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


April 1st. Fearfully heavy rain, with gusts of wind, which drove the rain through and under our shelter, and gave us all a thorough wet soaking. Luckily, Ekehu caught enough eels to last us two days with moderation. 2nd. Continuation of rain, and a fresh in the river.

3rd. Rain continuing to fall in torrents. About midday there came a stream pouring from the cliffs under which we were, and through the shelter which we had been working at all day to make comfortable, erecting mud fences, &c. The fresh also increased so much, that the natives declared we must find some means to ascend the cliff, or we should be all carried away; so we made a sort of ladder, and managed to clamber up about twenty feet to another ledge in the rocks. The bush here prevented us from moving backwards or forwards, but we contrived to draw up enough of our old shed to erect a shelter against page 90 the wind, for against the rain it was impossible, as the thatch we had barely kept our kits dry, and we had to brave the rain until the morning, when we erected a straddle bedstead, as the uneven surface of the granite prevented us from lying down.

4th. Made our shed habitable. Rain continuing. This was truly a fearful day to spend on a cliff in a black birch forest. The rain poured down, loosening the stones of which the hill was formed, which came rolling by us, and plunged into the river with a tremendous noise; and the wind tore up the trees on all sides, causing a simultaneous shudder among all the party when we heard their crash.

We managed our dietary during the last rain without encroaching upon our stock of provisions, there being sowthistle at hand, which we ate at every meal. When I left Nelson, Mr Heaphy smiled at my stock of pepper, from its quantity and bulk; but, were he here, he would find it a great relish to his sowthistle, &c. On inspecting our stock, I found that I had nearly one pound left—some proof of my economy in the consumption of the luxuries of this life. I would recommend any one to take a good quantity who may be bound to the bush.

Ekehu's kaka died, leaving only nine alive to mourn the fate of their brother, and I fear they will die also.

My last pair of unmentionables are now brought into active use.

5th. An increase in the gale, both of wind and rain, and the fresh in the river exceeding all bounds, which has risen forty feet perpendicular. God only knows when we shall be able to proceed; for to ascend is impossible, and we can move nowhere until the flood subsides. 6th. Showery, with heavy rain at night.

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7th. What after so much rain may be called a fine day; and should the morrow be fine, I hope to be once more moving. The fresh rapidly going down.

8th. The fresh having a little subsided during the night we managed to get a short way along the cliffs, and then ascend a monstrous hill, that is, for steepness; but we kept on all day, scarcely allowing time for breathing, and by dusk reached the river's edge past the range of cliffs, where we camped.

9th. The weather is determined to try our constitutions, for soon after rolling our blankets round us last night it commenced raining heavily, and continued all night, so that by morning we were all soaking wet through. We then commenced building a shelter, but the rain ceasing, we moved on about a mile to a shingle beach, where we spread our kits to dry.

10th. This long rain caused so great a flood in the river that we consumed all our dried fish, and were not able to catch any more; and as there were no birds in the bush, I told the natives we must push on, although it was raining, and endeavour to get a supper, which we did out of a fern tree. Made a good day's march.

11th. Again progressing, and making for Nelson, but our walking was slow, owing to Epike's lameness. The fresh still presented an obstacle to eel fishing; and we could now find room for some of our surplus provisions on the Oweka. Bad lodging on a granite rock, without firewood, and, what was worse, no supper.

12th. Two hours before daylight the rain again began to fall, and continued in small showers all day; but having no breakfast, we had no alternative but to brave the storm and seek one. After walking about page 92 four miles we came to a small patch of sand, when we saw the upukororo re-ascending the river from the flood; and having no provisions, we camped, and made our kupenga all right, when we set to work to fish for breakfast. We took 150 fish during the day. There being no material for erecting a shelter, we had to hoist our blankets for a shed, but found a year's bushing had made a sad alteration in their waterproof qualities.

13th. Continued at our station fishing. Caught about the same number as yesterday, which we dried for our onward use. 14th. After packing our fish we started, and made a good day's journey on a bad road. Showers.

15th. During the night I lost the entire use of my side, and in the morning I could not move. Although I had never before been any hindrance to the natives, always carrying my share of the loads, and helping to get firewood, &c., I had the mortification of hearing one of them, Epike, propose to Ekehu to proceed and leave me, urging that I appeared too ill to recover soon, if ever, and that it was a place devoid of food; but Ekehu refused to leave me, and Epike and wife started forward by themselves. I received great kindness from Ekehu and his wife for the week I was compelled to remain here; the woman kindly attending me, and Ekehu working hard to obtain food for us all, always pressing me to take the best, and frequently telling me he would never return to Nelson without I could accompany him. We had a slight shower during the day, but Ekehu built a shelter over me which protected me from the weather.

16th. Self ill, Ekehu went eel fishing, to try me with some fresh food. 17th and 18th. Rain.

19th. Fine. Ekehu went searching for food, our page 93 supply of fish being spoilt, and returned with nothing but two or three thrushes, and a fern tree. 20th and 21st. I was able to move about, but with some pain.

22nd. Although I could only stand on one leg, I resolved to try and proceed, Ekehu having scoured the country round without finding anything eatable within reach, and he would not leave me for a night; so he carried our bedclothes forward, and then came for me partly carrying, partly leading me along.

23rd. I was able to proceed, though with difficulty, by the aid of a stick and Ekehu's hand. 24th. It was with great difficulty I could move at all today, but want of provisions compelled me. Found two fern trees, and made an oven.

25th. About midday we overtook Epike and wife, who had been clearing the country of all birds before us. I was unable to proceed without a helping hand, or to carry my load. Rain.

26th. Reached a stream flowing from the southwards, called by the natives Muri-ira1. It is opposite to our cave and former return station to Matukituki2 We tried to ford the stream, but found it too deep and rapid. Rain.

There is some considerable quantity of good forest land on the banks of the Muri-ira, and the natives told me that there is a grass plain at its source, to which they formerly resorted in search of the kakapo, or green parrot. The route they took was over the hills of the Oweka. The Ngaitau natives told me that before the introduction of the potato they lived chiefly, on the kakapos, which were numerous on the mountains of this island, but are now nearly extinct.

1 Maruia.

2 Matakitaki.

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27th. Finding no materials to form a raft, we were obliged to ascend the stream in search of a ford. We kept walking all day, and found many likely spots, but on trying them they were all too deep. Rain.

28th. After ascending the river four miles further, we came to a division of the stream caused by an island1, with a short shingle reach on either bank. Up to this point, it had been confined between large rocks. Here we ventured to cross, all holding one stick, and reached the other side in safety, having had to swim part of the way over, and of course thoroughly wetting our clothes, &c., which took some time to dry, as it kept raining all day, and being in a pine forest we could find nothing for a shed. We however managed to find firewood in plenty, and having a very wet night we all sat round the fire under the shelter of our native mats, but the rain and cold made us very uncomfortable. We had empty stomachs also, being without supper; nor had we anything for a breakfast.

29th. The day consumed in retracing our steps on the other banks of the river towards the Buller. Fine.

Sunday 30th. Ekehu said that hunger was no Sabbath keeper, so we proceeded, and reached the banks of the Buller, where we slept. Rain.

1 At Keyes Creek.