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

[January 1848]

January 26th. This morning freighted our canoe with our provisions, clothes, and fishing apparatus. I considered myself as on board the admiral's canoe, which was the largest and first to start, having in company three others. The names of the canoes that page 71 ascended the river with me were as follows: Te Wairakou, with myself and nine natives; Te Maikai, with my four natives and Aperahama; Te Paiekau, with two natives, carrying nets, &c., for fishing; Te Muttamutta, with four natives-so I think I was well equipped, considering I had nothing to give the natives for all their trouble, except good wishes. There was much crying amongst them when I left, and apparently some good feeling towards me. They told me to return amongst them, and share what they had; and although tobacco is so much valued amongst them, they offered me two sticks-the half of all their stock.

It is really an exciting scene to see four canoes poling and paddling up a fine stream on a clear day. We came up about five miles of the river, and camped at an old fishing-station, prettily placed on an island called Mautapu, which rises about 100 feet above the level of the river. At this place the river is confined between two low black birch hills, part of the coast range. The level land of the coast reaches to this point, all timbered, chiefly rata, on either side of the river. About a mile above Mautapu is a seam of coal of apparently very fine quality, which presents itself under a stratum of mica slate. The coal is hard and brittle, very bright and sparkling, burns freely, and is free from smell; the seam is some feet deep, and level with the river's edge, but at least fifty feet below the surface of the earth.1

27th. Paddled up the river about three or four miles, to a point where the river divides itself into two streams -the right hand and smaller branch, called Kotuurakaoka, bearing about S.E., and leading to a pass

1 These coalfields were later named after the explorer.

page 72 to the East Coast, almost at right angles to the main stream. We stayed here for the night, the natives wishing to fish, and I anxious to look about me. This is the place where Ekehu, my lad, lost his father, and was taken prisoner himself by the Ngaitau tribe. We were successful in fishing.

28th. Paddled up the S.E. branch of the river1, the pass to the east, leaving the women and children behind with two of our canoes. After proceeding about five miles, we again left our canoe with some natives to fish, and kept on until late in the evening. This branch of the river is wooded, but with a considerable belt of level land on either hand.

29th. Again ascended the branch, and by night reached the lake2, a sheet of water of about six or seven miles square, with a small low island near the middle, to which we paddled, it being an old fishing-station. Fine.

30th. Examined the lake in our canoe, and found it very deep, with a sandy or mud bottom, and in some places large granite rocks. The country immediately around the lake is a level bush, bounded by a pine forest, and surrounded on three sides by black birch hills of moderate elevation. The country towards the east is low, but the district is shut in by a high mountain region towards the S.W. This is the lake frequented by the natives on their route to the East Coast: they reach it from the coast by ascending the Taramakau, from which it is divided by a long reach3. From this point they tell me they reach the open country of the East Coast in two days' walk.

31st. Returned back to the main stream, where we

1 The Arnold river.

2 Now Lake Brunner.

3 A route followed now by the railway track.

page 73 had left the women and canoes. They had a plentiful supply of fish, showing their industry during our absence.