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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

Excursion to Tuapeka with Dr. Hector

page 255

Excursion to Tuapeka with Dr. Hector.

As Dr. Hector wished to visit Tuapeka he offered to take me there, and on April 15th, 1864, we started in a two-horse trap driven by him, and on the first night reached Tokomairiro, where we slept. Here I had a chat with an Aberdeen farmer, who spoke depreciatingly of the New Zealand soil as compared with that of Aberdeen. I mentioned to him the opinion of an old Scotch farmer in Nelson, namely, that "what the New Zealand farmers wanted was a shower of rain once a day, and a shower of muck once a week, and then they would go ahead." From the Tokomairiro plain our road now turned inland. We passed the gold diggings at the Woolshed and Waitahuna. At the latter place Dr. Hector pointed out new gold drifts overlying tertiary coal, which contained ozokerite and retinite. From the Round Hill a fine view is obtained over to the sea at the mouth of the Clutha and far to the westward. We reached Tuapeka at 6 p.m.

On April 17th we walked up Gabriel's gully, page 256the place where gold was first discovered in quantity in New Zealand, and which discovery led to the rapid colonisation and great rise of Otago. Strange to say, no such rich spot has been elsewhere found; it is a gully of no great length, but still returns large quantities of gold from the sluicing of the "blue spur." At the saddle at the head of the gully we looked down upon Munroe's gully, a parallel gully to the westward; and in the afternoon we visited Wetherston's gully, a parallel gully to the eastward of Gabriel's. These three gullies formed then, and I suppose they do now, the workable gold-fields of Tuapeka.

On April 18th we drove over the schist ranges to Waipori, visiting the Shetland reef and some other reefs in the neighbourhood. I was not satisfied that these were true reefs; they appeared to me to be more like stratified quartz lying between strata of slate, and likely to thin out. They were very different from Australian reefs.

On April 19th we left Waipori on our return, passing over long ridges under Maungatua, a good deal of quartz lying about. We missed the proper road, taking a line by an old track high up on the Maungatua, and found that we must either retrace our steps, or drive down hill by a very steep and dangerous road. Having decided to try the latter alternative, the breaks were well looked to. Rayer, Dr. Hector's attendant, a very strong, active man, got outside to hang on to that part of the back of the carriage which was for the time uppermost, page 257while I sat well back, keeping the heavy goods, viz., geological specimens, as much to the rear of the carriage as I could. All being ready, Dr. Hector put on the break, whipped up his horses, and down we went at a good trot on a zigzag track, by which we descended 1500 feet in a distance of one mile. Dr. Hector observed the height by aneroid. It was nervous work, but Dr. Hector is a cool and skilful driver. We reached Hooper's at West Taieri, then celebrated for its brew of beer, at 1.30 p.m.

On driving into Dunedin in the afternoon we still encountered some risk, for one of the horses insisted on shying at every covered cart which we met, and they were numerous. As the lower part of the side cutting was on our left, we ran great risk of being carried over the bank, but skilful driving got us clear of all accidents.