New Zealand Revisited
Chapter VII — Christchurch to Rotorua
Christchurch to Rotorua
It was with regret that after too short a visit we bid farewell to our kind and hospitable friends in Christchurch. Sir John Hall, formerly Prime Minister of New Zealand, had been persuaded to be Mayor of Christchurch during the year of the Exhibition: but he was too ill to take any part in the proceedings. He was, however, well enough to see me one day in his bedroom at his house in Christchurch, where we spoke of old times and where he talked with especial interest of the progress which was being made by the Maori race. He arranged a visit to his sheep-run at Hororata, to which we went by motor on a subsequent day, and at which we were received by Sir John Hall's son. We were entertained with New Zealand hospitality and shown the outbuildings and wool-sheds, which were of the most improved type.
After leaving Christchurch we spent a few days at Masterton, a small country town in the Wellington district: my brother-in-law, Mr. F. G. Moore, who resided there, had been one of the party at Te Awamutu driven away by Rewi. I met there a son of Archdeacon Maunsell, who was formerly head of the Mission Station at Kohanga, near the Waikato Head, which I had many times visited during my journeys in Waikato. The page 97son lived at a most beautiful house on a hill just outside Masterton, with the luxuriant gardens so easily established in New Zealand.
Dr. Hoskins of Masterton gave me a curious view of the unexpected results to which a system of Preference may give rise. He keeps an establishment for the electric treatment of various ailments and diseases. He told me he had to get all his apparatus from Germany, France and the United States, where the electric apparatus necessary for his treatment is made and sold. He gets nothing from Great Britain, where the science of medical electricity appears to be much less advanced than in these countries; and on all the apparatus which he imports 20 per cent. duty is charged in order to give a theoretical advantage to Great Britain. This import duty, however, is of no advantage to British manufacturers, because none make the sort of apparatus required. The doctor had had many controversies on the subject with Mr. Seddon, and told him that his 20 per cent. tax was a burden upon the sick, who were the people who had to pay it in the end. But to me he strongly censured the British manufacturers who failed to take advantage of the New Zealand preference, by themselves making the articles which he had to purchase from foreign countries. How far the British manufacturer would then be constrained to lower the price, so as to give the New Zealand sick the benefit of a cheap instrument, he did not explain.page 98
From Masterton we returned to Wellington, to pay a visit to the hospitable house of Lord and Lady Plunket.
There were in Wellington many men whom I remembered in former days as little boys, and the sons and daughters of former friends, but the Registrar-General, who as a boy was one of the actors in the scenes at Te Awamutu, was absent on Government business in Australia.
Captain Atkin and I, as British Commissioners to the International Exhibition, went up to the Wellington cemetery and placed a wreath on Mr. Seddon's grave.
It was arranged at Wellington that we should return to Auckland on our way home, through the Waikato district to revisit the scenes of former days, and to meet Mahuta, the son of Matutaera, afterwards called Tawhiao, the Maori King at the time of the war, and an assembly of the relics of the Waikato tribes. The journey was arranged by the Tourist Department, and Mr. James Cowan, of that department, who was born and brought up in the Waikato district, was told off to accompany us.
The overland journey from Wellington to Auckland commenced by a return along the railway by which we came from New Plymouth as far as Wanganui. Sir Joseph Ward came to page 100the station at Wellington at a very early hour, to see us off and to say good-bye, for as we were to sail for Sydney a few days after arrival in Auckland, it was not probable we should meet again. At Wanganui we were received by the Mayor, who took charge of us and showed us all the attractions of the town and neighbourhood. The Wanganui river, up which our further course lay, here flows into the ocean. The mouth of the river is a mile or two below the town, and the entrance is blocked by the usual sandbar, with which the rollers of the Southern Ocean choke up all the harbours on the west coast of New Zealand.
We were first taken to the Wanganui College, which is one of the best higher grade schools in New Zealand. The boys were all dressed, according to the custom of the school, in short trousers with bare knees. The whole school is formed into a cadet corps, and was paraded for our inspection. Two or three of the bigger boys were pointed out as having been members of the "All Blacks," who had made such a successful onslaught on the British football clubs a year or two before. We had a good opportunity at the inspection of examining their physical appearance, and a sturdier, finer set of boys could not be produced elsewhere. The Mayor then drove us to Virginia Lake, a freshwater reservoir, capable of supplying the town, and to houses and gardens on the hills overlooking the town, from which are beautiful views of the page 101town and river and the fertile plain through which it flows. After visiting the hospital, situated on a breezy hill outside the town, we were driven to our hotel. There I was visited by two half-caste ladies, who remembered me when they were girls in the Waikato in former days; indeed I was present when one of them was married. They spoke English perfectly, and told me many things about friends and acquaintances of former days, among others that a half-caste girl, who had been nurse to my son, was living at Kihikihi, and was married to Mr. Mainwaring, a brother of the gentleman who came out with me in the Red Jacket, and was afterwards with me at Te Awamutu: he subsequently became a resident magistrate in the native service, but had died many years before. The ladies presented us with a bag made of Kiwi feathers, and a special native feather, a sign of mourning, which I was told to wear when I visited Te Awamutu.
