set about draining the swamp for farmland. Development, which depended on manual labour, was slow so areas of better land were leased from local Māori. Disputes arose between settlers and Māori over payment of the leases and these disputes were taken to the Land Courts for resolution. More often than not, judgements were in favour of the settlers, disadvantaging the Māori land owners. Tensions with some local Māori grew and a redoubt was built overlooking the main trail between Cambridge and Te Awamutu to protect the area. It could hold 60 people, but was never used.
In the 1880s, depression hit and the land was eventually split up. One large property became known as the Roto-o-rangi Station and was home to a large lake. Lake Roto-o-rangi translates to ‘The Lake of Heaven’ and was known by locals as the ‘100 acre lake’ due to its size. Nowadays the central lake basin is still visible where the nearby Mangapiko Stream floods and back-flows into the old lake bed.
This stage takes you over rolling farmlands, past the remaining peat lakes of Ohaupō and through to the lost lake of Roto-o-rangi.