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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia


page 152


we sat down opposite Topini and related our adventures. The old chief was made after the model of a Hercules, deep-chested, strong-limbed, and with noble, aquiline features; he is one of the finest-looking Maoris in the country. A curious expression of credulity, however, throws an air of weakness over his countenance, and detracts from its otherwise manly expression. We had sat for perhaps a quarter of an hour, when Topini suddenly asked my name. When informed he exclaimed, "Eh! Mr. Kafode, eh! Tenakoe!" and then rubbed noses most affectionately. It turned out that he had known me well at Port Nicholson in the beginning of the year 1840, and had built a house for me. He then went by the name of Mamako, and as I did not know that he had changed his name, I had not thought of my old friend. During the whole of the afternoon, he would return at short intervals from cutting his wheat, shake me most affectionately by the hand, and exclaim, "Eh! Mr. Kafode, eh! Tenakoe!"

Topini gave us to understand that as he was busy harvesting, he could not spare us a canoe for page 153some days; so we had to make the best of it, and remain content with the society of Tapuia Kumera, till he was ready. Our first business was to air blankets and wash clothes. During the evening we heard the usual amount of "yarns," which, however, tended to show the disturbed state of the native mind, We were told that there were 4000 troops at Whanganui and the neighbourhood, that military posts were established all round the coast to Taranaki, that a great many thousand troops were in Auckland, and that war was about to commence; at Rawiri's we had heard similar stories. We were told that at the Waitera all the 65th Regiment were killed except Colonel Wyatt; and they put down our losses there at 1000 men. It appeared that Topini was not allowed to go to Whanganui a short time before, for fear of treachery on the part of the Pakeha. The rocks here appeared of a coal-bearing nature, containing mud-stones and sandstones, with remains of plants, dipping south-west about 20°. The pumice deposits of the river-flats lie against them and upon them.

I met many old friends who recognised me, and of course I was obliged to allow them to suppose that I remembered them. There was a deaf and dumb girl here, quite an exceptional phenomenon among the Maoris. I observed also a tame kaka; these birds are made use of in capturing others. The bird is put on its perch in a tree, a Maori is concealed near it, and snares are laid; a string is fastened to the bird, on pulling page 154which he screams, and this attracts numbers of his friends, and they are caught. In the evening a mob of cattle was brought in. On the morning of February 8th I was visited in my whare by a number of natives, who came in one after the other, shook hands or rubbed noses, and then retired. One lady called Eoro rubbed noses and performed a small tangi. Topini informed me that Pirikauwau* originated the king movement. He represented in a circular that he had been in England and in the English colonies, that he found the native races were always reduced by them to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, and that the only way for the Maoris to save themselves was to elect a king. Deighton pointed out to Topini that this story might be quite true, but that Sir George Grey had offered the Maoris institutions by which they might govern themselves, and that to elect a king without any means of raising a revenue except fines was sure to end in defeat and dissatisfaction. Topini was himself talked of for the crown, but he declined the honour. He had in 1847 claimed payment for Port Nicholson, and commenced the war in the Hutt. I afterwards spoke to Sir George Grey about him, stating that I thought him wavering, and that he might be made friendly. Sir George's reply was, that Topini was the only Maori who had ever deceived him: that when he came to Wellington in 1847, he

* A Maori who had been taken to Germany, and had received an education there.

page 155was told that all that Topini required was a small payment of five or ten pounds; that he gave him the money, and on the following morning he began the war. After this Topini, still under the name of Mamako, fought against us at Whanganui.

During the afternoon a small runanga was held, and a young-man brought before it and asked his intentions with regard to a young lady who had cooked for us at Te Narara Huerau. He declined matrimony, giving as a reason that he did not like the girl well enough. Notwithstanding Tima's refusal to marry, it afterwards appeared that he and Miss Anapumipi had come together at Taumarunui. During the night we heard a great row, and cries proceeding from, Topini's whare. On inquiry it turned out that he was beating his wife. On the morning of Sunday, February 9th, Ria or Leah, the Mrs. Topini in question, did not show face. With reference to the beating of Ria, Mr. Deighton informed me that the women require a beating now and then, otherwise they get impudent and lazy, and are very aggravating when they begin to argue. I was sorry for Ria, notwithstanding, for she was a nice, pleasant-looking, little woman, and must have been very pretty when young.

