The Great Journey: an expedition to explore the interior of the Middle Island, New Zealand, 1846-8
June 1st. Proceeded a short distance, when the rain compelled us to build another shelter. The tide more distinctly to be heard.
2nd. Proceeded a short distance, and camped under the shelter of a large rata: the bush one complete mass of briar, supplejack, and ekiakia, with immense rata trees.
3rd. Had the satisfaction of seeing the tide rise in page 45 the river. The travelling still very bad, but hunger and the prospect of relief before us made us get through a fair day's journey.
4th. During the night the rats stole the provisions designed for our breakfast, so we had to start without one. Accomplished about a mile, when we saw the pa of the Maories1. Fired a salute of powder, but received no answer, neither could we discern any smoke; so we pushed on, and by night reached our old quarters, where I once before had slept on my trip with Mr Heaphy down the coast.
5th. To be disappointed after three months' anxious anticipation is truly vexatious, but such was the case with us, for, on exploring this morning, we found two canoes, a wari, and a wata2, but no provisions—so, after many days and nights looking forward to a full meal of potatoes, on reaching the coast we were compelled to eat the rimu, or seaweed, instead. Yesterday I should have thought seaweed poisonous, or nearly so; now I eat it with a relish. So much for hunger. A dirty wet day, with thunder at night.
I was much disappointed in the last eight or ten miles of this river. I had previously seen the land from the coast, and thought it good and richly wooded, where, on inspection, I found a wet mossy surface, with little, if any, vegetable soil, the growth being chiefly rata. It will certainly not be in my time that the banks of the Kawatiri will be cultivated by a white population.
1 Now Westport.
2 Whata, a raised store rack.
6th. This morning we saw a native on the other side of the river, who told us the Maories were at Omau 1 collecting mussels, but would return in the evening. We launched a canoe and crossed the river, but found nothing eatable there, and but a small potato garden. This is the first year the natives have resided here, and to form a cultivation they had carried their seed potatoes from Mawera 2, a distance of nearly sixty miles, over a most difficult country. Returned to our shed in the evening.
I think, from the number of seals I saw on the Black Reef and on the rocks off Tauranga 3, it would pay a party of industrious men to go down there sealing. The last party were too lazy, and not properly outfitted. The natives tell me the seals had deserted this part for some years, but were now returning in great quantities.
1 Mitchell (page 50) notes that this settlement remained until 1880 and that its soil was capable of cultivation.
3 Below Cape Foulwind.
Last year a party of natives, residents of Mawera, walked to Kawatiri to see the sealing party and boat, and established small potato gardens at Tauranga, Totara, and Potikohua. This will render the walk from the Kawatiri to Mawera easy to accomplish. We also found the ladders to the Miko cliff much improved, and several other alterations, showing the traffic that had taken place. Mouwika had made five journeys to remove his effects and supply seed potatoes.
The coast from Wanganui1, the residence of Enihu, to the river Kawatiri, is called by the natives Taitapu, and is allowed by them to belong to Enihu by conquest. From thence southward is called Potuni2, and is said to belong to Tairoa 3, the present chief of the Ngatau4 tribe.
From the Kawatiri to the Arahura I had previously seen, and the character and features of the country were fully described by Mr Heaphy on our return; I have therefore nothing to notice except a few personal incidents, the relation of which would interest no one.
1 Little Wanganui, below Karamea.
7th. This morning we crossed the river in a canoe, and were received with a hearty welcome by the natives. There are only three men with their wives, and five boys, living here; they had eaten all their potatoes, and were living on mussels and fern-root. The native Owika told us he was ashamed of the diet he had to offer us, but that the sealing boat had been there, and the party had consumed all his potatoes and fish. This being the first year of occupying Kawatiri, he had to carry his seed potatoes from the Mawera. The natives are members of the Wesleyan Church. A dirty wet day. 8th. Another wet day.
9th. My natives turned out to procure fern-root, hoping to find better than the natives gave us. They could find none, and returned empty-handed in the evening.
10th. Staying with the natives, and sharing their food. Found some sowthistles to improve our diet. 11th. The natives collected and cooked an oven of the fern tree. A showery day. 12th. Shot a dozen page 49 pigeons, which we divided amongst the natives. 13th. Nothing doing. A cold wet day. Sunday, 14th. Kept as a Sabbath.
15th. This morning at daybreak we were on our way to Arahura, having in company Topere and son, and a lad named Henry: they are going to Taramakau for seed potatoes. We reached Kamakawa, and put up for the night, which proved a very rainy one.
16th. A rainy day, but we came on to Tauranga in search of food, it being a celebrated place for mussels. Saw several small seals playing about on the rocks. The natives have made a potato garden here on the promise of the sealers to return with a larger vessel next summer.
17th. Made a humu of mussels. A wet day. 18th. Made another humu of mussels, so that we are now prepared for crossing the Tuhinu range when the weather permits—thus escaping fourteen or fifteen miles of very difficult beach travelling, known on Cook's charts as the Five Fingers.
19th. Came to Topara, collecting a small quantity of fern-root at Okari1 on our way. A wet drizzling day, with heavy rain at night.
1 The Okari and Totara rivers flow into the Tasman Sea roughly half-way between Cape Foulwind and Charleston.
2 The Waitakere or Nile river, near Charleston.
22nd. Reached Potikahua2, and made some preparations for cooking the mamaku. 23rd. Made a large oven of mamaku, which proved in all respects a good one.
27th. Crossed the Miko range, and reached the Punahaere5, where we slept. Some rain. 28th. Came on to the Waimangati, to be in readiness to reach the pa in the morning.
29th. Came on to the pa Kararoa, and once again in my life enjoyed a hearty meal of potatoes. Found only four natives and two children residing here; the others had left to join the natives of Massacre Bay, now the wars are over.
30th. Staid at the pa resting ourselves. For what reason the natives choose to live here I cannot imagine. It is a place devoid of all value or interest. They have but little ground to cultivate, and they catch no fish, the only acceptable food being the mussels, which they find on the rocks on a calm day at low water. There is not even the ponamu6 to be found here as an inducement.
2 Potikohua or Fox river.
3 Mitchell translates Miko as ‘young shoot of the nikau palm’.
5 No comment made on the pancake rocks of Punakaiki.
6 Pounamu, greenstone.