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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

A Walk to the Wairarapa

page 82

A Walk to the Wairarapa.

In 1847 I started on foot with Mr. (now Sir Charles) Clifford and Mr. Stafford for the Wairarapa, in which district there were then very few settlers. The first afternoon brought us to Mr. Petre's house at the Hutt, where we slept. On the next morning our road led along the beach. It may help to show the difficulties of carriage in those days, when I state that Mr. Hammond, who was then in the service of Mr. Clifford, went with us carrying a sack of flour on his back for the use of the station in the Wairarapa. The next night we slept at Orongorongo, a station then managed by an old servant of mine, Mr. Gillies, who kindly lent me a horse on which to pursue my journey the following day.

Arrived at the Mukamuka rocks, we found the tide rather high, and got somewhat wet with the waves. There was indeed some risk of being washed off one's legs, and we had to make a rush to get past the worst part. Continuing our journey, we reached the Wairarapa Hotel, the only one in the valley, rather late in the evening. It was not a page 83building of any size or architectural pretensions, and consisted of one or at most two apartments. The walls were of wattle and daub, and the roof of thatch. It was called the "Sow and Spuds," and was kept by a Pakeha, familiarly known as Maori Jim, and the fare was, I suppose, invariably pork and potatoes. We had a roaring fire, however, and passed a jolly evening.

The next day we reached Clifford and Weld's station on the Wharekaka plains; stopping at M'Master's, on our way, where we found Mr. Weld. Leaving my companion behind me, I went on to Mr. Bidwill's station, a little higher up on the opposite bank of the "Ruamahunga." Mr. Bidwill had a new house in progress on a small hill, but at that time he lived in a small one on the flat below. The mosquitoes were so bad during the night that we were driven to take refuge in the new house, in the hope that the greater elevation and more airy situation might mitigate the pest. In this we were not altogether disappointed; anyhow, we managed to get some sleep. There were not then the beautiful paddocks and the fine flocks and herds at Bidwill's which we find now; but the bush was lovely, probably finer than it ever will be again. Returning down the valley, I picked up my companions at Wharekaka on the way to the "Sow and Spuds." I was much struck in the journey back with Mr. Stafford's memory of places and things on the road. I flatter myself that I have a good bump of locality, and I don't think I ever fairly lost my way in day-page 84light, but Mr. Stafford seemed to remember everything, flax-bush or cabbage-tree, that we had passed. It was after dark when we reached the "Sow and Spuds," and we had some difficulty in keeping the path, although we saw the lights and heard the dogs barking. However, we passed another night there, and reached Wellington without further incident. At this time Mr. Bidwill's station was the highest in the valley, and I think I have enumerated the names of all the settlers. There was, I think, a whaling station at Te Kopi, and Mr. Barton had formed his station at the White Rock, but the future sites of "Featherston," "Greytown," and "Masterton," were in a country which was then a terra incognita. The road over the "Rimutaka" had not been thought of, and the only modes of communication were by the beach or by coasters to Te Kopi in Palliser Bay.