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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 6, Issue 7 (February 1, 1932.)

Pictures of New Zealand Life

page 41

Pictures of New Zealand Life

Wild Horses.

An English baronet, who has been sampling our trout-fishing in the Rotorua-Taupo waters, expressed a wish to get out into the great open spaces mounted on one of the “wild horses” in our backblocks. Whether he attained his wish or not—one hopes he has enjoyed his fill of bucking by this time—it is most pleasing to read of a traveller who has a liking for horseback, in this motor-mad age. Our visitor spent years in the Argentine, which accounts for his tastes. W. H. Hudson and Cunninghame Graham have made us familiar with conditions in the great plains of South America, where everyone is a horseman, and as recorded by the sober economist, Alfred Marshall, even beggers are mounted. It may not be quite so easy to discover wild horses in our back-country to-day; still, they are there. In some parts of the King Country and on the pumice plains to the east of Lake Taupo—the southern end of the Kaingaroa Plain—small mobs of wild or semi-wild horses still rove the fenceless lands. The problem is how to catch one of them for the baronet. The Maoris of the Galatea district, up in the Rangitaiki Valley on the edge of the Urewera Ranges, used to enjoy great sport rounding up the ownerless steeds and lassooing them in a blind gully. It was thrilling work racing after those herds over the tussock and scrub prairie, one of those sports of the open lands that is disappearing with the spread of barbed-wire fences and the afforestation work on the semi-desert backbone of the island.

The Old Coach Days.

Reading the other day a recently published book on the old Cobb and Co. coaching enterprises in Otago and Southland I was impelled to hope that some assiduous collection of data about this phase of our pioneer days will extend the record to Canterbury and Westland and more northern parts. We owed a great deal of the pleasure and safety of travel across and around about the provinces to the well-horsed, well-driven stage coach. One remembers the excellence of Cassidy's coaches on the Otira-Arthur's Pass route, when the railheads were stili fifty or sixty miles from each other. How splendidly those drivers handled their page 42 teams, three in the lead and two on the pole! How smoothly they swept round those seemingly break-neck corners, with what easy swiftness they took the narrow shelf of highway, with the torrent tearing in foam over its rocks far below! They carried thousands of passengers, fair weather and foul, with scarcely ever an accident. “Travel by mail-coach for safety” might well have been said of the old horse-vehicle era, just as you can say it of the railways to-day. One cannot recall anyone boasting that of the motorcars!

Character in Trees.

How human-seeming are some of our native trees, seen under certain conditions. The rata's thug-like habit of strangling its friends and supporters is well known. There is an excellent example of the vampire tree at its fell work to be seen from the railway train just before you reach Tarukenga, on the Rotorua line. It is encircling a rimu tree a few yards from the iron rails, and its powerful lateral fingers seem to be compressing the luckless red-pine's throat. The rata is often to be found growing on and encircling the pukatea, a large and handsome tree with a glossy leaf, and the Maoris say it is the pukatea's lover, a bit of forest romance about which a little song is current in Taranaki.

How tragic are some of those ruined trees, ghosts of the forest, on the edge of a devastated area of bush! One in my mind's eye at the moment is a dead puriri of huge size, in a clearing ragged with the half-burned debris of a cow-paddock in the making. It is bleached white as a bone, its upper branches are gone, but those which remain are pointed like fingers. The ancient tree looks like a gaunt giant hand upthrust from the earth, appealing to heaven for vengeance on the murderers of the green and lovely forest.

(Bird-Song and Summer).

Many a New Zealander has made acquaintance with native birds and their music this summer, despite the ravages of pakeha pests in the bush. Overseas visitors, too, have discovered the richness of our native chimers; for example, an English traveller who heard the tui on Waiheke Island, up in the Hauraki Gulf, pronounced it a sweeter singer than the nightingale. The call of the shining cuckoo, the far-flying pipi-wharauroa, too, has been frequent in every forest and every park and many a garden this summer. There is a peculiar appeal to the Maori ear in the cuckoo's high whistling call, which one cannot mistake for any other bush voice. Many a Maori song has it for its theme. I have just turned up among my bush-lore papers a little song in Maori sent me by the late Hone Heke, M.P. for the Northern Maori, who had a taste for composing and singing waiatas. (Old Parliamentarians will remember the duets of charm with which he and Sir Apirana Ngata used to delight their friends at social gatherings.) This is a translation I have made of a portion of this gladsome ditty from the Ngapuhi country; it begins with the cry of the little messenger of summer as it strikes the Maori ear:

“‘Kui, kui—whitiwhiti ora—Tio-o!’

That cheery piping rings again above me long and clear,

Call of the shining cuckoo, bright herald of the year;

A song of farewell to the old, rejoicing at the new.

‘Shine, shine and live!’ it blithely cries, A song of greeting to the light, a summer-loving cry.

It sends its soul forth with that call, to tree and fern and flower,

Where red glow quiet waters ‘neath the bending pohutukawa.”

Golden Sands.

There is quite a revival of gold-digging activity down on the Westland coast, co-incidently with new interest in prospecting on other auriferous areas, especially the Co-romandel Peninsula. Many of the fossickers are said to be doing quite well, especially since the price for gold has gone up to some £6 an ounce at the banks. The old-time digging takes a more scientific form these days on the olden Golden Coast. Okarito's big dredge puts through great quantities of the heavy beach sand, where thousands of men once toiled with their primitive beachcombing appliances.

page 43

The riverbeds and alluvial flats where once gold was got in tons, over a length of some two hundred miles along the Westland littoral, are being gone over again, often with profit. We could do with any amount of this, heaven knows. Here and there a nice little bag of gold dust; it comes in most timely these precarious days. Good luck to the prospectors north and south—may they all strike new bonanzas!

Mountain Glory.

American tourists in a luxury liner cruising the Pacific recently, voted Fusiyama the most beautiful mountain they had seen, with our Ngauruhoe second. It was evident, of course, that they had not seen Mt. Egmont. Beautiful is scarcely the adjective for Ngauruhoe. Wonderful, symmetrical, conjecture-stirring, but not the beauty of Egmont.

If we confine ourselves to the Tongariro National Park, the northern bastion of the Ruapehu Range, is to my mind, the most beautiful thing in all those mountains. This is the height mapped as Te Heuheu Peak, named after the Chief who gifted the mountain tops to the Crown, and after his famous family line. Perhaps the best place from which to view it is from the Waihohonu
In New Zealand's Northland. (Rly. Publicity photo.) Kaikohe township, near the extreme northern terminal (Okaihau) of the Dominion's railway system.

In New Zealand's Northland.
(Rly. Publicity photo.) Kaikohe township, near the extreme northern terminal (Okaihau) of the Dominion's railway system.

stream and the campers' huts thereabouts, five to six miles from the mountain. From there it is a perfect pyramid in outline, looming considerably larger than the more distant and higher peaks of Ruapehu. Once four of us were camped at the Waihohonu for eight days, under winter conditions, and the sight of Te Heuheu Peak snow-clad from foot to summit, with the glow of sunset lighting up its western slant with rose and gold, while the eastern slope, sharply defined by the leading ridge, was all in cold blue shadow, was one of those pictures that can never be forgotten. Seen through a framing of foliage in the beech bush at Waihohonu, Te Heuheu should be a delight to the artist eye. It is scarcely less shapely and colourful than Egmont, and it is, I think, a little higher.

It Pays to Advertise.”

The Codfish lays a thousand eggs;
The helpful hen but one.
But the codfish doesn't cackle
To tell us what she's done.
And so we scorn the codfish,
And the little hen we prize.
Which indicates to you and me
It pays to advertise.