The Great Journey: an expedition to explore the interior of the Middle Island, New Zealand, 1846-8
February 1st. This morning the natives told me that the rain had so exhausted and spoilt our provisions, that as the country afforded none, it was necessary to return to the Matukituki station to replenish; so, after the wind had dried the bush, we started.
2nd. Retracing our steps towards Matukituki, which the fresh in river rendered difficult. 3rd. Crossed the river to our old house in the Matukituki.
4th. Collected and made an oven of ti. The native Epikewati had a dream, which foretold the death of his wife by drowning while crossing the Kawatiri1 page 28 and she took fright, crying and wishing to return to Waimea, to which I gave consent readily, but Epike would not agree.
5th. Rain nearly all day. 6th. Showery. Collected a little fern-root. 7th. The weather seemed inclined to fair. 8th. All working at the fern-root. 9th. Getting fern-root. 10th. Raining all day. Repaired the house.
11th. We had today one of the heaviest storms of thunder I have ever seen, with a deluge of rain and a tremendous fresh in the river.
12th. Showery all day. 13th. Moderately fine. Collecting wekas. 14th. Fine warm day.
15th. Seeking for wood to construct a raft, but found none that would float. 16th. The day showery. Made an oven of the ti.
17th. Anniversary of the day Mr Fox was washed off his footing, and had to swim the Matukituki with his load on his back. Drying timber and constructing raft. The day dull and showery.
The fruit of the kotukutuku, called konini, is a pleasant tasted berry, and is ripe about this month.
I am sorely disappointed in the appearance of the river during a fresh. I expected something majestic, instead of which I see nothing but a dull dirty-looking stream, running steadily along, with every now and then a large tree or quantity of brushwood floating on its surface. The natives tell me that the best time for working a canoe up or down the river is during a high flood.
18th. Placed our kits of provisions on raft, and again crossed the river, and proceeded onwards. Fine day. In order to cross the river we had to resort to a new method. The fresh prevented us from fording, and we could not find enough timber for a raft to carry us, and the river runs too rapidly to admit of rafts recrossing, page 29 so we made a small one on which we placed all our clothes &c. The two fastest swimmers attached a small flax-line to the raft, and commenced swimming across; the remaining three swam behind, pushing the raft forward with one hand. For this method you must choose a reach of at least a mile long to cross the Buller when swollen.
19th. Proceeded on our journey, and once again reached our ana, or former sleeping-place, when to our sorrow we were again visited with a deluge, and frightened to our old shed. 20th. Repairing house. A rainy day. 21st. Moderately fine day. Nothing done.
22nd. Packed up our huge loads, mine consisting of a gun, seven pounds shot, eight pounds tobacco, two tomahawks, two pair of boots, five shirts, four pair of trowsers, a rug, and a blanket, besides at least thirty pounds of fern-root. We made about two miles of very bad walking—granite rocks covered with tutu and brushwood. A shower at night.
23rd. Showers of rain frightened us on. About one mile of fearful walking to an ana, where we found dry but most uncomfortable lodgings on an uneven surface of granite rock. 24th. The appearance of the day was so far from fine, that we mutually agreed to stay in our dry quarters on account of our provisions, as fern-root once wet is spoiled, losing its flavour and becoming mouldy.
25th. A shower of rain this morning prevented us from starting until about midday, when we accomplished about one mile, and encamped at an apparently good eel-station. My back very very sore.
26th. We had a little better walking part of the day, passing over about a mile of very good pine forest, but again came to our black birch country—precipices and granite rocks. I find in some parts of this at a page 30 fresh the river rises upwards of thirty feet. I am getting so sick of this exploring, the walking and the dietary both being so bad, that were it not for the shame of the thing, I would return to the more comfortable quarters of the Riwaka Valley.
27th. Worse and worse walking, the rocks being more steep and rugged, and covered with underbrush and quantities of brier, the bush almost impassable from the quantity of dead timber and moss. The evening showing for rain. 28th. Built a bark house just in time to escape a heavy thunderstorm. Raining at night.
1 TheBuller. G. G. M. Mitchell considers the Maori name was Kawatere (p. 47 Maori Place Names in Buller County. 1948)