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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

A Journey from the Upper Hutt to Waikanae

page 183

A Journey from the Upper Hutt to Waikanae.

On January 1st, 1863, I started with Mr. David, Mr. Ewen of Belmont, and two men whose names respectively were Parsons and Lowe, from Brown's Hotel at the Upper Hutt, to force our way through the bush to the west coast. We set out at 1 P.M., crossed the Hutt river, and walked up to the junction of the Hakatarewaha, a considerable stream which falls into the Hutt river at the western curve of a big bend of that stream. Here we encamped for the night on the gravel bed of the river, and set lines for eels.

On January 2d we found no eels on our lines, so had to do without fish for breakfast. We found the Hakatarewaha to be at the junction a river about one-third the size of the Hutt.*

The hills came close upon the Hakatarewaha at this junction, forming a gorge, over which we had to scramble, ascending to a considerable height

* Is it not to be regretted that the by no means euphonious name of Hutt should have been substituted for the soft-flowing, native name Haeretaonga?

page 184through a forest of black and white birch (more correctly fagus or beech), hinau and rimu, the ground carpeted with kidney-leaved ferns. About 10.30 A.M. we entered a valley with good flats on both sides. The trees changed to totara, matai, rimu, &c.; and rata was in bloom on the hills. At 1.45 P.M. a large stream came in from due west, and here there was a good deal of level land; we observed wild cattle. During the afternoon we contended with the second gorge, wading the river constantly. We saw numbers of whio,* or blue ducks.

On January 3rd we started in a drizzling rain, passing over terraces and flats of considerable extent. Our ascent was gradual but considerable, and we found gravel terraces at a height of 750 feet. During the afternoon we came to the third gorge, and we encamped for the night in a limited gravel bed in the channel of the stream, the surrounding land offering no other level space.

On January 4th the rain had cleared off, and we abandoned the bed of the stream, now contracted to a mere mountain torrent, and took to the hills, the crossing of which we found to be a very difficult enterprise. We were alternately ascending and descending steep, wooded ridges of a very considerable elevation. At length we descended to the westward; and after a long search for a spot sufficiently level to lie down upon, we camped almost in the water

* These ducks are chiefly found towards the sources of the rivers. They have a short flight, but are very active in scrambling among the rocks.

page 185of a small stream, a tributary of the Waikanae. This side of the range was so damp from exposure to the westerly rain, that we found great difficulty in getting any wood to burn. The fallen wood was rotten and sodden with moisture, and there was much moss on the ground and on the trees; strange to say, the mosquitoes were even worse at a height of 1600 feet than in the valley below. The timber we had passed through during the day consisted of red,* black, and white birch, hinau, kahikatea, rimu, miro, toro, rata, tawa, &c.
On January 5th we started at 7 A.M., proceeding down a narrow defile and walking in the bed of the stream, much interrupted by fallen wood. At 10 A.M. we struck upon the main course of the Waikanae, into which our stream fell on the left bank. The Waikanae comes from the north, apparently through a valley of some extent, perhaps 1500 acres. The Waikanae at this junction is about three-fourths the size of the Hutt river. We now found cattle and pigs, and thistles had invaded the valley. There were also many small fish in the river, while in the Hakatarewaha we saw only one very little fish. At 2 P.M., to our great relief, we emerged upon the flat country of the coast. We found some difficulty in getting clear of the bush and swamps; but at length we came upon a Maori village, the natives busy hoeing potatoes. Among these were Waitako's wife and

* These are evergreen fagi. Almost all the trees in New Zealand are evergreen—one exception being a tree fuchsia, which reaches a height of twenty feet or more.

page 186step-daughter, the latter a half-caste. A great tangi was going on, and we observed a large new runanga house in course of erection. At 4 P.M. we reached Knocks' Hotel, near the shore, and were glad to enjoy its comparative luxury for one night at least.

Our road, geologically speaking, had led entirely over sandstones and slates similar to those around Wellington, until we emerged upon the alluvium and sand near the coast.

On my return to Wellington I walked through from Pauatahanui to the Hutt by what is called Beetham's line. It is a line taken for the greater part straight, like a Roman road, consequently forms a constant ascent and descent, and is a most fatiguing walk.

I reached the Hutt too late for the coach, and was unable to procure any other conveyance. I therefore set out to walk into town; luckily a kind Samaritan picked me up and deposited me at my house, where I arrived in a very ragged condition, my clothes torn to pieces, struggling through the bush.