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The Diary of James Brogden, August 1871 – December 1872

23 February 1872

23 February 1872

Next morning we get up before day-light;- boil our kettle (or jack) and drink our chocolate from our pannikins, tie up our “swags”, pack the baggage, and look out for the horses. The old “moke” did not like the idea of another days work and broke away, dashing thro’ some bars which were placed across a natural bridge formed over the hot creek. A chivy was instituted after 3 horses, which was rather exciting, and also annoying as it took so much out of man and beast in time and effort. We at last got on our way, tied up with flax, and passed along thro’ a most desolate part, a perfect series of mud springs. We had to leave our horses and pick our way over the incrusted mud carefully, even to discern a large spring. There are mud springs in the valley and up on the heights above, and white debris mark the sites of what have been. Such a spot would be a fit dwelling for the Three Witches. Some time after leaving this place we arrived on the banks of the Waikato River, at a spot called Horaki Korako. We cooeyed for some time to the natives on the other side for the Canoe. The ferry service is paid for by the Govt. but the man in charge adopts a dodge which is worth recording – When he is wanted, he is always out of the way; - some one else then offers for payment (and considerable payment, sometimes, is demanded) to bring the canoe across, and when he had got about half way the proper attendant. page 76 comes forward, and you have to pay both, which our booby of a guide permitted us to do.

Before crossing the River, we were taken to see the celebrated Alum Cave, passing over mud terraces formed by hot springs. After a hot walk we came to a large cave about 30 ft in diam dipping away at an angle of about 1 ½ to 1- at the bottom there was clear water. The interior was a simple cave with tumbled rocks lying covered more or less with moss. At the mouth however, the Tree Ferns of enormous size, and other ferns and vegetation made a picture worth an artist’s study. Beyond this, it was not worth the trouble of the walk. The River Waikato was very rapid and the banks steep, requiring great care with the horses. We got over all right, and had some refreshment, and soon found to our cost that we were among the “Arawas” for they stole our Kettle, (or “billy”) and all they could from us. There is little land and order in this part, which Govt authority scarcely reaches, - and the natives are pampered lest they should break out afresh. The man in charge of the Ferry is a sort of inferior Chief, and the money he obtains is, as is usual with all tribes, divided among the Hapu. On one occasion, he was not paid for a couple of weeks, and he coll coolly cut down one of the Telegraph Posts for utu. The Govt. payments have been prompt ever since! On one occasion, a White European rode a very nice horse, which one of the horse-fancying Arawas coveted, and said to the Pakeha “That horse belongs to the Chief” – the Chief standing by, smiling, but saying nothing. After more words the altercation become strong, and forcible possession was sought. The white man resists, and fights for his horse, but page 77 is over powered, he states from whom he bought the horse, shews the marks or brands in his book, but to no purpose. The Chief interposing for the first time said, the horse was his and he took it away. An appeal was made to the Court, but the Govt. thro’ their Agent, found it convenient to pass over the case and let the matter drop. Thus as I learned were native matters conducted in these parts. It certainly seems curious that, out of the £250,000 voted annually by Parliament for the Native Department, a sum of upwards of £100,000, or as some say £150,000 should be given as “sops” to such fellows as these.

The Arawas do not appear to tattoe so much as the other tribes. We got to warm language before departure, as our friends at the Ferry required 5/- each from us for seeing the cave, which we politely declined to give.

We then proceeded to Taupo Lake by a new and good road (i.e. for New Zealand) which has been cut along the pumice terraces. All the way it is Pumice, Pumice, and the shoes of the horse are worn out in about 4 days riding. There is nothing to be seen on the land but scrub for miles and miles; no food for horses or cattle; - indeed it is a marvel how people live out here. We passed one short piece of bush, and a small dingle of grass where Dunny and I rested and fed our horses, while Chamberlain and Llewellyn rode on to Taupo H We caught sight of the snow white peak of Johgariro, a Volcano lying about 60 miles distant beyond Lake Taupo. It was a charming sight (see Photo) but you cannot page 78 help feeling that this district is a God-forsaken place, destitute of food and verdure. We got to the Lake at 11 o’Clock at night, thoroughly wearied, and found our friends at Captain Bower’s house having tea. We chatted and smoked, and then took our poor brutes to finish their hard day’s work with a hard swim and nothing to eat after it but the bare earth, - ourselves crossing in a canoe to a small store house which Captain Bower had just built, in which we stayed the night, some on the floor, and some on the table wrapped in our rugs. “Moon” our guide had taken Chamberlain’s rug and I believe his pipe – he had got drunk, and held possession : - no one was more tired of this fellow than I was. Dunny was very fatigued after the long and hard days ride.