Matau’s Beating Heart

August 24, 2011

Ko te aroha ano he wai

E pupu ake ana
He awa e mapuna mai ana
I roto i te whatu-manawa

Ko tona matapuna he hononu
A ina ia ka re re ano

He tai timu
He tai pari
He tai ope
He tai ora
He tai nui

Love is like water
Continually bubbling up
A river that will keep flowing
From within the very seat of the emotions.

From a very deep source
It will keep on rising

An ebb tide
An incoming tide
A forceful tide
A living tide
A full tide

(Tai Aroha, traditional Maori folksong, A. & J. Kupenga, c. 1980)
* * * * *

Queenstown rests on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, New Zealand’s third-largest lake, which covers a surface area of 290 square kilometres and stretches out from Glenorchy in the north-west down to its very tip near the town of Kingston – some 84 kilometres in length. The water in the lake has been found to be 99.9999% pure (the purest water in all the world) making it perfectly safe to drink, straight from the source.

Commercial fishing in the lake has been prohibited for more than 100 years, but keen anglers will be able to reign in some of the biggest rainbow trout, brown trout and salmon in New Zealand. Million Dollar Cruises run regular sojourns around Lake Wakatipu and for NZD $25 (USD $21), it’s the perfect way to take in the magic and beauty of this place.


The history of Lake Wakatipu is vast, with many a story to be told: from how the willow-tree islands came to be (formed after a local man drove willow stakes into the lake bed as depth markers, only to see them flourish into trees again), to its starring role in blockbuster movies (the lake featured in scenes from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and doubled as Scotland’s Loch Ness in The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep). Science will tell you that glaciers carved through the mountains during the last Ice Age more than 15,000 years ago to form the Lake Wakatipu, but the native Maori tale of its creation is much more enthralling.

According to legend, Manata, the beautiful daughter of a great Maori chief, was forbidden to wed her beloved Matakauri, but one day she was taken by Matau, an evil giant who lived deep within the mountains. Seizing the opportunity to prove his worth, Matakauri set out on a quest to rescue Manata from Matau’s lair. Knowing that the warm north-easterly winds would lull the creature into a deep sleep, he was able to sneak in under the cover of nightfall to set her free and return her to the village, winning her hand in marriage.

Soon after, Matakauri took it upon himself to rid the tribe of Matau’s reign of tyranny once and for all. The warrior ventured back into the giant’s lair, setting the beast’s bed of bracken alight whilst he lay sleeping. Such was the intensity of the fire, Matau’s body burned a hole more than 400 metres deep, blackening the mountains and melting the snow to fill the lake. Thus, Lake Wakatipu was born.


If you look at Lake Wakatipu on a map, it curls like a reverse ‘S’ shape: a sign that Matau lays there, sleeping eternally, with Queenstown nursed on his knee. And although his body was burned away, his heart, it is said, remained alive. Even today, his “heartbeat” reverberates through the lake, making the water rise and fall an average of 12 centimetres (five inches) every five minutes.

The spirit of Matau is alive and well here in this city, and the players will be looking to draw strength from that spirit today as they embark on their journey in Day 1c of the APPT Queenstown Snowfest Main Event. Play will commence in the Summit Room at the SKYCITY Casino from 12.30pm local time (GMT +12), so be sure to stay with the PokerStars Blog team for all the action.


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