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


So, thank God, I am once more among civilized men, of which I have had many doubts during my illness, and this preyed much on my mind. It is a period of nearly five hundred and fifty days from the time I wished Fraser goodbye, on the banks of the page 100 river Rotuiti, and my seeing him again at his house, during which time I have never heard a word of English, save the broken jargon of Ekehu and the echo of my own voice; and I rather felt astonished that I could both understand and speak English as well as ever. There have been many wet days when I have not spoken a word all day.

Having traced the banks of the Buller from source to mouth, and returned by the Grey and Inakaiona valley, I am certain there is no accessible pass across the island north of the latter place, or any route from the Nelson settlement that could be taken to the grass plains at Port Cooper, excepting that along the coast from the Wairau.

I have not attempted to lay down the course of my journey, nor even the distance I have passed over, as I felt it impossible to do so with any regard to accuracy. Starting as I did on a purely amateur trip, single-handed, and having everything to carry myself, I could take no instruments, save a single compass and a sextant, which were soon spoilt by the wet—so that I found it impossible to take any bearings on a crooked river, or in a black birch country; and I decline to assert anything which may hereafter be found incorrect. Being also unacquainted with geology, I am unable to give any description of the country. I only went to assure myself of the description of country in the middle and west of the island; to explore the country would require more than one person of greater knowledge, and also much more capital than I had at my command.

I am, however, sure there is nothing on the West Coast worth incurring the expense of exploring, but I page 101 certainly think the natives there require something to be done for them. They are quiet, and do no harm, and ought to have some share of the attention that is paid to the natives who are amongst the white population. They have all books, both Bibles and Prayer-books, but their condition would be much improved by giving them a few good axes, and some other tools, as also some nails, of which they are very fond, and know the value. They are much cleaner in their habits than the natives in the settlements, and they have better houses-most of them having chimneys, and also bedsteads, or rather a raised floor on which they sleep. I trust something will be done for their welfare, in which I take great interest. It would be a very trifling expense to convey a few things to the Kawatiri, from whence the natives themselves would gladly distribute them down the coast. The introduction of goats would much benefit them, and ultimately ourselves.

I believe any one taking the trouble to read my imperfectly kept journal would consider much time has been lost, and many unnecessary delays had taken place, but I, from experience, can assure the reader to the contrary; and I affirm none can form an estimate of the many difficulties I had to encounter from the want of means, and being thrown quite on the mercy of the natives; and I consider I have accomplished a great work in having traced the only two large rivers of the West Coast from source to mouth, and maintained myself for eighteen months on the natural productions of this island.

I am sorry I lost my sketches, for, though no artist, they were faithful delineations, and would have page 102 illustrated, much better than I can describe, the surface of the country I have seen and passed over. Any distance, or estimates of quantities of land I have made are as correct as my judgment (from having been on the Nelson survey-staff) could describe them. I found my native Ekehu of much use-invaluable indeed, but the other three rather an incumbrance- I could have made better progress without them; but to Ekehu I owe my life-he is a faithful and attached servant.

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