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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

First Arrival in New Zealand

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First Arrival in New Zealand.

It was about the month of October 1839 when I arrived in Sydney, and I was not long there when, having heard of the proceedings of the New Zealand Company, I. resolved to visit New Zealand, and from ocular inspection ascertain what sort of country it was. At that remote period steam-navigation was little known, even in the oldest settled colonies of Australia, and it was only by a chance trader that I could obtain the passage I contemplated. Consulting the columns of the "Sydney Morning Herald," I found that the "well-known fast-sailing schooner, 'Success,'" was advertised to sail; and as it did not appear likely that any better vessel would be laid on, I took my passage in her for Port Nicholson.

On inspecting the schooner I found that there was no proper cabin, but that the hold had been temporarily fitted up with bunks on each side, and altogether that the "Success" did not appear very likely to make a pleasant, even if she did make a successful voyage; nevertheless, reconciling my mind to the discomfort of a week or two, I embarked.

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Miramar, Hataitai Peninsula, Wellington.—Page 24.

Miramar, Hataitai Peninsula, Wellington.Page 24.

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My fellow-passengers consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tod of South Australia, Dr. Taylor, now a veteran settler of Wellington, Mr. Rea, Mr. Robert Jenkins, and one or two others. From Sydney to the west coast of New Zealand we had a favourable run, and rising early one morning I had the pleasure of seeing the magnificent cone of Mount Egniont towering above the clouds. It is a mountain of which any country may be proud. I have never seen a finer cone. Nearly three times as high as Vesuvius, it slopes down into plains of equal fertility to those which surround the Neapolitan mountain.

As the day advanced, a strong north-wester swept us rapidly through the Straits; and as it increased towards the afternoon, it was determined to run to Kapiti for shelter. We anchored at the northern roadstead, and I landed at the whaling station. Being unable to get on board again that evening, I took a stroll through the Maori gardens and the settlement, and then found shelter in one of the whaler's houses, where, while the rest of the household occupied some bunks in another part of the room, I passed the night sleeping on a table. Never being particular as to sleeping accommodation, if I could not procure it comfortable, I managed to sleep well enough. I rose early, bathed in the stream, and afterwards embarked.

A large schooner was lying near us, whose name I forget, commanded by Captain Munn. He offered to take me to "Mana," from which island I could pro-page 26ceed to the mainland and walk over to Port Nicholson, while the "Success" went there by Cape Terawiti. I accepted the offer, and we had a rapid though a noisy run, for the schooner, being built of cedar, creaked and groaned loudly all the way. Anchored at Mana, I landed after dark with Captain Munn, and visited the Messrs. Fraser, who then had a whaling station on the island. They received us hospitably, that is to say, they gave us a glass of grog. In the corner of the room sat a large Maori, wrapped in his mat. He listened to the conversation, but said nothing. At last, as if displeased, he uttered a hideous and prolonged grunt and rose to his feet;—I was struck with his height and imposing, although savage, appearance;—he grunted again and walked out of the room without speaking. This was Rangihaeata, the great follower or coadjutor of Te Rauparaha—the Ajax of his tribe, as the other was the Ulysses. Both of them were well known there, and were connected with melancholy occurrences afterwards, the Wairau massacre and the war that followed. The Island of Mana offers a striking contrast to the bold mass of Kapiti, consisting as it does of table-land, while Kapiti is mostly mountainous. Miniature analogues of them may be seen in Wellington Harbour, in Somes' and Ward's Islands; all of them, however, are composed geologically of similar sandstone and slates.

From Mana I was conveyed in a boat to the mainland, and I landed at Korohewa with Hugh Sinclair, who was in my service at that time. I was page 27received by an old and well-known whaler, called Shearer, in whose house I found accommodation. On proposing to walk over to Port Nicholson the following day, I was at once informed that in New Zealand matters were not to be arranged in that offhand fashion, and that if I attempted to pass Porirua without a proper understanding, I should probably be returned on their hands minus my clothes, in puris naturalibus. It was therefore necessary to propitiate the Porirua tribes by engaging guides from them; and this matter being amicably arranged after some bargaining, an early start was made a day or two after.

The party consisted of the guides carrying potatoes, Mr. Thomas Wilson, Hugh Sinclair, and myself. Passing Titahi Bay, and the pretty shores of Porirua, we entered the main bush and travelled up the stream, in a line with whose course the present road stretches. We crossed and re-crossed the stream about seventy times, until at length the path ascended and led us over the summit of the range overlooking the Korokoro. The whole distance traversed, with the exception of some few patches of cultivation at Porirua, was through dense and uncleared forest. When I looked down upon the broad waters of Whanganuiatera,* or Port Nicholson, I thought I had never seen a finer sheet of water anywhere, and we seated ourselves for a few minutes to enjoy the page 28view. Bright sunshine gleamed, reflected from the waters, which were dotted with canoes engaged in fishing. The Hutt valley presented a dense forest of gigantic trees, and a large pa (village) was visible at Pitone. As we descended the hill, our advance was hindered by a mass of newly-felled forest, which was cleared and ready for burning off. Our escort now commenced firing guns to attract the attention of the fishermen; and as we descended the hill the canoes approached the shore, so that when we reached it, they were there to meet us.

A fine-looking chief was the first to receive us. This was Wharepouri, the fighting chief of Nga-tiawa, a great warrior, but very noisy and boastful. Tom Wilson acted as interpreter and informed Wharepouri who we were; whereupon that chief rubbed noses with me. After a few minutes' conversation, we were invited into his canoe, a very fine one, and in it we proceeded to Pitone. Here we were seated in the pa, holding conversation with Te Puni, Wharepouri, and others, while food was being cooked for us. At length we were served with fish and potatoes done in the Maori oven, which is the best mode of cooking these articles of consumption. Several of Te Puni's family were present, such as "Henare Puni," "Eino," &c., all of whom are now elderly people. The conversation turned chiefly upon local politics. There was great excitement; Te Rauparaha had made an attack on Waikanae, and Ngatiawa had rallied for its defence, a large force coming over from Queen Charlotte's page 29Sound. A truce, or suspension of hostilities, had been agreed to, but men's minds were still excited.

Having finished our dinner, Wharepouri asked me for "utu" (payment). I referred to Tom Wilson for information as to the recompense required. He suggested one or two sticks of tobacco, which being handed over, we were provided with a canoe to take us to Ngahauranga, where, with the exception of one Robinson, who was with the Maoris at the Hutt, the only Englishman then living near the harbour resided.

A strong north-wester had sprung up with showers of rain, and we had an enlivening sail to Ngahauranga. This valley, or gorge, was then extremely pretty. There was a pa with some cultivations cut out of the bush, but beyond that was the virgin forest. The stream was then unpolluted by masses of shingle, and flowed steadily.

The house we arrived at was a pretty one, and belonged to an Englishman of the name of Smith. It was built of the reed-like stems of toe-toe, stood close to the stream, and was sheltered by a growth of indigenous bushes. During the night the murmur of the stream was pleasant to the ear. Smith informed us that Colonel Wakefield, who had lately visited Port Nicholson in the "Tory," and had purchased the land, had left him in charge during the absence of the "Tory" in the north.

* I have since learned that this name is of more local application, and really applies only to a spring of water on the Hataitai peninsula, a locality from whence the South Island was largely peopled.