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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

A Visit to Lake Coleridge

page 229

A Visit to Lake Coleridge.

A ride over the Canterbury Plains from Christ-church, with an imperceptible rise, brought me to Mr. Ross's station near the slopes of the hills, where I passed the night. On the following day, keeping the hills on my right hand, I reached the left bank of the Rakaia, and spent some time in gazing on the wild scene of ruin and desolation in the wide bed of that river. The hills which I had skirted are extremely interesting geologically, containing palaeozoic rocks, and also sandstones and coal-beds, probably both of mesozoic and tertiary age. A large outcrop of intrusive trappean rocks also appears. Turning to the river one looks down over a high cliff, where the gravels rest upon tertiary rocks, upon the discoloured snow-water of the Rakaia, sprawling in numerous channels through beds of gravel; turning our eyes up stream to the westward, the great river-bed is visible for a long distance, until the horizon is shut in by the very high mountains of the main range; on the left hand high ranges of crumbling slates rise from the right bank of the river; to the eastward all is plain.

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Entering the gorge of the river, the road leads chiefly over a terrace, rough, stony, and irregular, until it reaches Mr. Oakden's station, near Lake Coleridge. Here I slept, and the next morning went to visit the lake. It is very pretty, but inferior to many of the Otago lakes. It is long and narrow, lying parallel to the course of the Rakaia, but separated from the river by a range of some height, with an outlet at the upper or western part Thus a fence of about two miles, I think, from the lower end of the lake to the river, makes a close paddock of the sheep run. The waves were washing gently on a gravel beach at the point to which I descended, the banks were fringed with shrubs, and some patches of black birch clung to the sides of the hills. A fine promontory is seen to project into the northern side of the lake, and the pass was pointed out to me which leads to the upper Waimakariri.

Turning my back on Lake Coleridge, I returned by the way that I came to Mr. Ross's; and on the following day he kindly accompanied me to see a coal-mine on the slope of the Malvern Hills. We found two men at work sinking on a seam of coal which, to the best of my recollection, dipped at an angle of perhaps 20° to 30°. Thence we rode across the plains to the banks of the Waimakariri, at the point where the waters of that river take leave of their rocky bed, and the river takes to a shingle bed and a shifting course. It is a fine view, and there is a great amount of plain, but the elevation must be considerable.

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I happened soon afterwards to ride up to visit Dr. Haast at the Kowai stream, a tributary of the Waimakariri, some miles farther west, the distance being about forty miles from Christchurch. Dr. Haast was then putting in a drive to prove a coal-seam. In the evening we discussed the height of the Teremakau saddle. This led to a question as to what height we were at the time. I had ridden from Christchurch without passing a hill of any kind, and with only an imperceptible rise. I suggested 700 or 800 feet. "Ah!" said Dr. Haast, "it is over 1400 feet by several aneroid observations." At the gorge of the Waimakariri I took leave of Mr. Ross, and returned to Christchurch.