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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 5 (August 1, 1934)

A Mountain of the Antipodes

page 34

A Mountain of the Antipodes

(Govt. Publicity Photo) Mt. Egmont (8,260ft.) North Island, New Zealand.

(Govt. Publicity Photo)
Mt. Egmont (8,260ft.) North Island, New Zealand.

On the west coast of New Zealand's North Island, stands a solitary cone. White-capped and beautiful, it dominates the rich plains for miles around. Although from its slopes other mountains of our mountainous land may be clearly seen, yet Egmont rules without rival the whole wide stretch of the Taranaki Plains. In the days when Egmont's name was still the beautiful Maori word “Taranaki,” a strange story grew among that most poetical and imaginative race to account for the solitary grandeur of its position.

Eighty air-miles away stand the two great peaks of Tongariro and Ruapehu. Tongariro, black and battle-scarred with lava—Ruapehu, white and exquisite beside him. The Maori tells that in the beginning of things, Tongariro and Taranaki fell in love with Ruapehu the white, Ruapehu the wonderful, and fought for her, hurling stones and lava at each other. The battle went against Taranaki, who fled, the path he took being now the course of the famous Wanganui River, in whose bed great rounded stones are still shown as the tears shed by him as he went. Taranaki reached the plains before daylight halted him forever. When the mists come down over his snowy head the Maori says he veils it, weeping for his lost love, whom he can see, but may never meet.

In these days Taranaki, or as named by Captain Cook, Egmont, is a place not of superstitious awe and reverence, but a peak to be climbed, and incidentally a lovely reserve of the unique and fast-vanishing New Zealand forest. Rising as it does, 8,260 feet straight from the fertile plains of the North Island's finest dairying country, the mountain is clothed with primeval forest from its base to within about four thousand feet from the eternal snows of its summit. At this point the bush runs out into scrub, and so into gravel, stone, and finally snow and ice.

As a climb, under summer conditions, it may be done with comparative ease from the northern side, the trip to and from the big comfortable hostel which perches about three thousand feet up, takes about six hours, four up and two down.

Winter, however, tells a different story. Then, on every important path and by the guides' house, appear great notices warning foolhardy climbers; and, grimmest warning of all, on the last clear space up the mountain track, stands the memorial to a brave man who died vainly trying to save an inexperienced companion.

Then the snow creeps downward, blizzards shriek, and soon five feet of snow lies piled about the doors of the Hostel, and the great trees bend beneath the weight, and all the mountain is a drifted whiteness with a beauty beyond words.

It is an unforgettable experience to stay for a while at the Hostel if Taranaki is in merry mood. Day after day the far-off lovers stand clear against a clear sky, the great snowy pile on whose side you cling towers in beauty above you. There is an atmosphere of absolute peace, not the terror of immensity, but the peace of understanding—the mountain has accepted you. In a little time you find that your first move in the morning is to see the mountain—in your walks down the lovely track or scrambles about the many bush paths, you pause at every view-point. And always the mountain greets you with a heartshaking vision of pure beauty.

Then perhaps one night, there is a storm. Hail clatters on the roof, and thunder peals and crashes—not as it does in the lowlands, but rolling back from crag to crag in ever-softening booms until the final sound is as rich and musical as the note of a great 'cello, which it strongly resembles. No wonder that the Maori reverenced the place of such happenings; even the prosaic pakeha is conscious of awe and a mental question.

To the wandering enquirer the forest clothing the slopes is of never-ending interest. It is wisely and most jealously preserved; stringent regulations forbid the damage or removal of anything whatsoever, nothing may be planted, whether native or foreign, and all life is protected to the limit of possibility.

Across the great quiet valleys tuis and bell-birds clong and ring at each other. No word really describes the deep rich tui note—it must be heard. Everywhere you go you feel eyes upon you, and looking round discover that every tree harbours scores of little lovely silent, balls about the size and shape of a ping-pong ball, each with a large black eye fixed with intense interest on your doings. Your movement starts into life attendant scores of “white-eyes,” wee impudent green birds. Presently there is a sudden uproar of wings close above your head —your own startled yelp mingles with the unmistakable “Whiu-whiu” of the flight which caused the Maori to give the beautiful native pigeon one of its various names.

But, without these alarums, the trees themselves are enough to make the walk interesting to the most casual of trampers. Every trunk is cloaked with mosses and draped with ferns; and not only with these, for seeds falling from the trees themselves germinate on the soft mosses in incredible numbers, so that often a single trunk will carry a representative forest in miniature.

