The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 9 (December 1, 1934)
What The Royal Duke Will See
What The Royal Duke Will See
On His Tour Through New Zealand.
Town and Country, Mountain, Lake and Geyserland.
The stranger's lasting impressions of a country are influenced greatly by the manner of his entry into it. Probably the pleasantest way of approaching the front door in New Zealand is the leisurely entrance to Auckland, through the island-strewn waters of the Hauraki Gulf. There is nothing abrupt or stern about that ship highway to the Dominion's largest city-Coming from Australia round the North Cape, the stranger is gradually prepared for his arrival by the sight of island after island, dark and mountainous or gentle and softly green; hills and capes, and quiet seas well guarded by the Barrier Islands and promontories; and at last a wide sweep around a verdurous dome of headland, and there the city lies spread out for miles along its easy slopes and fronting an often glassy harbour.
But His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, when he enters the Dominion on the morning of December 15 will have a bolder landscape to shape his first impression of these islands. No gentle, symmetrical hills like green buttons here; but rough-edged ranges that ring Port Nicholson about as if set there to ward off the gales of the Pacific and the Tasman Sea, No outer gulf of soft blue to lead one into the inner shrine. It is a quick dramatic transition from tumbling windy Cook Strait, between rocky gateposts, into the sea-lake on which Wellington City has built itself. The contrast is sharp to the navigator or the passenger, from the tossing sea that parts the two islands through a splendid straightforward channel into a perfect haven that widens out on each hand.
Travellers who have reached Wellington by sea have been charmed with that quick change of scene, and with the Italian-lake-like character of the harbour and the protective irregular ramparts of blue ranges.
A Wellington Picture.
Here, before describing the route our Royal visitor will take in his six weeks' tour of New Zealand, one would like to say something of the beauty which is Wellington's under certain aspects, a quality of beauty His Royal Highness may discover before he leaves it.
The mists on the hills give this up-and-down city a quality of beauty that no other city in the Dominion can show, not even Dunedin. As summer comes on Wellington has a morning glory of mingled mist and sunlight that gives an ever-changing picture of soft colour. Auckland has its foggy beauty of early morning. The writer never will forget that sight, out beyond Rangitoto Channel, of Admiral Sperry's American fleet in line silently emerging out of the luminous fog like spirit ships, in seemingly endless procession. How long ago was that? Twenty-six years—yet it remains in the memory when later pictures have faded. But Wellington's morning glory is of a quite alpine character, if you see it from the city's hills. Visitors to Queenstown, on Lake Wakatipu, often climb Ben Lomond to view the early-day picture above the low-lying mist. Looking out from the heights just in the rear of the city heart, one of these quiet mornings, before the sun has swung up over the Orongorongo Ranges, you might almost imagine yourself in the heart of the Urewera country or on the slopes of Ben Lomond. If it were not for the flagstaff and the lofty radio station masts on the sharp tip of Mount Victoria, and for the dim shapes of the nearer houses in the foreground, the illusion would be complete. The silent city in the valley below is invisible, drowned in a fleecy sea; so, too, is the harbour; only the higher summits lift like islands above the level ocean of vapour. Dwellers on the higher parts of the city here are gods looking out over a world of white and smoky blue.
And let one affirm further, in the hope that our visitors will discover it also—that there is sometimes a magic beauty in a Wellington night that not even the Waitemata harbour's summertime nocturnes can surpass.
Our distinguished visitor will sample many kinds of weather in New Zealand. This is no monotonous continental land such as Mr. Kipling pictures in two of his lines about the West Coast of South America:
“Day long the diamond weather, The high unaltered blue.”
We are fortunate in living in a very different land from that changeless, rainless part of the earth.
To Hawke's Bay.
