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


April 1st. Fine day over head, but the bush too wet, and the river too much swollen, to admit of onward progress.

2nd. At last we were all on our way again, with a fine day, and what is better, all the natives convalescent, except from hunger. Having to commence our day's walk on a twenty-four hours' fast, we accomplished a moderate distance, and camped where the natives reported a good eel-ground. Shot a wihu1, or blue duck, which, being divided among the five of us, served for a meal until morning.

3rd. Another fine day induced us to proceed, having eaten an eel breakfast, and feeling the benefit of it. It tries one's nerves to be dangling on a flax-rope about 100 feet above a granite rock, with the load on the feet and no hold for the hands. So it was with us, for we had at least 100 feet perpendicular to descend, and, what was worse, the rock projecting at the top. Again caught eels.

4th. Ekehu explored our way, and returned with six wekas; but bad accounts of the road. Fine day.

5th. A drizzling rainy day; but Ekehu told us to pack up and follow him, for after rain the road would be impassable; so we started, and found the road truly dangerous, although Ekehu had rendered it passable by means of flax-ropes. Built a house, but

1 Whio.

page 36 found it little wanted, the weather clearing up.

6th. A full meal and a peep of the sun made us saucy enough to leave our comfortable lodgings and proceed. About midday it began to pour down again, but after some time we found shelter in a hollow rock, which would have been first rate, but we were in constant tribulation from the continual falling of stones from the roof of our cave. The appearance of the country was much altered, the hills lower, the formation a kind of soapstone, and the forest, pine trees and their concomitants.

7th. Weather appearing better, Ekehu was off trying all parts of the river to enable him to reach the other side, he having heard the cry of the weka during the night. He at last succeeded, and returned with a dozen wekas, and some sowthistles. A rich supper followed, and I once more enjoyed a full meal.

8th. A fine day, and again on our legs: we made our best day's walking since leaving the Matukituki valley. Towards eve, looking down a beautiful reach of the river about three miles long, we espied the mountain range that bounds the West Coast. It appeared some twenty miles to the range1

9th. Another fine day brought us on about one mile and a half, when the cry of the weka caused my two male guides, or rather travelling companions, to drop their loads and hurry in search of them. They returned in the evening with ten wekas, six kakas, three teal, and fourteen crows or kakapos2. I considered we had then enough to enable us to have two meals a day. Birds, eaten by themselves, much disorder the stomach. There is much harmony in the cry of the crow in its wild state, I think more than in that of any other bird

1 The Paparoa Range…

2 Kokakos.

page 37 in New Zealand. By imitating its cry it is easily caught by a flax-snare. They make the next best bait for eels to worms. They are very hard and poor, except in the months of April and June, when they get fat.

10th. We again progressed about two miles, when we camped on account of the rain. Chose a curious lodging under an overhanging rock, just enough to cover us, all lying in a row head to feet. We looked strange enough, each having a division caused by our kits, and three fires burning outside. Entered upon a fine tract of wooded land, on either side of the river. We must have passed at least 20,000 acres of good level land this week. On questioning the natives of Kawatiri, I found this to be the valley Inakaiona, or Oweka, and that they formerly had a cabbage garden here, to which they resorted for bird catching, and that had we known, we should have found plenty of vegetables had we crossed the river, and also an old canoe. They told me that this valley was their route from the Roturoa to the Mawera, as also to Port Cooper, in former times, before they were conquered by Enihu11. I met with an old man called Waiwai, who had once been the journey to the Roturoa. It is evidently a large valley, no hills being visible looking south. Again successful in the game line, securing four pigeons and eight wekas. Such are the bush feasts and fasts.

11th. Necessity compelled me to abandon my old trousers, and put on my second pair, and also a new shirt. Showery all day.

12th. A fine day induced us to proceed, and we came to the mouth of a good-sized stream2 on the south

1 Niho, chief of intrusive Atiawa tribe from Taranaki.

2 Ohika-nui river.

page 38 bank, flowing from the southward down a large valley. The wood in it consisted of the pine tribe and its appendages, but it had also patches of fern and grass. 13th. Still staying at the same place, for what reason I know not, unless to allow Ekehu to kill a dozen or two more wekas.

14th. Travelling down the bank of the river, with level bush land on either side of very fine quality.

15th. Still walking on fine rich level land, all wooded. Camped on the banks of a river flowing from the northward. We can from here distinguish the chain of mountains that bounds the coast.

16th. One of the women taking a fancy to a small patch of fern growing here, and a large boil on Ekehu's knee, formed a sufficient excuse for remaining here another day. I amused myself by walking about, but the country being all wooded I could see nothing. Epike supplying vegetables. A fine day, but very cold.

17th. The fern-root not being good, and Epike not finding us a breakfast, we started. I had the pleasure of passing over at least two miles of this long and crooked river. The country still good.

18th. Nothing doing but bird catching. We succeeded in obtaining about seventeen wekas, a dozen pigeons, a kaka, and six crows, on which the natives made a full meal.

19th. Again on our journey, the country still level and timbered with pines. Came upon an eel-station, where Ekehu caught twelve eels, a sole, and a large trout, the largest I had seen in New Zealand—I should say it weighed at least two pounds. There is a particular tapu existing amongst the natives relative to the eel. You must wash your hands before going to catch them, and also on returning, and the bait must be prepared some distance from the house.

page 39

There must be a distinct fire for cooking the eels, for which you must have a special tinder-box; your hands and mouth must be washed both before and after partaking of them, and should it be necessary to drink from the same stream from which the eels are caught, you must have two vessels of water, the one to drink from the other to dip from the stream. Whether this relates to particular places or not, I am not able to say, but I found it strictly adhered to at Okitika1 and Okaritu2. At the former place I had to walk half a mile for water, with a stream running within a few yards of our station. The heavy fogs that fall here during the night render it impossible to start much before midday, unless you choose to get wet through.

20th. Another day's progress, but a short one, as we had left the level country, and were again amongst our rocks and mountains. Built a house, which was much needed, having a very wet night. Again caught eels. 21st. Rainy. 22nd. Still raining, with a fresh in the river.

23rd. A fine morning, with a prospect of being able to proceed towards midday when the bush would be a little drier. Made a start, and came on a fair day's walk, but still between the ridges of precipitous hills.

24th. A very short day's journey, the natives fancying they had found a good eel-station, but for once they were deceived, catching only one small eel. 25th. Want of firewood compelled us to shift our quarters a short distance; the wind shifted to a rainy quarter.

26th. By some caprice the natives, after losing all the morning, made a start just as the rain began to

1 Hokitika.

2 Okarito.

page 40 fall, and we came on a short distance, accompanied by heavy rain. Took up our quarters under an immense rock nearly 100 feet high, which, having a slight projection, afforded us some shelter. Very poor quarters—no firewood; the continual drip, and the trickling of a small stream from the rock, saturated our bed clothes long before morning.

27th. Perpetual heavy rain all day, and, what was worse, nothing to eat. 28th. Searching for food, found a small kakoti, or fern tree, which gave us a breakfast, and hopes for the morrow. Heavy rain.

29th. Hunger drove us from our quarters. Although only showery, yet the drip from the bush made us all wet through in a short time. Completed a fair day's walking, particularly so considering it was performed in the morning before a breakfast of fern-tree; but Ekehu, with his usual energy, secured us a supper of wekas.

30th. Came on another day's walking, and were still jammed in between two high ridges of black birch hills coming almost perpendicularly down to the river's edge.