Smoregasbord Posts from Your Archives – A visit to Te Wairoa The Buried Village by Robbie Cheadle

Today Robbie Cheadle shares a visit to an historic site in New Zealand with her family. A devastating event buried a village and took the lives of over 150 people. It is also the story of a brave woman called Sophia Hinerangi.

A visit to Te Wairoa The Buried Village by Robbie Cheadle

In 2016, my oldest son, Gregory, was part of the team from his school that won the South African leg of the Kid’s Lit Quiz. That year, the finals were taking place in Auckland, New Zealand and we grabbed the opportunity to visit this beautiful country. We visited many amazing places on the North Island and learned a lot about life in New Zealand but the most memorable place for me was Te Wairoa The Buried Village.

Te Wairoa was a Maori and European settlement located close to the shore of Lake Tarawera. The settlement was founded in 1848 by the Reverend Seymour Mills Spencer as a place where visitors could rest and stay on their way to visit the Pink and White Terraces which were considered to be the eighth natural wonder of the world.

On 10 June 1886, Mount Tarawera erupted, destroying the Pink and White Terraces and burying the villate of Te Wairoa. For more than four hours, rocks, ash and mud rained down on the village killing more than 150 residents.

The Buried Village experience comprises of a fascinating museum that houses a huge collection of objects that have been excavated over the past 80 years from the Mount Tarawera eruption and the Te Wairoa Archaelogical Site.

The museum provides a lot of insight into life in the settlement at the time of the eruption and tells stories of several the people who were living in the village. I found it to be a very emotional and intense experience to read the stories of these families and individuals, some of who were very heroic during the catastrophe, and learn of some of their tragic deaths. I became totally engrossed in their stories and seeing the excavated remains of their homes, buried beneath 1.5 to 2 meters of mud, ash and rocks was almost traumatic for me. I have always become very involved in such stories. I felt the same way when I visited the Titanic exhibition.

One of the lead figures was a guide called Sophia Hinerangi, a woman of Maori descent, who spoke both Maori and English. On 31 May 1886, a party of tourists accompanied by Guide Sophia, sighted a phantom canoe. This was believed to be a warning of impending danger. When Mount Tarawera erupted in the early hours of the morning on 10 June 1886, Guide Sophia was the heroine of the night and sheltered 62 people in her small whare. Sophia’s whare withstood the force of the eruption due to its steep-pitched roof and strong timber walls.

After surviving the eruption, Sophia left the village and set up a new life in Whakarewarewa. Her incredible story of having experienced this terrible natural disaster combined with her knowledge and natural manner with tourists resulted in her becoming the Caretaker of the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve in 1896. Sophia put her status and influence to good use by encouraging local women to become guides, thereby, giving them the gift of independence through earning their own living.

©Robbie Cheadle 2016

Thanks for Robbie for sharing this story of tragedy and bravery. New Zealand is a stunning place to visit and along with its history the scenery is amazing.

About Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle was born in London in the United Kingdom. Her father died when she was three months old and her mother immigrated to South Africa with her tiny baby girl. Robbie has lived in Johannesburg, George and Cape Town in South Africa and attended fourteen different schools. This gave her lots of opportunities to meet new people and learn lots of social skills as she was frequently “the new girl”.

Robbie is a qualified Chartered Accountant and specialises in corporate finance with a specific interest in listed entities and stock markets. Robbie has written a number of publications on listing equities and debt instruments in Africa and foreign direct investment into Africa.

Robbie is married to Terence Cheadle and they have two lovely boys, Gregory and Michael. Michael (aged 11) is the co-author of the Sir Chocolate series of books and attends school in Johannesburg. Gregory (aged 14) is an avid reader and assists Robbie and Michael with filming and editing their YouTube videos and editing their books

Books by Robbie and Michael Cheadle

One of the recent reviews for Sir Chocolate and the Sugar Dough Bees.

This is the most creative children’s and bakers’ heavenly book I’ve ever experienced! This is definitely a one-of-a-kind treat!

There are no illustrations, just incredible photographs of “… visions of sugarplums that dance in their heads …”; made of chocolate with vivid colors and totally edible.

What an amazing collection of literature with uniqueness I’ve never encountered before, and I’m a collector of classic and unusual books as well as an avid reader and reviewer!

This little book is a treasure of mixed art for all ages. This BOOK is for families and generations to come. An incredible, delectable keepsake.

Read all the reviews and buy the books:

And on Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Robbie on Goodreads:

Connect to Robbie and Michael


Thank you for dropping in today and Robbie would love to read your feeback thanks Sally