So we move on with H.R.H. to the province which is considered by its inhabitants and many visitors to possess the pleasantest climate in the Dominion. Some prefer Nelson; many would rather have Auckland or the Far North. But Napier and the beautiful plains about it certainly have a softness of air and a generosity of warm sunshine that is quickly appreciated as one traverses the country from west to east and gains the lee side of the ranges. page 20 page 21 Here is the perfection of serene pastoral scenery, in this land where the large sheep-stations have not all given place to close settlement. There is a vast amount to admire in this land of good pasturage, of great orchards and sweet gardens. Reconstructed Napier town is a place of sightliness and comfort, stretched on its long sea front, and climbing its beautiful residential hill, Scinde Island. Nearly every large town in this greatly varied Dominion has its own special quality of landscape charm. Napier has pre-eminently a green, luxuriantly fertile setting, with a whiff of ocean to temper its strong sunshine. It is pleasant all the way north from there, though the country becomes more up-and-down, and the inland ranges loom in a more broken and often wildly rugged skyline. Through historic Mohaka, and then Wairoa, a pretty township near the mouth of the strong and wide river that has its principal source in Lake Waikaremoana. It is rather a pity that His Royal Highness will not see that famous lake, lying among its mountains and forests, and will not be taken by the Urewera forest route to Rotorua. But he will see many a lake and travel through many miles of tall timber before he completes his New Zealand tour. And there will be a lunch-time call at that place of sylvan charm, Morere, with its hot springs and its nikau palm groves, on the way by motor-car to Gisborne.
There is only one thing prosperous Gisborne and its surrounding richly productive country badly needs, and that is a change of district name, from “Poverty Bay” to something more befitting and optimistic. If His Royal Highness could only throw out a friendly suggestion to that end he would do the country a service. Perhaps only a Prince of the blood could induce the district to jettison Captain Cook's uncomplimentary description. Why not “Endeavour Bay,” after Cook's ship?
Across Range and Plain.
But we must get along, for the Royal itinerary demands arrival at Rotorua by the evening of December 21. This means a long motoring day, making Opotiki by lunch-time. On this run the Duke of Gloucester will have his first taste of the real New Zealand wilds, for the road penetrates a rough tract of country on the watershed between the East Coast side and the Bay of Plenty coast. A partly subdued country; dairy farms and sheep runs giving place to forest ranges, vistas of green and blue wooded ranges and deep valleys and gulches with rapid-whitened rivers tearing along below, and the skilfully-engineered road cork-screwing through until the hills suddenly fall away and the green levels of the Opotiki farm country open out. The fringe of the Urewera country is touched at the head of the valley, where the Waioeka River issues from the old-time haunts of Te Kooti and his warriors. Opotiki is a place of story. The Royal party should have time here to look in at the historic church of the Rev. Carl Volkner, and to hear on the spot the story of the missionary who was done to death by Kereopa and his fanatics in 1865.
Whakatane and the Maoris.
Whakatane, another place of a hundred war stories and Maori traditions, is the next stop; on the way, soon after leaving Opotiki, the motor road along the coast at one place passes through an avenue of great pohutukawa trees, which at this season will be in flower, grand old trees of a history that will in part be symbolised by their blood-red blossoms, for it was a place where in the Hauhau War days Government despatch-carriers were ambushed by Tamaikowha and his tomahawk-men. Just beyond it, the Waiotahi River, and then the road skirts the inner waters of Ohiwa, a famous fishing place for the Maoris.
Whakatane is an unusual place, with the tidal river on its front and a parapet of straight cliffs in its rear, crowned with the earthworks of ancient forts. All this country through which the motor road goes is a greatly fruitful land, lying well to the sun, warm and fertile, a land where great crops of maize are produced. Something of Maori life will be seen here; the Ngati-Awa and Ngati-Pukeko tribes have villages on the coast and along the Whakatane levels, and the headquarters farming settlements of the Urewera tribe are in the upper part of the plain, at Ruatoki
To the Land of Lakes.