After breakfast we walked to Taumarunui, about two and a half miles down stream. Here is Ngahuinga, at the confluence of Ongarue with the Whanganui, of which the former is about half the size of the latter. A few miles up, Ongarue receives the waters of Te Ringamotu. The country page 156up the course of Ongarue appears low and open, and the Maoris report that with the exception of one patch of bush, there is open country all the way to Ngaruawahia. I was unable to get a view of Mount Egmont from Tapuia Kumera, but the direction pointed out was about S. 60° W., Ruapehu S. 35° E., Ngauruhoe, S. 55° E. Here, though food is cooked, potatoes are not scraped at a Maori kaianga on Sunday; but a great scraping goes on the Saturday night previous.

I launched the canoe and crossed to the left bank to examine the strata; and found layers of grey sandstone, two or three inches in thickness, separated by soft dark argillaceous shale. The Maoris were busy making paddles; they work very neatly, with an adze made in their own fashion—a handle formed with a knee at an acute angle, and with a flat iron adze blade tied on. Topini and Ria gave us a number of old songs during the evening and various accounts of the tamiwha [sic: taniwha], one of whom we were told overthrew the Wangaehu bridge.

We were constantly told that the Maoris had been victorious at Taranaki; and Ria confirmed this by a dream she had had. It was a superstitious belief among the Maoris that, in time of war, if any one started in sleep to the right, it was an intimation that they had better look out; if they started to the front, it was a sign the enemy was close upon them; but if they started to the left, it did not matter. Considering the complete state of insecurity in which they lived, these superstitions are not to page 157be wondered at We met some men of the Ngati-maniopoto tribe at the village, and it turned out that they were on a trading expedition. Topini was to receive some ammunition from them, and among other articles of barter they were to lead away a bull. The bull had been driven into the stockyard, but the difficulty was how to remove him from the yard to the Ngatimaniopoto country. It was considered that if a ring was placed through his nostrils, with a rope attached, he could then be docilely led. As none of the Maoris were "game" to perform the operation, Mr. Deighton was applied to, and he proceeded to the stockyard—a very fragile erection—where the operation was successfully performed, at the expense of a severe cut to Mr. Deighton, from the inefficiency of the instrument with which he had to perform the operation. However, the ring was inserted in the nostril with a rope attached, when the bull getting angry at the treatment, became fractious. The Maoris who were holding him let go, and he breached the stockyard and escaped to the open ground dragging the rope away with him.

We presented the old woman who had cooked for us with two sticks of tobacco, which she received with frantic delight; and on the morning of February 11th we started at 5.30 A.M. down stream with two canoes. We had only travelled a mile or two when we observed the bull, whose nose had been bored on the previous night, standing in the river in a very excited state,. with a group of Maoris page 158round him. The scene was most picturesque. Several Maoris held the nose-rope, others with spears and sticks tried to drive the brute on shore, while numbers lined the river banks, looking on. All appeared to have a wholesome dread of the bull. The animal was incorrigible, and about 11 A.M. Topini decided upon remaining behind to assist, and sent us on in a canoe with four men, viz., Hori and son, Powaka or Box, Taniora, and Whakarongotahi. As we were starting, an old gentleman requested that some geological specimens which I had collected should be given up. After some altercation a big stone was thrown to him to show to the runanga, and no doubt they were much the wiser. We descended the stream rapidly, carrying the sandstones and shales to a little below where the Otunui falls in on the right bank, and then came to the blue clay. We stopped at Whenuatere at 5 P.M. to dine. Here we got good peaches and a lot of fossils. At the Paparoa rapids we landed, while the canoe was guided below them. These rapids are dangerous. Here the Paparoa river falls in on the right bank over a waterfall.

