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Landing site, Uawa Tolaga Bay

In the early afternoon of 23 October, the Endeavour anchored a mile or so from the watering place of Opoutama, later called Cook’s Cove. 

This marked the beginning a fruitful, friendly five-day stay in Uawa. Many waka came alongside the Endeavour, their occupants giving the crew fish and kumara. Trading proved difficult. The locals particularly wanted the white tapa cloth from Tahiti and Ra’iatea, and glass bottles. Some local people had greenstone axes and earrings but would not exchange them at any price.  That afternoon, Cook, Banks and Solander went on shore to examine the watering-place, the boat landing easily in the cove with little surf. The water proved excellent, and conveniently sited.

They returned the next day, 24 October, and trading continued as Lieutenant Gore’s men gathered wood close to high-water mark, and filled their water casks. During their Uawa stay, they loaded 10 boatloads of firewood, needed for cooking on the ship’s large stove, and 70 tons of water. Parkinson described the area as agreeable beyond description with beautiful flowering shrubs intermingled with tall, stately palms. Uawa had five times the population of Anaura and far larger areas able to be cultivated. Gardens next to houses were well-tended with kumara and taro.

Banks and others were taken by an "extraordinary natural curiosity … far superior to any of the contrivances of art" – the natural arched rock known in Uawa as Te Kotore o te Whenua (The Anus of the Land). Opening directly to the sea, the 45 feet high archway commanded a view of the bay and hills to the north. Cook’s men incorrectly called Uawa, Tolaga. This could have come from the word tauranga, an anchorage, or from taraki meaning the wind off the land, the answer to the question the locals thought the Europeans were asking.

The Uawa people were friendly, settled and seemingly at peace – rich in gardens and the arts.  Parkinson described the people as lean and tall with black hair. 

The principal men wore tattoos. The women, servants and – Parkinson said -- “handsome men and women” wore red ochre on their faces. On 27 October, Banks and others found a pa site in ruins on a steep hill on the northern side of the watering place.  The next day, Banks, Solander, Sporing and probably Cook visited Te Pourewa, the island just south of Opoutama. Here, they saw the largest (unfinished) house and waka (68 feet long) they had seen. The waka comprised three hollowed tree trunks and had a richly carved head.

Sporing sketched a waka prow, the carving being associated with Uawa’s Te Rawheoro whare wananga (school of learning). 

Tupaia became a great favourite with the Uawa people. He conversed with local priests and was listened to with great attention.  With Tupaia as interpreter, Cook and his scientists and crew began to gain their first real understanding of Māori. Several children and places were named after him including Tupaia’s Cave, a small shelter in the sandstone cliffs on the north side of the Opoutama estuary. Some rock drawings and carvings found in the cave are attributed to Tupaia. The word inscribed high up on the cave wall is Tahitora – translated as dolphin warrior.

Cook weighed anchor and sailed north out of Uawa in the early hours of Sunday 29 October 1769, having taken on good supplies of wood, water and food. 

Just after noon the following day, the Endeavour rounded Whanga-o-keno (East Island) and a few hours later passed the bay known to locals as Wharekahika.

Cook named this Hicks’s Bay, now known as Hicks Bay, because Lieutenant Hicks was the first on the Endeavour to sight it.

800 Tupaia cave MTuffery

Artist Michel Tuffery sits in Tupaia's cave.