In the evening the Mayor took us to visit a technical school which contained 800 students, out of a population, of 10,000. The school comprised classes in art, modelling, wood-carving, carpentry, plumbing, photography, chemistry and botany, and an engineering laboratory was being erected. I doubt whether anything like such an institution could be found in a British town of the same size. At the school, I met as one of the managers Mr. Bryce, formerly native minister of the colony. He was the plaintiff in the action page 102of "Bryce v. Rusden" tried more than twenty years before, in which the present Lord Chief Justice and I were counsel for the defendant. We were hopelessly defeated and unusually heavy damages were awarded against our client, so that Mr. Bryce had no reason to bear malice against us, and he seemed very glad to see me again.
Later in the evening I was taken by the Mayor to a club called "The Cosmopolitan," of a peculiar and interesting character; it was frequented by all classes of society, and contained a large number of members belonging to the working class; they all mixed with one another with perfect freedom and good fellowship; at home, where caste distinctions are so prevalent, such a society would be an impossibility.
From Pipiriki the traveller, who is going northwards, has the choice of two routes: he may continue his voyage up the river in a smaller and slower steamboat, with more snags, more shallows, more rapids, and a greater chance of sticking on sandbanks, but amidst scenery said to be supremely beautiful, as far as Taumarunui; this is the point which the railway from Auckland to Wellington, now in course of not very rapid construction, has reached: or he may travel by stage coach through a virgin forest, and across the great central plain of New Zealand, to the Lake of Taupo, and thence to Rotorua. We chose the latter route. At 8 a.m. the "stage coach" made its appearance. It was an open buggy, of a rather frail appearance, drawn by four magnificent horses, and entered upon the journey up hill into a dense forest along a rough road, jolting the passengers cruelly. The comfort of the journey depends entirely upon the condition of the road. On our journey the road was said to be in a fair condition, and it was only here and there that the conveyance sank into deep muddy ruts, and had to be pulled out by the utmost exertion on the part of the four horses, aided sometimes by human hands. The road gives an opportunity to the traveller of seeing the condition of the virgin page 104forest, through which it has been cut. Nothing can possibly exceed the magnificent wild and romantic appearance of the valleys through which the traveller is carried. There is no forest in the world, of which the undergrowth is so luxuriant as that of New Zealand. There are many trees of various species, towering overhead, some decked with red and orange flowers, and possessing timber of great value, if it was only in a place from which it could be transported. Some of the trees are surrounded by beautiful parasites and festooned with creepers, passing from tree to tree, and making any progress through the forest where no path has been cut practically impossible.
After many hours of this kind of travel, the conveyance emerged from the forest, and passing through a region of burnt trees and incipient grass farms, arrived at a little village called Raetihi, where a halt of an hour-and-a-half was made. What most attracted our attention in this little clearing was the advertisement of a bazaar in aid of the funds for the support of an English Church, of which the most remarkable item was a baby show, at which a prize was to be given to the healthiest and most beautiful little Christian that could be produced.
From Raetihi the road proceeds through country in which trees become gradually more scarce, till the great open central plain is reached. At this point of the journey the snowy summit of page 105Ruapehu first strikes the traveller with admiration and astonishment. It is a solitary mountain, standing at the south end of a less elevated chain, about twenty miles south of Lake Taupo, and the road describes the quadrant of a circle round it with a radius of about eight or ten miles. The mountain is 9,000 feet high, and is an extinct volcanic cone. There is a crater lake on its summit, which is subject to intermittent eruptions, which give rise to immense quantities of steam. A considerable part of the top of the mountain is covered all the year round with perpetual snow of the purest and most dazzling white. The drive across the plains was tedious and dreary.
At 5.30 p.m. the coach arrived at Waiouru, to which the railway in construction from Wellington to Auckland has now arrived. It was a very cold and very bleak place, and the traveller is sheltered at a little picturesque bush inn, clean and comfortable so far as is practicable at so great a height, and so far from civilization.
