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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

A Voyage to Sydney

page 49

A Voyage to Sydney.

Having resolved to revisit Sydney, I took my passage in a barque commanded by one Captain Kyle. Our course lay round Cape Palliser and up the east coast At a place in Hicks' Bay we anchored and took on board about three hundred pigs, which were put into the hold, to accommodate themselves as they best could on the top of the ballast. This was my first experience of a pig ship, and it was far from favourable. For, besides the unpleasantness of the smell, when the ship rolled to leeward, the pigs went over in the same direction and set up a hideous squeaking and grunting; and when the ship rolled both ways with a fair wind, the only difference was that the noise was continuous, instead of intermittent.

Our next port of call was the Bay of Islands, where we anchored at Kororareka. The Bay of Islands possesses the perfection of a mild hothouse climate, and in favourable spots fruits and flowers of temperate and sub-tropical climes grow in profusion. The hills, however, are generally composed of a barren yellow clay, somewhat lumpish page 50and heavy in outline, and therefore not so picturesque as they would be, diversified by the colouring of forest, or even of grass. The stunted fern does not produce a rich colouring.

Governor Hobson had at this time his headquarters in the Bay. I went to visit him, accompanied by Mr. Henry Moreing, a fellow-passenger. Mr. Moreing had lately taken a leading part in a public meeting at Wellington, in which some remarks had been made uncomplimentary to the Governor. On our appearance, the private secretary came out and stated that Governor Hobson would be happy to see me, but that any communication Mr. Moreing might have to make must be in writing. Of course I could not leave my companion, and therefore contented myself with sending in my card. I thus lost the only opportunity I had in New Zealand of seeing Governor Hobson, whom I had known as a smart naval officer on the west coast of South America. I only mention this incident to illustrate the official etiquette of the period. It was probably all right and proper that the Governor under the old system should refuse to see a person who had found fault with his administration; nowadays that would be a chief reason for granting an interview.

The Bay of Islands had for a long time been looked upon as New Zealand. It was the chief port-of-call for whalers, the residence of the British consul, and the head-quarters of Ngapuhi. Other parts of New Zealand were only now beginning to page 51be known. The advent of colonisation, by increasing the price of provisions, and perhaps also by introducing the trammels of law, drove away most of the whalers, and the bay, having little back country to depend upon, fell into comparative insignificance.

From Kororareka we proceeded to Sydney, enlivened in the evening by the vocal powers of worthy Captain Kyle,—a Scotch presbyterian of no rigid type, but who had been so well trained in his youth that he generally sung psalms instead of songs as he paced the deck on duty. His pipe was rarely out of his mouth, and in the darkness of the middle watch one would ever and anon hear his stentorian voice calling out, "Boy, light my pipe!" On our way we had a fine view of "Howe's Island," a high, bold rock.

After some stay in Sydney I returned to Wellington, taking with me horses and cattle. The town was by this time fairly established at what was called Thorndon. Colonel Wakefield had erected a house for himself, which afterwards by additions became the Government House; and many other settlers were housed in a style, if not grand, yet sufficient for comfort. Francis Molesworth had shown the example of clearing the forest at the Hutt, and others followed suit. Although there were troubles at hand and more in store, yet the first enthusiasm had not worn off and the settlers were still full of vigour. The difficult nature of the immediately surrounding country was, however, a great obstacle to rapid progress.