Hinemoa was a Chieftainess of a tribe who lived in a village of Owhata, located by the shores of lake Rotorua. On lake Rotorua there is the Island of Mokoia, four kilometers across the water from Owhata. On this Island there lived another well born but unfortunately illegitimate young man named Tutanekai. The tribes of the two young lovers would sometimes visit together for special occasions, so it was during these times that Hinemoa and Tutanekai would come to know one another and fall in love with each other.
The love of Hinemoa and Tutanekai would grow stronger and stronger with each passing day and there were times in the evening when Tutanekai would declare his love for Hinemoa from the Island of Mokoia. Tutanekai would sit on the verandah of his house which was on a hillside overlooking the Lake and he would play his flute.
A gentle breeze in the evening would carry the sounds that Tutanekai played drifting across the waters of lake Rotorua. Hinemoa as she stood on the shores of the lake would listen intently, embracing the music from Tutanekai as he declared his love for her. However as often as it happens in life Hinemoa's relatives suspected that she had fallen in love with Tutanekai and although he was considered a nice young man, it was not the wishes of the tribe that the two should unite together in marriage. Every night they would ensure that all the canoes were beached up so that Hinemoa would not be able to pull the canoe into the water and make her way across the lake to be with her lover Tutanekai.
One evening as Hinemoa stood on the shores of the lake with her heart so heavy and eyes full of tears, listening to the melody of Tutanekai's flute, she felt she could bear it no longer. She lashed together six gourds in order to keep her afloat and waded herself out into the lake, being guided along by the music of Tutanekai, she swam the long journey to Mokoia Island. When she finally reached the island after hours of exhaustion, she came across a hot pool and entered it. She was trembling with cold from the journey but her heart was full of joy.
Sometime later Hinemoa could hear footsteps coming and she saw what appeared to be the shadow of a man filling a calabash with water from a cold spring next to the hot pool. At that moment Hinemoa imitated the sound of a mans voice and called out loudly “Who is that for!” “I am the servant of Tutanekai, this water is for my master” came the reply. Hinemoa's heart was glad knowing that she was so close to Tutanekai's home. She then seized the calabash from the servant and broke it on the rocks. The servant then raced back to his master Tutanekai and reported to him the strange incident that occurred at the hot pool, but Tutanekai was too tired and heart broken to do anything. The servant once again returned to fill the calabash with water and again Hinemoa seized the water calabash and broke it on the rocks.
This would happen time and time again until Tutanekai finally decided to do something about the matter himself. Taking hold of his club he quickly hurried down to the pool to kill this stranger that had insulted him. Calling out for the intruder to identify himself, Tutanekai quickly made his way around the hot pool reaching around the edges, until finally he grabbed the arm of the adversary pulling him out of the water into the moonlight. “Tutanekai” she whispered, “It is I Hinemoa” Tutanekai surprised as he was, stood and stared at her in the moonlight, they then embraced each other as the two young lovers made their way back to Tutanekai's house.
No longer would they be separated from each other again. The next morning as the two lovers slept in late, Tutanekai's father sent his servant off to wake him, it was then reported by the servant that as he approached the door of Tutanekai's house, as he looked into the room he could see two pairs of feet and not one lying in Tutanekai's bed. After that Hinemoa and Tutanekai emerged together embracing one another. From that moment on their union and love for one another was accepted by their relatives and tribes.
This true love story of Hinemoa and Tutanekai is considered to be the greatest love story that is recorded in Maori History, the descendants of these two young lovers still play out this famous legend today in the city of Rotorua, serenading wedding couples with their world famous love song Pokarekare ana the greatest love song in the History of the Maori People.