At 7 a.m. next morning the coach journey recommenced. It was bitterly cold, but in the early morning the sky was so clear that Mount Egmont at Taranaki could be seen on the horizon. There were clouds hanging upon Ruapehu and the Tongariro range, between that mountain and Taupo, but they cleared off from time to time, and in the plain below it was beautiful and sunny; and the temperature gradually rose as we approached Taupo. The coach was the same page 106buggy, but there was a new coachman. The drive for about a third of the way was across an open plain, similar to that of the day before; the rest of the way was through a series of deep gullies descending from the mountain ranges on the left of the road, in which the scenery was varied and romantic. These plains contain a great number of wild horses, the progeny of those escaped from the settlers' country. They are sometimes lassoed and tamed by the Maories, but most of them lead a wild and free life. On the journey the road approached close to the still active volcano of Ngauruhoe in the Tongariro range. The Tongariro mountain, between Ruapehu and Taupo, is composed of distinct volcanic cones, the lava streams from which have so overlapped in their descent as to form one compact mass. The highest of these cones called Ngauruhoe, which attains an elevation of 7,500 feet, is still active; steam and vapour was arising from it on the day we passed with considerable force. A line drawn through the volcanic crater lake on Ruapehu and the crater of Ngauruhoe, if produced northwards, passes through Tokaanu, on the southern shore of Taupo, through the volcanic country of Rotorua, north-east of that lake, and through White Island, an active volcano in the Bay of Plenty, situated about twenty-seven miles from the mainland.
We arrived at Tokaanu at half-past one o'clock, in warm genial sunshine, our further journey was to be made by a little steamer on the lake. I page 107had been at Tokaanu once before in my life when Mr. Fox, the Prime Minister, made an expedition from the Waikato, intending to pay a visit to the Taupo natives, and Mr. Grace the missionary. After three days' journey through dense forests and Maori villages, where Europeans had seldom trod, the party arrived at a village, still existing, called Tapuwaiharuru, at the point where the Waikato river leaves the lake. It was a placid, lotus-eating kind of spot, where boiling springs provided warm baths on the river bank. The view of the lake was magnificent. It presented a vast surface with several long inlets, and with the group of mountains at the head capped with snow, and an active volcano throwing up large volumes of steam. The Waikato river flowed out through banks of pumice stone and sand, very deep, but not thirty yards wide, and fearfully rapid. The natives had a rope from shore to shore to pull canoes across. There the party rested, whilst I, attended by a Maori boy, rode round the shores of the lake to Mr. Grace's mission station, passing through Tokaanu on the way. A few days later this same boy, grown into an old man, met me at Te Awamutu. The journey was strange. The path ran along the edge of the water on soft shingle: it was a boiling summer's day, and the burning sun in the heavens, the reflected sun in the lake, and the glare from the white pumice cliffs, which overhung the path, produced such awful heat that we had to cool ourselves page 108in the lake every few hours. Many deep fivers empty themselves into the eastern side of the lake: there were no bridges and no canoes, we had to swim our horses across; the Maori boy sat on one and carried my clothes and kit on his head. On the return journey an old Maori, whom we encountered, laughed at our ignorance, and taught us how these rivers should be crossed. He told us to follow exactly in the steps of his horse, and began by riding straight into the lake, and then turned a long semi-circle round the mouth of the river; his horse never going in much deeper than the knees. It was a method of crossing requiring skill and experience. If you diverge from the path on the land side, you plunged down at once into deep water, and if you diverged on the lake side, you found yourself in soft quicksand. The one safe path was along the top of the semicircular bar of pumice sand, which the river brought down from its source. There were several native villages along the east shore of the lake, at which we were hospitably regaled with fish, kumaras, and potatoes cooked in native ovens, and in one of which we had to take shelter for the night, for darkness overtook us. You cannot ride through this district in the dark, for the country is so full of hot springs that you may find your horse's feet sinking into boiling water unless you carefully follow the worn track which guarantees firm foothold.
During the short rest at Tokaanu, I met another page 109Te Heu Heu, a grandson of my acquaintance of former days, and a son of the Te Heu Heu whom we met in the pah at Christchurch. This young man, who was unfortunately lame, had been very well educated, and spoke English perfectly. I spent a very pleasant half-hour, talking about the present condition of his people and their future prospects, his sentiments of friendship towards the white race being in keeping with those of his father, and the general feeling of his race. He took me to see his mother, who was living in Tokaanu, which is the headquarters of his tribe; she had a company of old ladies sitting with her as her cronies.
In contrast with the former journey round Lake Taupo, the voyage in the little steamer was easy and pleasant. We were the only passengers, and the captain readily accommodated his course to our wishes. We therefore kept chiefly on the west side of the lake, cutting across the great bays and indentations by which it is interrupted. We first passed by Waahi, the ancient settlement of Te Heu Heu's tribe, which was destroyed many years ago by a great landslip, in which the chief and most of his tribe perished. He was a very great and celebrated fighting war chief of the old heathen days, and was the father of the Te Heu Heu who flourished at the time of the Waikato War. Then we passed the site of the old mission station at Pukawa, situated upon a wooded hill, above the lake where I had formerly page 110spent a few happy days with Mr. Grace the missionary, his kind motherly wife, and his family of hearty, healthy children. His house had been extremely pretty, built of pumice stone with the ceilings lined with reeds, designed and built by himself with the help of natives. There was a fruitful orchard, full of ripe plums and peaches at the time I was there. But the house had been pulled down, and existed no more, though its site was easily discernible from the steamer.