Around the foot of the mountain those relics of an earlier world, the great tree ferns for which New Zealand forests are famed, rear their huge crowns of fronds, each of which may page 35 be twenty feet in length, to a height of nearly fifty feet. Vandal experimenters are now making not only turned vases, but bowls, and even table-tops, of transverse sections of the trunks; for, stripped of their outer husk, these reveal marvellous intricate patterns, some of which doubtless suggested the moko or face-tattoo designs used by the old-time Maori.

That strange wingless bird, the kiwi, still haunts the valleys, and in certain places, Nature's cruel joke, the vegetable caterpillar, may be dug from its last resting-place. This latter is an interesting object frequenting the neighbourhood of certain trees, which becomes perfectly lignified by the agency of a fungus. The spore of the fungus drops into the crease behind the caterpillar's head and there takes root. The fungus roots spread downwards, through the creature's body, slowly turning it to wood, until its final convulsion is fixed for all time in a perfect wooden image of itself. The fungus raises a slender stem bearing a bulrush-like head and is again ready for action.

The Maori, keen observer of Nature, was perfectly conversant with the vegetable caterpillar, and a host of legends centre around it. In fact, it would be difficult to find a subject which the Maori had not studied, and for which he had not evolved an explanation, generally poetic, and perfectly satisfying to himself. Indeed, after a few weeks of association with these children of Nature it would not be hard to believe that one day Taranaki may rise in his majesty, and shaking off his snowy cloak, lift up his mighty voice once more.

The Auckland-Wellington express passing Campbell's point near Auckland.

The Auckland-Wellington express passing Campbell's point near Auckland.

Railway Safety in New Zealand

Commenting on the heavy toll or holiday road accidents, the “Christ-church Star” proceeds thus: —

“The care-free spirit of the holiday mood may result in the unconscious relaxation of that degree of care which is exercised under normal conditions. The toll of accidents seems to leave us no alternatives but those of inexperience or lack of care‥ In contrast to road accidents, however, it is most gratifying, year after year, to note the entire absence of railway accidents, and in this respect the Dominion is entitled to congratulate itself.”

The first shop in London for the sale of cigarettes was opened in 1863—only 70 years ago. The demand for “paper cigars,” as some people called them, was quite limited in the 'sixties. Men mostly smoked pipes and ladies hadn't learned to smoke at all! To-day the world consumes hundreds of millions of cigarettes annually. It is worthy of note, by the way that the up-to-date cigarette 'smoker “rolls his own.” 'It not only comes a lot cheaper, but smokes rolled fresh, just as you want them, are always moist and fragrant, whereas the packet goods, (even the best brands) soon go dry and lose flavour and appeal. So if you would have a really enjoyable cigarette join the “Roll-your-own” brigade. As for tobacco you can't improve on the New Zealand—Riverhead Gold, Navy Cut No. 3 (Bulldog) Cavendish, and Cut Plug No. 10 (Bullshead). They are toasted. Consequently there's very little nicotine in them, and they may be smoked with perfect safety. Even the “tobacco-glutton” is immune from harm. And for flavour and aroma you simply can't match them.*

Man Who Lost 21 lbs.
Lost His Indigestion Too.
Amusing Letter from His Wife.

The fat man is proverbially good natured and easy going. But here is a fat man accused of being difficult to live with. His wife writes to tell us about him. Just read what she has to say. Her letter is candid; it is amusing; it is worth publishing word for word as she wrote it. Here it is: —

“My husband a little over twelve months ago started taking Kruschen Salts for indigestion, heartburn, etc. Not only can he now eat anything (including my pastry), but he is now 13 ½ stone only, instead of 15 stone. What I consider more important than anything else, though, is the splendid effect Kruschen has had on his temper. He is now fit for a woman (not an angel) to live with. My husband is sixty next April, and I am fifty-four next June. I recommend Kruschen Salts wherever I go.” —(Mrs.) E. D.

The six salts in Kruschen assist the internal organs to throw off each day the wastage and poisons that encumber the system. Then, little by little, that ugly fat goes—slowly, yes—but surely, Kruschen does not aim to reduce by rushing food through the body. Gently, but surely, it rids the system of all fat-forming food refuse, of all poisons and harmful acids which incidently give rise to rheumatism, digestive disorders and many other ills.

One of the secrets of the effectiveness of Kruschen is the exact proportion of the six different salts it contains. That is why every batch of Kruschen Salts is tested and standardised by a staff of qualifie chemists, before it is passed for bottling.

Thus Kruschen can always be relied upon—it will have the same happy results for you that it has had for others.

Kruschen Salts is obtainable at all Chemists and Stores at 2/6 per bottle.

page 36