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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 2 (June 1, 1933)

Pictures of New Zealand Life

page 45

Pictures of New Zealand Life

Trampers and Climbers.

Bushcraft is a fascinating science of the out-of-doors which will always be needed in such a country as New Zealand. More and more our young people are taking to the hills and the forest for their recreation, and anything that will assist them to obtain the utmost benefit from this health-giving form of pleasuring should be encouraged. Far better that kind of holidaying than knocking about the cities or sitting watching an athletic few toiling at their games. But mountain-climbing and bush-roving, while providing glorious exercise and change of scene and air and developing powers of endurance, are full of peril and trouble for the inexperienced and the incautious. The young men and women from the towns who take to the mountains with their camp gear for a brief outing are apt to underrate the possible difficulties and misadventures. From my observation, most of them are quite inadequately equipped for the work, at any rate those who undertake mountain expeditions. You will not see even the seasoned bushman, the sheep musterer, the cattle hunter, or the veteran deer stalker go into the ranges so meagrely clothed, for one thing, as most of the youngsters of both sexes who sally out light-heartedly from the city officers and colleges and schools for a quick-travel excursion into the rough high country.

Costume and Swag.

“Travel light” is an excellent maxim of the bush trial if it is rightly applied. But it is quite misconstrued by many of these enthusiastic young trampers. They set out into mountains where cold and stormy weather is always likely in ridiculous shorts, unsuitable boots, flimsy upper garments, and at the same time load themselves up with an excess of camp gear. It may be that they imagine this is likely to make them hardy. Probably that is the idea which prompts some of the young women trampers to emulate their boy friends and reduce their clothes to the minimum, until they look better prepared for a swimming race than for a hill excursion. One has seen some strange spectacles at the week-ends.

One figure, a typical one, would make an excellent subject for Mr. Ken Alexander's pencil. It consisted, as seen from the rear, of a very large swag, a pikau of quite amazing proportions, surmounting a pair of thin bare legs, short socks and low shoes. If the pikau-bearer wore shorts they were certainly not visible. One would not have known what the other side of the pikau looked like had not the bearer thereof turned round, and then it became fairly obvious that it was a girl. Her perspiring face expressed grim determination to conquer the Orongorongo Ranges or the Tararuas, or whatever else Providence might put in her path. She wore a low-cut blouse of some unsubstantial material. She was plucky, enthusiastic no end, but one wished for courage to give her some friendly counsel about what to wear and what not to carry on a mountain climb.

For Bush and Mountain.

Some of our ambitious young amateur mountaineers get out from the towns wearing little more than the much-photographed costume of Mr. Gandhi. Even a Maori warrior on the tomahawk path would have displayed more judgment in the matter of clothing if he were going into the hill country. Shorts and thin singlets and that sort of thing are well enough for brief tramps across the lower lands, in the middle of summer; but higher country and lower temperatures call for more rational clothes. Long experience in many parts of New Zealand, in bush and mountain land, has convinced me that the page 46 knickerbockers and long stockings costume is the most comfortable and the most suitable for rough country and possible rough weather.

In such regions as the Urewera Country, in the days before roads and bridges, I found that the best place for trousers was in the swag, there was so much river crossing to be done. But that lack of covering to be done. But that lack of covering would not do for, say, the Fiordland National Park. “Tenderfoot” travellers have been known to wear shorts, a rig right enough for the running track or the tennis lawn or the football field, for the walk from Lake Te Anau across McKinnon's Pass to Milford Sound. They were literally tenderlegs, very tender, by the time the sandflies and mosquitoes had finished with them. Large areas of exposed skin are a sad mistake in Fiordland.

The Old Campaigners.

I do not think a better all-weathers costume could be devised for bush and ranges than the uniform my old friend Captain Gilbert Mair used to wear on his fighting expeditions in the Urewera Country and other war-troubled regions in the Hauhau War days. It consisted of knickerbockers and thick woollen stockings, a light shawl belted round the waist, woollen shirt and uniform jacket. The shawl, worn kilt-wise, was a protection in pressing through thick bush, and a comfort at night, with the blanket. Many pakeha bush - fighters, surveyors and others adopted the Maori and Highland kilt fashion, but Maori found by long and hard experience that his additions to the costume made it a perfect dress for all purposes of marching and fighting in a wild land.