At 6.30 P.M. we encamped at a place called Kepara, on the left bank of the river, where a party of Maoris had just settled and were clearing bush. A canopy of canvas was spread, under which we lay down to sleep. As during the night it commenced to rain, the Maoris and the does crowded in upon us, and the fleas became unbearable. On the morning of February 12th we started in page break
Bull of Ngatimaniopoto.—Page 158.

Bull of Ngatimaniopoto.Page 158.

page 159the rain, the river rising, and numerous small streams forming waterfalls into the river on both banks. At 10 A.M. we reached Maraikowhai, Topini's chief residence, and got under cover. Here the Ohura, a large stream, descends on the right bank after passing over several low falls. Mr. Deighton informed me that he had ascended the Ohura in a canoe for two days when the stream was deep. There were no falls, and no poling was required; the banks were low and there was a fine country full of game and pigs; thence he proceeded to the Ngatimaniopoto country, and Waipa. The Waipa river when he first came upon it was small but navigable. Between showers I visited the falls of the Ohura. The principal fall is a fine body of water sweeping over a ledge of blue shale at the height of about twenty feet. There is a smaller fall above, and one below. A seam of coal I was told is found here. I did not see it myself, and did not even know of its existence at the time, and the rain being so constant, checked exploration.

We sketched the tombstone (in the form of a canoe) of one Mukere, a woman who had lost her son at Taranaki. Yesterday we passed the grave of Te Oru, the chief who killed Captain Wakefield at the Wairau. It was at Maraikowhai that the great fight between Topini and the Ngatitu commenced. The dispute which originated the war was as to the right of the latter to put up a mill on the Ohura. At that time they occupied a pa on the north bank of the Ohura, within musket shot from page 160Maraikowhai, from whence they opened fire upon Topini's people. They were driven from this, and retreated down stream to Kirikiriroa, where they were attacked by Waiata, then Ria's husband. He was killed, and his party driven off with the loss of six or seven men. The Ngatitu then abandoned Kirikiriroa and built a strong pa at Puketapu, further down stream. This pa was attacked by Topini in person, and reduced by sap, with small loss on either side, many prisoners being taken. Topini went to Whanganui to meet Governor Browne to consult him in regard to the disposal of his prisoners, but unfortunately the governor was taken sick at Taranaki, and was unable to visit Whanganui at that time. What became of the prisoners I forget, but I think most of them were released. From the directions as pointed out by the Maoris, I give the following approximate bearings from Maraikohwai: Ruapehu S. 40° E., Ngauruhoe, S. 60°E., Taranaki S. 65° W.

Grave at Maraikowhai.

Grave at Maraikowhai.

Here we found a half-caste Maori, son of a black man called Charley. Poor little fellow! he was almost naked. His colour and appearance were more negro than Maori, with a good head and short woolly hair. We found the young men at Maraikowhai very "fast" and "slangy," and disposed to be familiar page 161and impudent. I suggested to Mr. Deighton that it micht be as well to stop this; whereupon he gave them such a lecture as had a most improving effect upon them. Soon after dusk Topini arrived and reported that he had failed in persuading the bull to leave the river-bed. What was the ultimate fate of that animal, I never learnt.

We were all in the same whare when he returned; his appearance gave rise to a great deal of talk. About 10 or 11 P.M. I got tired of the palaver, rolled myself up and fell asleep. About 2 or 3 A.M. I woke, but finding the korero* still going on, I asked Deighton what it was all about. "Oh," he said, "it is only a matter of five shillings and sixpence deficiency in the accounts of the treasurer of the runanga." The roar of water was loud during the night, the usual noise of the rush of the Whanganui being increased by the falls of the Ohura. On the morning of February 13th we found the rain had caused a heavy freshet in the river, and in consequence we had to put topsides on the canoe before starting. We got away, however, at 8 A.M., our crew consisting of Tamati and his wife, Ripeka, a tall, strong, useful woman, Taniera, and Hori and son. I found myself covered with fleas, which I had probably brought from Kepara, where, during the rain, Maoris and dogs crowded in upon us. At Maraikowhai we were supplied with tea and sugar for breakfast, from some remains of these articles that had not been used up. The Maoris are as

* Talk.

page 162talkative as Frenchmen, but in a different fashion. A Frenchman converses, a Maori makes a speech, and is replied to by another speech.

