Entries from the Urewera notebook of Katherine Mansfield, dates include Monday, 1907
“In the morning rain fast—the chuffing sound of the horses. We get up very early indeed, and at six o'clock ready to start; the sun breaks through the grey clouds—There is a little dainty wind and a wide fissure of blue sky. Wet boots, wet motor veil, torn coat, and the dew shining on the scrub. No breakfast. We start—the road grows worse and worse. We seem to pass through nothing but scrub-covered valley, and then suddenly comes round the corner a piece of road. Great joy, but the horses rush right into it; the traces are broken; it grows more and more hopeless. The weather breaks and rain pours down. We lose the track again and again, become rather hopeless, when suddenly far ahead we see a man on a white horse. The men leave the cart and rush off. We met two men, Maoris in dirty blue ducks—one can hardly speak English. They are surveyors. We stop, boil the billy, and have tea and herrings. Oh! how good—Ahead the purple mountains—the thin wretched dogs; we talk to them. Then we drive the horses off, but there is no water; the page 292 dark people, our conversation—Eta hoeremai te kai—it is cold. The crackling fire of manuka, walking breast high through the manuka. … We approach Galatea. We lunch by the Galatea River; there is an island in the centre, and a great clump of trees. The water is very green and swift. I see a wonderful great horse-fly; the great heat of the sun, and then the clouds roll up.
“‘Hold the horses or they'll make a bolt for the river.’ My fright—Encounter one man, surveyor on white horse; his conversation. At the city gates we pull up and walk into the city. There is a Store and Accommodation House, and a G.P.O. Mrs. Prodgers is here with the baby and the Englishman—It is a lovely river. The Maori women are rather special—the Post Boy—the children—an accident to the horses—very great. The Maori room, the cushions. Then a strange road in a sort of basin of strong underbush.
“Through the red gate were waving fields and fresh flax—the homestead in the distance—a little field of sheep, willow and cabbage trees, and away in the distance the purple hills in the shadow—sheep in for the shearing.
“Here we drive in and ask for a paddock. Past the shearing shed—past the homestead to a beautiful place with a little patch of bush—tuis, magpies, cattle and water running through. But I know from bitter experience that we shall be eaten by mosquitos. Two Maori girls are washing; I go to talk with them; they are so utterly kids. While the dinner cooks, I walk away and lean over a giant log. Before me a perfect panorama of sunset—long, sweet, steel-like cloud against the faint blue, the hills full of gloom, the little river with the tree beside it is burnished silver—The sheep, and a weird, passionate abandon of birds—the cries—the flocks—
“Then the advent of Bella, her charm in the dusk, the very dusk incarnate. Her strange dress, her plaited hair, the shy, swaying figure. The life they lead there. In the shearing sheds—the yellow dress page 293 with tui feathers on the coat and skirt and a () with scarlet () blossom. The () heat and look of the sheep. Farewell.
“Lunched in a space in the bush cut through and then by devious routs we came to the pah. It was adorable. Just the collection of huts, the built place for Koumara and potatoes. We visit first the house. The bright, clean, charming little place, roses and pinks in the garden. Through the doorway, the kettle and fire and bright tins—the woman—the child in the pink dress and red sleeves in all the (). How she stands gathering her pleats of dress—She can say just ‘Yes.’ Then we go into the parlour—photos—a charming clock—mats—kits—red table cloth—horsehair sofa. The child saying, ‘Nicely, thank you.’ The shy children, the Mother, and the poor baby, thin and naked. The other bright children—her splendid face and regal bearing.
“Then at the gate of the P.O. a great bright coloured crowd, almost threatening looking—a follower of Rua with long Fijian hair and side combs—a most beautiful girl of 15. She is married to a patriarch—her laughing face, her hands playing with the children's hair. Her smile across the broad river—the guide—the swimming dogs—it flows on—he stands in the water, a regal figure—then we alight, and we are out. The absolute ease of his figure, so boneless. He speeds our parting journey. His voice is so good. He speaks most correctly and enunciates each word. We see him last stopping to rest his horse.
“The sun is fearfully hot. We camp by the guide's whare. The splendor of the night.”
“The wet bushes brush against my face….
“We pick Ngamoni (sweet potatoes) with the page 294 Maori children—in the sunshine—Their talk and their queer, droll ways…. We learn, too, though it is difficult and tedious because our hands are so stiff. One girl is particularly interesting with auburn hair and black eyes. She laughs with an indescribable manner and has very white teeth. Then another Maori in a red and black striped flannel jacket. The small boy is raggedly dressed in brown—his clothes are torn in many places—he wears a brown felt hat with a koe-koe feather placed rakishly on one side.
“Here, too, I met Prodgers. It is splendid to see once again real English people. I am so tired and sick of the third-rate article. Give me the Maori and the tourist, but nothing between. All this place proved utterly disappointing after Nmuroa which was fascinating in the extreme. The Maoris were () some English and some Maori—not like the other natives. All these people dress in almost English clothes compared with the natives here. And they wear a great deal of ornament in Muroa and strange hair fashions. So we journey from their whare to Waiotapu. A grey day and I drive long dusty thick road and then before us is Tarawera,* with great white clefts—the poverty of the country—but the gorgeous blue mountains all around us in a great stretch of burnt manuka. We lunch and begin to decide whether to go to the Wharepuni. The men folk go, but eventually come back and say that the walk was too long—also the heat of the day—but there is a great pah, 1½ miles away. There we go. The first view—a man on the side of the road—in a white shirt and brown pants—waits for us. Opposite is a thick () Maori fence—in the distance across the paddock, whares clustered together like snails upon the green patch. And across the paddock a number of little boys come straggling along, from the age of twelve to three, out at elbow, bare-footed, indescribably dirty—but some of them almost beautiful—none of them very strong. There is one great fellow Feropa who speaks Eng. Black curls clustering round his broad brow, rest, almost langour in his black eyes—a slouching walk and yet there slumbers in his face passionate unrest and strength.”