The Great Journey: an expedition to explore the interior of the Middle Island, New Zealand, 1846-8
May 1st. An awful day's journey. The hills coming down to the river's edge, with perpendicular precipices at their base, yet we were compelled to ascend them; but by night we managed to reach a shingle beach on the river-bank.
2nd. Searching for food. Moderately fine day, with a series of showers all night, which far from added to our comfort. 3rd, 4th, 5th. Continual heavy rains. Nothing to live on but a few rats.
6th. Raining and blowing a tempest just after dusk. The fresh in the river came down a torrent, driving page 41 us out of our shelter into the rain and wind to pass the night how we could. We, however, managed to throw our blanket over a pole, and there remain without fire until the daylight assisted us in improving our habitation. When shifting, the fresh came down so rapidly, that many of our things were left to the mercy of the river, my gun and boots amongst them. The gun was recovered when the fresh abated, having lodged in an overhanging bush, but all our salt was destroyed.
7th. Found on inspection this morning about five feet of water running over our previous dwelling. Formed our blanket into a tent, and spent the day in making a fire. Towards evening the rain ceased, and we had a fine night.
8th. A fine day, but no prospect of moving for some days, the fresh having rendered our progress impossible, and the hill in front too perpendicular to ascend.
9th. Moderately fine. The natives went eel fishing in the evening, and returned with enough for two meals, and a promise that with a fine morning they would try to make some onward progress.
10th. Alas! this morning, instead of proving fine, was the commencement of a violent tempest, and the rain poured down in torrents all day.
11th. About two o'clock this morning the river again rose most rapidly; and about four o'clock it found its way over its banks, and into our tent. We were again obliged to brave the storm, and, shouldering our loads, and throwing our blankets over our shoulders, perch ourselves on a tree, and await daylight, when we found means to ascend a few feet higher, and build a new house, but we had no firewood.page 42
12th. Heavy rain all day. 13th. A series of heavy showers all day.
14th. The wind had changed into a better quarter, and we had a drier day, but we could find no provisions, and had only four ounces per day. The natives when very hungry wanted to kill my dog Rover, but I refused, stating, as my reason, that I wished to keep the dog for our last resource. The kakote, a very indifferent species of fern tree, was found here, but we had not the proper means of cooking it. It requires the application of great heat, and must be allowed to remain in the oven at the least twelve hours, when it will be found a palatable but far from satisfying dish.
15th. Moderately fine: and we were resolved, should the morrow prove as fine, to break through our rule of holding the Sabbath, and proceed somewhere in search of food.
Sunday, 16th. You must never calculate a day ahead of you on this river. After a fine night we had today a thorough wet day. 17th. Heavy rain all day.
18th. A fine day. 19th. Although the day appeared far from fine, yet we mounted our loads on our half-starved backs, and managed to proceed a short distance, hoping to push past our precipice, before which we had then been detained ten days, all but starved; but the rain again caught us, and we passed a most miserable night. Heavy rain, accompanied with thunder. We killed a robin, which served as the bait for an eel, which Ekehu caught, and gave us for supper.
20th. Another deluge of rain compelled us to erect a shelter, although half famished, and await the conclusion of these gales. 21st. The weather slightly moderating.
22nd. A bitterly cold day. We, however, managed to accomplish a short day's walk, at last surmounting page 43 the precipice which had so long detained us, and slept without shelter: the rain, however, gave us a wetting during the night.
23rd. Hunger again compelled us to shift our quarters in search of food, but finding none, I was compelled, though very reluctantly, to give my consent to killing my dog Rover1. The flesh of a dog is very palatable, tasting something between mutton and pork. It is too richly flavoured to eat by itself.
24th. Last night we were again visited with a deluge of rain, which completely covered the surface of the earth, so that we had to sit all night ancle deep in water. With the daylight, we all set to work to erect a shelter, which we sadly wanted. We could find no thatch, so we made a roof of small straight birch poles. The soles of my first pair of boots forsook me, and I had to take a new pair.
25th, 26th. Heavy rain. 27th. A slight improvement in the weather, but our dog nearly consumed, and we could find no other eatable: the weather too cold for eels, and birds are not seen in the black birch woods.
1 This earned for Brunner the name of Kai Kuri (dog-eater).
2 Kiekie (Freycinetia banksii).
29th. Travelling still the same. Camped on a small reach of shingle. Another cold night, but I managed to obtain a little sleep during the night, being very tired; had a pigeon for supper. Found a mamakou 1, which we cut down, and intended baking on the morrow.
The natives bear hunger badly. They get irritable in temper, and lazy. I had much trouble with all but my own native Ekehu, the rest continually asking in what way I could compensate them for their sufferings: they were also constantly lamenting their coming into the bush.
30th. Rain. 31th. A dirty cold day. The natives searching for food found a recently-made Maori oven and a wari. I also distinctly heard the roar of the tide, which was to me as good as a dinner. A showery night; built a shelter.
1 Mamaku, edible tree-fern(Cyathea medullaris)