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The Great Journey: an expedition to explore the interior of the Middle Island, New Zealand, 1846-8

[December 1846]

page 15

To acquire a better knowledge of the interior of the Middle Island, and especially of the parts more immediately connected with its own district, has always been a subject of much interest to the Nelson settlement. At a very early period it was felt that its future importance must depend upon the amount of available land naturally connected with it; and the success which attended the first efforts to enlarge its boundaries, by which it was put in communication with the Wairau Valley on one side, and with the Takaka and Massacre Bay on the other, led to the hope that some opening might also be found in the rocky barrier which stretches in one great semicircle from Cape Campbell to Cape Farewell, embracing the whole of these districts within it, and sending off from the central and highest part of its range the long mountain ridges which divide them from each other.

Immediately behind this rocky wall, the extensive grassy plains of the East Coast were known to com- page 16 mence whilst the same mountain chain was believed to extend, without interruption, along the West Coast to the southern extremity of the island. Lying among the snowy mountains of the central portion above mentioned, about fifty miles S.E. from Nelson, the Rotuiti, or Little Lake, was found discharging its waters to the westward; and from the mountains above it, Messrs Heaphy and Christie had looked down upon the plains of Port Cooper1

A larger lake, the Roturoa, was reported to exist not far from the Rotuiti by two of the almost extinct tribe of the Rangitani, the former possessors of the country; and with one of them for our guide, Messrs Fox, Heaphy, and myself, visited it in the beginning of 1846. The details of that expedition have already been published.

The waters of the Roturoa Lake, flowing to the N.W., were found to form a considerable river, the Kawatiri, or Buller, even at their outlet; and being soon joined by the river of the Rotuiti, took a great sweep to the south. Instead therefore of following the course of the river, we pushed across the mountains to the westward, and after crossing two valleys, the Tiraumea and Tutaki, came again upon the Buller, about twenty miles from the lake, where it runs for about six miles through a valley called Matukituki. Here, swelled by the addition of the rivers Tiraumea and Tutaki, and also by the junction of a considerable stream, the Matiri, which enters it from a large valley to the northward, nearly opposite the Tutaki, the Buller becomes a river of great size, varying in breadth from one-quarter to one-third of a mile, and again

1 In March 1845, C. Heaphy and C. Christie climbed a peak on the St Arnaud Range and saw the Wairau Valley but not the Canterbury Plains.

page 17 enters the mountain gorges. From this point we retraced our steps to Nelson.

A few weeks after our return I again started with Mr Heaphy to explore the West coast. On that occasion we crossed the mouth of the Kawatiri, which discharges itself into the sea about six miles north of Cape Foulwind, or the Black Reef, and made our way nearly sixty miles further to the southward, to the native settlement, Arahura. The particulars of this trip have been published by Mr Heaphy.

On returning to Nelson it was proposed to me to undertake another expedition, commencing from the furthest point 1 we had reached on our excursion with Mr Fox, and tracing down the Buller to its mouth; afterwards exploring the country still further south, and ascertaining the practicability of crossing the island in the direction of Otago or Akaroa. Subsequent events caused this proposal to be withdrawn, but having once entertained the idea, I was unwilling to give it up: and Mr Fox kindly allowing me to draw upon him for the necessary outfit, I proceeded to put my intentions into practice. I engaged Ekehu, my previous travelling companion, and a friend of his, Epikewate, who were to receive their outfit, and £5 each on our return. I found that they had wives, who insisted on going with them, so I had to incur the additional expense of providing an outfit for them also.

The outfit was as follows:

1 Near Murchison.

page 18
For natives—
£ s. d.
Two pair of boots 1 16 0
Three ditto of trowsers 1 16 0
Three shirts and two belts 0 19 0
A blanket, two caps 1 8 0
Two pair of shoes 0 17 0
Thirty yards calico 1 0 0
Mending materials 0 4 6
£8 0 6
For myself I bought—
Two pairs of boots 1 16 0
Three ditto of trowsers 1 16 0
A strap and four shirts 1 2 0
Four pairs of socks 0 10 0
Two blankets 2 0 0
A shooting coat 1 10 0
£8 14 0
Provisions, necessaries, &c.—
Two guns, shot-belt, and flask 7 3 0
16 lbs. tobacco, 1 cwt. flour 3 7 6
Powder and shot 1 11 8
Salt, pepper, and a box of caps 0 12 6
Biscuits, tea, sugar, and matches 0 15 2
Cooking-pot, knives, and tomahawk 0 19 0
Small articles 1 8 0
Expenses to the Motueka 0 18 0
Cash in hand 3 9 0
£20 3 10
page 19
Outfit for natives 8 0 6
Ditto for myself 8 14 0
Provisions, &c. 20 3 10
Total £36 18 4

To meet which I drew on Mr Fox for £30; Mr Tuckett gave Ekehu £2 for his outfit, and the balance I advanced. To get rid at once of the subject of my expenses, I may mention that on my return to Nelson I obtained from Mr Fox the £10 for the natives, which I handed over to them accordingly.