I knew a hard old scout, the late Steve Adamson—one of a family of four big hard-case brothers—who went through Whitmore's campaign in the Urewera Country attired only in a pair of trousers cut off just below the knees, and a woollen shirt. He marched barefooted, like his brother Tom with him and Tom wore very little more. They were more concerned about their carbines and revolvers and their loads of ammunition than about their uniforms. But it is not many men who could travel with as much indifference to the weather and the rough country as those tough scouts of the old brigade.

Strong Diet.

Our friend the Maori, for all his acquired pakeha tastes, still relishes his bit of shark. On some of the beaches where Maori land goes down to the sea, long lines of shark suspended to dry in the sun on occasions diffuse a fragrance pleasing to the nostrils of all but the finicky paleface. One of the most favoured haunts of shark and shark-fisher is Ohiwa Harbour, in the southernmost sweep of the Bay of Plenty. The main road from Whakatane and the rail-head at Taneatua to Opotiki skirts the well-sunned well-sheltered shores of this fish-swarming harbour at Kutarere. The Maoris say that the inner shore of Owhakena Island, covering the entrance to the wide shallow bay, is the chief breeding ground of the sharks. Here are to be found the kapetau, the ururoa or long-head, and the mangopare or hammerhead, the three varieties of shark greatly desired for food. The mako-taniwha, the fighting shark which sporting fishermen find such a frolicsome foe, appears to keep more to the outer waters of the bay.

There is a large Maori village at Wainui, on the Ohiwa shore, and here come the Urewera people and their kin for their annual fishing expeditions, for a grand feast and a supply of dried fish for the winter. One year I was down that way there was a catch of about four thousand sharks, made by the full force of the tribe out in boats and canoes. Rakuraku, a grim old tattooed chief of the past generation, and his tall lean warrior brother Netana, were particularly keen on organising these expeditions, a glorious combination of pleasure and food-getting.

page 47

The “Go-ashore.”

The good old three-legged pot is still the most-used cooking utensil in many a Maori camp. I have never seen so many of these “go-ashores” in a native village as in a certain large but little-known kainga in the King Country, called Aotearoa—the famous name also of the whole island. Aotearoa is the headquarters village of the King Country section of the Ngati-Raukawa tribe. Those pots, there were dozens of them, scores, I think, in the large cooking-sheds, under the fruit trees of that beautifully situated but much run-to-seed old settlement, facing the rising sun. Curious word, “go-ashore,” and often ridiculously misconstrued. A popular version among pakeha old hands was that Captain Cook gave a three-legged pot to a Maori, and pointing to the beach, said “Go ashore,” hence the name. As with many another scrap of beachcombing lore, the facts are otherwise.

“Kohua,” the Maori term for the pot that replaced the earth-oven in many a kainga, is a genuine native word, meaning originally the method of heating water, or cooking food, by means of red-hot stones in a wooden vessel. The term was naturally
(Rly Publicity photo.) The Department's up-to-date workshops at Addington, South Island.

(Rly Publicity photo.)
The Department's up-to-date workshops at Addington, South Island.

transferred to the convenient pakeha pot when it reached the home of the Maori. Naturally, also, the whaler and the sailor and the trader, when they heard the New Zealander call the new household treasure a “kohua,” corrupted it to an expression they could get their tongues round and remember, hence “goashore.”

And “Copper Maori.”

Another popular bit of pidgin-Maori is the expression frequently seen in newspapers, and even in books, “kapa Maori,” for an earth-oven, the steam-cooking haangi or umu. “Kapa” here is not a Maori word, it is really “copper.” The expression originated with early-days pakeha sailors, who transferred the word from the boiler in the ship's cooking-galley to the native kainga. So the haangi became the “Maori coppers” and presently was turned about to “copper Maori,” and the Maori hearing this promptly made it “kapa,” which pakehas and even some of the younger generation of the native race imagine is the Maori term for the earth-oven. So persists the beachcomber word of old.

page 48