There was a fog in the river when we started, with a slight drizzling rain. At 10.15 A.M. we passed Kirikiriroa, a most romantic spot, where the river winds very much. Every hundred yards or so we passed waterfalls falling into either bank, the average breadth of the river being about seventy yards. At 10.30 A.M. Tamati gave his dog a cold potato. This was the first time that I had seen a Maori give a dog food, and I therefore made a note of it. Soon afterwards Tamati gave his dog another potato. A still more striking fact! It is a melancholy sight to see the dogs at a pa, hanging about the fires and the ovens, and with great risk to their toes scratching out a piece of potato skin from the ashes. Ugly, mangy brutes they are, no doubt; but what else could be expected? Many of them are staunch big dogs with good courage, and deserve better treatment.

The number of waterfalls on both banks was now so remarkable that I took the trouble to count them. During one hour we passed one hundred and eight, taking no note of the smaller ones; they were so considerable in many cases as to give us a splashing as we passed. How many of these falls may be permanent, I cannot say; there had been heavy rain, and the water-works at the time were in full play. Merrily we swept down stream, our crew having little to do except to keep the canoe in the page 163right direction. We shot rapids and occasionally paddled down still reaches. Near Puketapu we observed the upper sandstones resting on the blue clay. Here I got fossils of the lower tertiaries.

Puketupu did not prove to be the strong place that I had expected; it is commanded in every direction. I was shown the lines of Topini's sap, but I thought he might have made the Ngatitu clear out without a sap at all. At 12.45 we passed the Tangarakau, falling into the right bank. It is apparently a fine stream, and would seem to take its rise near the sources of the Waitara. We passed an eel weir quite covered by the water, and therefore showing the height of the stream. It is much safer to descend the Whanganui in a freshet than when the river is low, for in that case the canoe is more apt to thump on a boulder to the hazard of splitting the canoe into halves.

Just below Puketapu we met a canoe laden with dogs going on a pig-hunting expedition, and soon afterwards we perceived another canoe toiling up a rapid. In this was Hori te Hai, the Maori of Utapu, who had been the chief obstruction to our ascent of Tangarakau. We saw him in good time, and as we shot past him in the rapid, we threw out a volley of "chaff," which astonished him so much that he nearly lost hold of his pole, and was in danger of being swept down the rapid.

These Maoris live in a state too pleasant and easy to last long. They have few wants and few cares, and pass their time between sleeping and page 164occasional bursts of work and talking. Formerly their continual wars gave them both care and anxiety, but at present they are in too happy a position for this world.*

We passed first a long stretch of cliffs without any visible villages, and then Terarapa on the left bank, and Utapu on the right bank at 3 P.M. Here and at the long reach the upper sandstone comes down to the bed of the river. We stopped at Kahura in the long reach to get peaches, ascending the cliff by a ladder. We were hailed occasionally from the top of the cliffs as we passed along. A hostile force on the river would be entirely at the mercy of an enemy lining the cliffs.

We passed the mouth of Maunganuiateao at 4.30 P.M., and shot the Ngaporo rapids at 5, under a very strong rush of water, with the shingle bank covered. We passed the caves at 5.20, a great body of water coming over the fall, and reached Pipiriki at 6 P.M., when we went to Mr. Booth's house to take tea. Here we found the Rev. R. Taylor on his missionary tour, who gave us the latest English and American news, and also information on many curious things connected with the interior.

We retired at 10 P.M. to sleep in a waata, or storehouse, a roomy place, but so infested with fleas, that although a capital sleeper they beat me on that occasion. I had twice to strike a light and take summary proceedings. Altogether, seventy-

* They have since been decimated by civil war.

page 165eight were slain, after which I obtained some repose.

During a subsequent war Pipiriki was occupied by the Colonial forces. This was a most imprudent military operation, as the safety of the garrison entirely hinged upon the ability of the friendly natives to hold the lower country. The result was not disastrous; but this was the consequence of good luck, not of good management.