December 3rd, 1846. Mr Empson drove me up to Mr Duppa's 1, where I slept.

4th. Walked down to Mr Kerr's2 farm and saw my natives, who were staying there, but they would not move until the next day. Slept at Kerr's. 5th. After some trouble in packing our loads we started for Mr M'Rae's3 farm, where we stayed over Sunday. 6th. Self and natives attended Divine service, and heard Mr Butt. 7th. Our loads being heavy, I employed a man to help me over the Motueka range, but halted at the Waiiti. 8th. Walked to Fraser's station in the Motueka valley, and discharged the man. 9th. Stayed at Fraser's, who was from home, to get his mule to carry our loads to the Rotuiti.

11th. Started on our journey, with Fraser and mule assisting to carry our loads. Walked about six miles up the Motupiko. 12th. Walked about two miles up the river, past the junction of the Mapu and the end of the surveyed country.

1 George Duppa, a runholder and explorer.

2 John Kerr, of Waimea West.

3 George M'Rae, of Waimea South.

page 20

Sunday, 13th. In order to allow Fraser to return we walked on, contrary to my intention of keeping Sunday. We reached the grass of the Rotuiti, the mule having carried her load of 150 lbs. gallantly. 14th. The natives requested me to allow them to keep today as Sunday, which we all did.

15th. Divided amongst us our mule's load, and crossed the River Rotuiti. Slept at our old house on the Pukawini, or Howard1, a small tributary stream, where we took possession of a bag of shot left on our last excursion. 16th. Walked up the Pukawini, but soon stopped, and built a house, being frightened by a shower of rain and a dull day. 17th. All hands affected more or less with dysentery, and with difficulty reached our old sleeping quarters in the bush.

18th. Crossed the hill at the head of the Howard, and reached the Roturoa about a mile from its outlet. Epike and wife and baggage paddled down to the river in our former canoe. Wind and cloudy all day.

19th. Showery, with wind. Natives out eel fishing. Rain at night. 20th. The heavy rain towards evening compelled us to repair the old house built by Ekehu when here before. 21st. Rain with wind all day. 22nd. A heavy gale of wind prevented us from proceeding up the lake according to my wish and intention.

23rd. Embarked on board our canoe. Came up to a remarkable fern-hill on the opposite side of the lake, and stopped there.

24th. Paddled up nearly to the head of the lake. Day windy. Explored the head of the lake, and found it entirely surrounded by a chain of snow-capped mountains, with a good sized stream flowing into it from the southward2. There is certainly no accessible

1 Named after J. Howard, who fell in the Wairau Massacre.

2 Lake Rotoroa is fed by the D'Urville and Sabine rivers.

page 21 pass from the Roturoa towards the east, there being no break in the hills, or rather snow-capped mountains. The Wairau was the old pass of the natives who formerly resided at the pa on Waimea Plain.

There is a fresh-water mussel abounding in the Roturoa, called the kaiehau1, which, boiled with the roots of the raupo, or bulrush, makes a palatable dish, and was the favourite meal of the celebrated savage Rauparaha.

With a very little expense a good track might be cut from the Motupiko to the Rotuiti Valley; the bush is open and clear, and the descent easy: distance about six miles. I am of opinion the Rotuiti is too cold and open for a sheep-run, and the grass much inferior to the Wairau.

In the Rotuiti Valley is found a species of spear-plant, called by the natives taramea2, which is much valued by them. From its leaves they extract, by heat, a species of gum, which gives out a very pleasant and lasting scent. One seldom meets an old native that has not a bunch of feathers, in a bit of old blanket, scented with this gum, and tied about his neck.

25th. Heard a report, like that of a great gun, about sunset last evening; this frequently occurred in the sequel. On one occasion, further down the river, the reports were so regular and continual that Ekehu said they were the guns of a ship in distress at sea. Kept Christmas.

26th. Ascended a high hill3 to the north, whence I looked down upon the Rotuiti, with the expectation of getting a view to the east, but found it entirely shut

1 Kakahi (Diploden entulentus).

2 Aciphylla of Plants of New Zealand by R. M. Laing & E. W. Blackwell (4th Edn. 1940) p. 339.

3 Perhaps Mount Cedric, 5,026 feet.

page 22 out by the high snowy range. I could trace the outline of the mountains on each side of Blind Bay. The direct distance between the two lakes does not, I think, exceed six miles. 27th. A cold windy day, with showers.

28th. Raining all day, and the hills around covered with snow. 29th. Collected a quantity of fern-root and paddled back to our former quarters on the opposite shore. Wind and showers. 30th. Drying our fern-root and otherwise preparing for a start.

31st. After securing our canoe we started for the bush by our former route to the Tiraumea Valley, but made a poor day's walk, owing to the heavy loads and the wetness of the bush.