After crossing an arm of the lake to the Karanga-hape cliffs, which form a very prominent feature of the western shore, descending with fantastic fissures into the deepest part of the lake, the steamer arrived at Taupo village at a quarter-past six, the whole voyage having occupied rather less than four hours.
Instead of stopping for the night at our halting-place of olden days, we landed on the east bank of the river, and drove about a mile to a little health resort called the Spa, where there are boiling springs and geysers, and all the wonders of the Rotorua country in miniature. The establishment was composed of a number of wooden buildings scattered about in an isolated valley. The visitor had his bedroom in one building, his sitting-room in another, and a natural hot bath in a third, a very large structure of wood, with a natural hot spring flowing through it. There was a public dining-room, constructed on the plan of a Maori house, with grotesque carved figures page 111putting out their tongues at the diners. Some of the visitors went off by moonlight to see the geyser which was reported to have behaved very well and exhibited its sudden explosion of hot water to their amusement and satisfaction. I spent the evening in talking with the Bishop of Waiapu, whom I had met at Cambridge, not many years before, at the house of Bishop Selwyn the younger, then master of Selwyn College. I had known Bishop Williams, the father of the Bishop of Waiapu, in former New Zealand days. On the following morning we left the Spa for Rotorua in a motor car, which proved an excellent means of conveyance on the unmade tracks which serve as roads in this part of the world.
The Waikato river, after leaving the lake of Taupo, sinks in the soft pumice sand into what would be called a "cañon" in the United States of America, and remains depressed below the surface of the country through which it flows until it reaches Maungatautari far away to the north, at which it enters the great Waikato plain; it also makes a great bend to the east before settling down into a direct northerly course. At a place called the Huka the banks contract into a narrow passage through which there is a series of rapids and falls: there is a legend that a dispute formerly arose between the Taupo and Wanganui tribes, as to which were the more expert in the management of a canoe, and that the Taupo natives challenged the Wanganui to take a canoe through page 112this narrow passage of the Huka, a challenge which the Wanganui were foolish enough to accept. The canoe had only accomplished a very small part of the perilous journey when it was upset in the rapids, and neither it, nor any of its crew were seen or heard of again.
A halt was made at Wairakei, to visit the geysers and boiling springs, which are to be seen in great variety and profusion in a narrow gorge in the neighbourhood. These natural phenomena are very wonderful, but resemble each other all over the world. They are to be seen on the grandest scale in the Yellowstone Park in the United States. In New Zealand there existed formerly rare formations of terraces of coloured tufa, pink and white, but these terraces were destroyed in 1886 by the sudden eruption of the Tarawera Mountain, a volcano that had been extinct for ages.
At Rotorua there is a health resort established by the New Zealand Government, and presided over by a qualified medical officer. All kinds of medicated baths, from the various hot springs, are to be obtained. There was a large building nearly completed, which was to replace the shaky tumble-down sheds in which baths for patients have heretofore been provided. On the lake just out of the town is the Maori settlement of Ohinemutu. It is rather a show Maori place, where visitors to the baths and hot springs see what is commonly supposed to be a Maori settlement. Ohinemutu abounds in beautiful springs and mud holes, in which the children play about apparently without injury. We went across the lake in a launch to Mokoia Island, also a show Maori place. There were very few Maories on the island, but they made a charge for our landing, and an old man, sitting on the end of an old canoe, demanded 1s. in payment for having his likeness taken in a snapshot. The lake abounds in large lake trout, of which our party in a short time caught three.
Mr. Fowlds, the Education Minister, with whom we had become such friends at Christchurch, met us at Rotorua, for the purpose of accompanying us through the Waikato district, which we were about to enter. Before proceeding with page 114our journey we rested for a day at Rotorua, and were shown the ordinary tourist sights of geysers and bathing springs and mud holes at Whakarewarewa. The great geyser has for some years ceased to play, unless it is aggravated into bursting forth by the pouring of soapy water into its crater. This ceremony is seldom permitted by the authorities, but on the occasion of our visit a soaping took place. It boiled up to the edge of its hole, but did not entertain us with the fountain of boiling water which should have followed. At Whakarewarewa we met Sophia, a very handsome Maori woman, who has long acted as a guide. When the great outburst of the extinct volcano at Tarawera took place, she acted with conspicuous courage, and saved the lives of a number of people by giving them refuge in her house while the eruption continued and guiding them as soon as it was possible to venture forth to a place of safety.page break