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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]

Scenery and Tourist Routes

Scenery and Tourist Routes.

One of the most attractive features of these colonies is the picturesque scenery, which, in infinite variety, is distributed throughout the islands. In this respect Taranaki is, perhaps, less favoured than some other provincial districts. There is still a good deal of native bush; and the river scenery on the upper reaches of the Wanganui is remarkable for its wild and varied beauty. But, strictly, the Wanganui belongs to the Wellington district, and the Mokau, which is hardly inferior, in some respects, to “the New Zealand Rhine,” is as yet little known to tourists. Incomparably the most striking feature of Taranaki scenery is Mount Egmont, which is now rapidly becoming recognised as one of the natural goals for the tourists who come here in search of the picturesque.

An area of 72,565 acres, measuring six miles on every side from the summit of Mount Egmont, was originally set apart as a forest reserve. page 40 To this has now been aded 1,040 acres on the lower slopes of the Pouakai Range, with an additional 5,500 acres on the Patea Range, making a total of about 79,000 acres, which has now, by Act of Parliament, been set apart as the Egmont National Park, the internal affairs of which are administered by a partly elected and partly nominated Board of ten members. About three miles within the reserve the forest begins to get stunted, and at four and a half miles it gives place to low, wiry scrub, which ceases at five miles, or an elevation of about 4,000 feet. At 5,000 feet the moss ends; beyond that point, to the summit, the mountain is composed of loose scoria and lava.

Government Steamer Off Opunake.

Government Steamer Off Opunake.

A comfortable house, known as the Egmont Mountain-house, has been built at an elevation of 3,200 feet on the northern face of the mountain, at a distance of twenty miles from New Plymouth by the Junction and Egmont Roads. Eighteen miles can be driven over, and the remaining two ridden. This house is maintained by the Egmont National Park Board, and is open for the accommodation of visitors from about the 20th of December to the middle or end of April in each year. The keeper acts as guide also. The time usually occupied in the ascent from the house is from three to four hours for men, and four to six hours for ladies. There are two women's rooms at one end of the house, and two men's at the other, with a large common living and dining room in the centre. Visitors have now the option of being supplied with meals at a cost of one shilling and sixpence each, or they may provide and cook their own food. Horse feeds are one shilling and sixpence each; paddocking is sixpence daily, or two shillings and sixpence a week. A small charge is made to visitors of one shilling per night for the use of the house, or five shillings per week throughout the visit. In addition to the mountain-house, the Board has erected a cottage of three rooms, comprising two bedrooms (fitted with four bunks each), and one living room in between. This cottage is intended for renting by the week to family parties, only one such party occupying it at a time, and the minimum charge per week is two pounds sterling for a party of four adults; over that number and up to eight (the limit allowed), seven shillings and sixpence each per week; children over five and under twelve years, half rates. The cottage is not let to any one party for a longer period than two weeks while there are other applicants. The Board provides cooking and other utensils, firewood, and water, also mattresses and pillows. The caretaker at the mountain-house keeps a small stock of the principal lines of food usually wanted for sale to visitors. The cottage is within sixty or seventy yards of the mountain-house, and in charge of the same caretaker, but parties desirous of renting it should communicate with the Honorary Secretary to the committee for the northern division of Egmont National Park, New Plymouth, giving dates between which they require it. These applications are booked in order of priority of receipt, after a notification that offers will be received, usually in the early part of December. The cottage is opened and closed on the same dates as the mountain-house. The guide's fee for the mountain is £1 per party. The average for the season is 1,500 visitors, who remain from one or two days to as many weeks.

The view from the top is superb, and includes the volcanic cones of Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, and Tongariro, the whole of Taranaki, and a considerable portion of the Auckland and Wellington districts; and also across Cook Strait to the mountains of Marlborough and Nelson, in the Middle Island. In fine weather, when the snow is off, the mountain can be ascended without risk. The mountain can also be ascended easily from the Stratford side, and the return journey occupies about thirteen hours, including stoppages. Tourists can ride over the first eleven miles to the Pembroke Road Mountain-house (three rooms), above the bushline; altitude, 3,720 feet; time occupied, about two hours and a-half. A new two-roomed cottage has been erected, and is now in use. Here the horses are left, and the remaining climb has to be done on loot; time required for a fair walker, three hours, although, in coming down, the distance can be done in two hours. Three or four hundred persons visit the mountain by this route during the season. Good hotel accommodation, a guide, and horses, can be obtained in Stratford. Provisions are kept on reasonable terms by the caretaker at page 41 the house. The return trip can be varied by visiting Dawson's Falls and Kendall's Cascade, or by a run across to the Egmont Mountain-house. Those who do not care to attempt the summit will be amply repaid by the pleasure of the ride through the forest, and by the magnificent views to be obtained from the house. The houses have sleeping accommodation for about thirty persons.

Another route coming into favour is from Hawera or Eltham, via Manaia or Kaponga, and Dawson's Falls. At the latter place a comfortable shelter house, capable of accommodating over forty people, has been erected, and is known as the Falls Mountain-house (altitude, 2,900 feet). This house, which is close to the Falls (sixty-five feet), is within an easy ride of Kaponga. During the season the house is in charge of a caretaker and food, horse feed and paddocking can be obtained. Sometimes 1,500 persons visit the Falls and mountain by this route, during the season.

A comfortable three-roomed cottage has been erected in connection with the Falls Mountain-house. Water is obtained from the adjoining creek by means of a ram. The ascent from the house to the summit of Mount Egmont occupies from four to six hours' climbing at a moderate pace, and, naturally, the time is in accordance with the strength and composition of a party. From the top, the tourist can, instead of returning by the same route, drop down to the mountain-house on the north, or New Plymouth side, of the mountain. The walk would not occupy over two hours of easy walking, or he could go out, via Stratford. Recently, a track has been partly made from the western side of the mountain, to enable tourists to ascend, via Rahotu. A small accommodation-house has been erected, thirty-two feet by fourteen feet; it has a general room and two sleeping-rooms, each containing twelve bunks. Tables, forms, and utensils have also been provided.

This description of the Mount Egmont trip—adapted from the New Zealand Official Year Book—may fitly close this brief sketch of the growth and development of Taranaki, from the earliest period of colonisation, to the present day.