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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

A Ride from Wellington to the Manawatu

page 52

A Ride from Wellington to the Manawatu.

In December 1840 I wished to visit Mr. Francis Molesworth, and as he had gone to the Mana-watu with Colonel Wakefield and a large party of settlers, I mounted my horse and proceeded towards that river, accompanied by Mr. Brewer, a solicitor of Wellington. The Porirua road had not then been commenced, so we went by a Maori track which left the harbour at Kaiwhara-whara. As in Spanish countries, where roads are seldom constructed, the tread of horses had converted the path into a succession of holes, and in damp places these holes were puddles.

Arrived at Porirua we crossed the harbour not far from the "Heads," our horses being towed across; and there we remained for the night. Our house of accommodation was of a very rude description, and the sleeping places were bunks made of kareau, or supple-jack. I had no sooner retired to rest than I found my bed swarming with rats; and I had in consequence to procure a stick and page 53defend myself as I best could. Sleep in such circumstances was not easy; but after a time the plague abated, and I obtained some repose before morning. Porirua was a whaling station, and perhaps the blubber attracted the rats.

On the following morning we rode through the Pukerua bush, and descended on the coast further
Ferry at Cook's, Manawatu, now Foxton.

Ferry at Cook's, Manawatu, now Foxton.

south than the line of the present road. Arrived at the Waikanae river, we found the tide up, and the appearance presented that of a broad sheet of water, with no Maoris in sight to tell us where to cross. We took to the river, however, and I was leading. When about half-way across, and my horse page 54swimming, I heard cries behind me. Looking back I saw that Mr. Brewer's horse had turned on one side, which horses will sometimes do in swimming. I felt perplexed what to do, the more so that I knew Mr. Brewer could not swim. As my own situation was perilous, after a moment's consideration I resolved to continue on to the opposite shore, and then see what could be done. When I reached land, I found that Mr. Brewer had managed to get back to the bank from which we started, and was all safe. Going up the bank for some distance he fell in with some Maoris, who got his horse across higher up.

When we reached the Manawatu we found that Colonel Wakefield was up the river at a place very nearly opposite Moutoa. Here there was a great gathering of Maoris and Pakehas. The scene was very picturesque. There were river, bush, and cultivations, Maori wharves and temporary sheds. Some very fine-looking Maoris, both male and female, and the Pakehas, with their horses, in their riding-costume, formed a striking contrast. The day was fine, and everything looked bright. As evening approached, however, the pleasure was gone: a cloud of mosquitoes swarmed over the land, so dense and so tormenting as to drive us half crazy. I have seen mosquitoes in many parts of both the torrid and the temperate zones, but those of Manawatu far exceeded any I have seen elsewhere for number, if not fierceness. They are large, black and sluggish. As settlement advances, page 55swamps are drained, and decayed or decaying vegetation burnt off, they are sure to decrease; but in 1846 they were unbearable. The next morning we were glad to start for Wellington, Colonel Wakefield having concluded his purchase, which, however, bore no fruit for many a long year.

I rode away with Francis Molesworth and Mr. Brewer. We slept at Waikanae and examined Watanui's famous carving there. The following day was magnificent, and the air balmy as we rode along the beach; but just as we crowned the ridge dividing Porirua from Wellington we encountered a furious south-easter, which blew a cold rain into our faces. We descended the hill above Kaiwhara-whara with numbed fingers, and were glad to reach Wellington and a fireside.