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


My journal during the three ensuing months contains little except a record of the weather, and of little excursions I took to acquire a better knowledge of the country and of native habits and customs. I therefore omit it, excepting a few unconnected remarks I pencilled down from time to time.1

Paroa2 was the only place where I found a native avaricious. I moved into a new house there from the pigs and fleas, when E Toto wanted payment for the house and potatoes he gave me. I therefore left him, when he was taken to task by the other natives.

There are two men, four women, and three children living at the mouth of the river Mawera, on the northern bank; and two men, two women, and seven

1 At this stage it may be noted that Brunner's Synopsis (see Appendix), which could be described as the first route guide to Westland travel, contains two illuminating references to high mountains. In this manuscript he describes them thus:

[From South of the Buller mouth] A fine view of the coast as far as the Arahura is obtained some ninety miles distant, and beyond that the long range of snowy mountains which Captain Cook denominated the ‘Southern Alps’ is seen stretching away to Cascade Point, where, their peaks only showing above the sea horizon, they appear like ice islands lying off the Coast.

[From South of the Taramakau] The snowy mountain range again commences and continues in a S.W. direction as far as the view extends. The highest peak in this range is called Te Hau rahi, which the natives assert is the highest of any in this Island.

‘Te Hau rahi’ may seem at first sight to be a new name for Mount Cook, in place of the usual Maori name, ‘Aorangi’, but Dr Roger Duff makes the following comment:

‘E Kehu, who had spent much time among the Atiawa conquerors of the Nelson district, adopted their practice of dropping out the H where it belonged (for instance “Ngai tau” for the Ngai-tahu tribe) and adding it where it did not belong (notably “humu” for umu or earth oven). It follows that Kehu could hardly have recorded the name “Rahi” even if he had heard it as such.

‘I would suggest the following chain of events:

’ Kehu heard the name Ao-Rangi transposed in the Ngai-tahu dialect as Ao-Raki, and recorded it as Hao-Raki. It is possible that Brunner in his original notes recorded the name as Hau-Raki, and later mis-read it as Hau-Rahi.

‘A careful study of Brunner's recording of Maori words indicates that he was by no means a Maori linguist. Otherwise this name might be treated with more respect.'

2 N.E. of the Taramakau.

page 53 children on the southern bank. They are all members of the Wesleyan Church but two, who are of the Church of England.

The natives here preserve the birds they catch during the winter months, when they are in excellent condition, in a rimu or sea-weed bag. They open the bird down the back, and take out all the bones; they then lay the flesh of the bird in a shallow platter made of the bark of the totara tree, which is called a patua, when they cook the bird by applying red-hot stones; they then place the cooked birds in the rimu bag, and pour over them the extracted fat, and tie tightly the mouth of the bag. I have tasted birds kept two years in this manner, and found them very good. They also keep eels and seals in the same way, using whale-oil for their preservation.

page 54

This district used to be noted for its numerous birds—wekas, kakapos, and kiwis—but they are now almost extirpated by the wild dogs.

The seasons are earlier than in Blind Bay, although a degree more south. This is shown by the vegetation. The natives also plant their gardens much sooner. They tell me they have no crop if they plant in December, which is the month usually chosen by the natives in Cook's Straits. Potato planting is a regular feast among the natives here, and all the good things are reserved for and produced on this occasion, the chiefs trying to outdo each other in liberality and profusion. In the present instance, two large ovens of potatoes and fish were cooked and consumed, also a poha of ready-dressed wekas; and in the evening, a stick of tobacco and a basket of cooked potatoes were given to each workman.

There is great taste shown by the natives in the poha, or bag of preserved wekas; and I believe it is always made for a present, for which they expect a return. They very neatly tie the leaves of the raupo, or bulrush, round the poha. It is then placed on a three-legged stool, and mounted with a well and handsomely woven crown, made of feathers of the birds enclosed. The one I saw contained one hundred birds, and was given by Tipia to Ewi, being a present in return for one of moka, or dog-fish. Tipia and party, on presenting the poha, were also fed, or rather gorged, each having a kit of potatoes and taro, a large quantity of the kotiro, or preserved potato, and garnished well with different sorts of fish. The natives appear particularly fond of giving and receiving presents, and I think the first donor gets off the best.

Potato planting requires great labour here. The natives having no axes for felling trees, are obliged to page 55 ascend all the trees and cut off the boughs, and as the timber will not burn, all has to be carried from the ground. There is no supplejack, but there are some very large rata trees, which are worse. The axe I carried was constantly in use, and tended materially to increase their clearings.

In most of the charts of New Zealand, there is laid down, about the middle of this island, a large lake called Lake Kora. No such lake exists, but there is a large mud-flat, or salt-water lake, on the East Coast, near to Port Cooper, and bounding one side of the sheep-run of the Messrs. Deans' Poturingamotu1, which is called by the natives Wiora2, and, having the same pronounciation, I imagine to be the same lake improperly placed.

There are only seven natives living at Paroa—a man, a woman, and five children, of the Wesleyan Church. There are twenty-four natives at Taramakau—men, women, and children. Twenty of these are members of the Church, and four of the Wesleyan connexion. There are only three natives living at Arahura—a man, wife, and one daughter. They are members of the Church. There are four natives living at Okitika—one man, two women, and one child—members of the Church.

The natives tell me there is a lake and a grass plain of some size on the banks of this river, but I am too anxious to proceed to visit them.

In October and November commences the fishing season here—the mutta3, or white-bait, entering the rivers and the tide in great quantities. They are in such shoals that I have seen the dogs standing on the

1 Putaringmotu, Riccarton.

2 Waihora, Lake Ellesmere.

3 Mata, a variety of the inanga.

page 56 banks and lapping them from the stream. The natives take large numbers, which they lay on flax mats, and expose to the sun three or four days; they then pack them tightly, and preserve them in their storehouses for winter use.