The bold, lofty cone of Mt. Edge-cumbe, or Putauaki, now comes dramatically into the picture, as the motor cars speed on across the plain towards the Rotorua lakes. Past Te Teko, with its pakeha and Maori farms, the route climbs a ridge of fern and forest and drops into Lakeland.
Rotoma, Rotoehu and Rotoiti are closely skirted, lakes of calm and forest fringe; famous Hongi's Track is traversed, between the latter two lakes. Maori villages, quiet hamlets with here and there a carved meeting-house; glistening beaches of white sand, cliffs where the inland pohutukawa, almost as rich of flower-dress as its coast sister, bends down towards the blue waters.
The first whiff of sulphuretted hydrogen is wafted on the breeze at the entrance to that glen of horrors Tikitere, reminder that the travellers are in Hot Spring Land at last. Rotorua Lake now spreads out, with its lovely island of song and legend, Mokoia, a mountain-isle of peace, softly green to its tapu summit. The lake sleeps in blue and silver; away on the left the snowy clouds of steam hover over the geyser valley of Whakarewarewa. Ahead, Rotorua town among its tree groves and parks and gardens, the comfortable looking capital of Geyserland, where the Duke will make a stay of two days before going on to Auckland.
Not for many a year have the geysers of Whakarewarewa been so obligingly active as during recent months. A few weeks ago there were ten geysers, large and small, all spouting away together in this wonderful valley, queened over by Waikite on its glittering white terrace.
The buried village of Te Wairoa, with Lake Tarawera spread out below, and beyond, the grim scarps of old Tarawera mountain are as full of fascination as ever; and the Duke will see and hear all about their strange and sinister history. The strangest experience of all for the Royal party will be the power-launch run through the region of boil and bubble on Rotomahana, where the cliffs above and the water below are pulsing with the heat that never ceases. It is a tremendous place, where anything may happen at any time. Then the Waimangu thermal gulch, a weird hot place where, too, dramatic happenings are always likely.
Lake and geyser, hot waters and cool crystal streams, fragrant native bush and great exotic plantations where the State is covering the bare hills and pumice plains with a new forest; all these invite the pleasure-cruiser at Rotorua; and for the angler there is the trout-fishing. Rotorua is an excellent place at which to begin one's fishing on such a tour; but there will be more time further south, where the Tongariro River and the bays of Lake Taupo call the angler to camp by them for the space of many days.
The Duke will have three days at Tongariro Chateau presently; he should in that time have the pleasure of lifting many beautiful fish from the famous stream.
The Maori Welcome.
Saturday, December 22, will be the most dramatic and colourful and distinctively New Zealand day of the tour, for that is the day set apart for the Maori greeting to the Duke at Rotorua. Many tribes besides the Arawa will page 22 assemble on the great marae for the ceremonies of welcome and homage to the King's son.
There will be memories among the elders of the tribes of the wonderful congress of Maoris on that assembly ground in 1901, when the King and Queen—then the Duke and Duchess of York—visited Rotorua. That was in midwinter; this time the midsummer weather will heighten the colour and the joyous note of the gathering. The old chiefs, the tattooed warriors who typified the adventurous past and the ways of danger, have passed on to the Reinga; their parade before Royalty had something of the heroic spirit of “Ave Caesar! Morituru te salutamus.” Now the new generation rules; but the note of racial colour is none the less vivid—the songs and chants, the poetic charm of the poi; the artistry of the women's costumes, the thrill of the haka and the peruperu are with the Maori still; and such gatherings as that held at historic Waitangi this year revived the athletic drill and the fervour of the warlike past.
Auckland and the Heart of the Island.
Across the island westward, through forest and gorge, and Taranaki is entered. Aloft towers peerless Egmont, belted with forest, tipped with snow, the crown and glory of the land. A snowfall sees it powdered well down its slopes, even in summer; after a heavy fall it may be described in the words Joaquin Miller wrote of Mount Shasta, “lonely as God and white as a winter morn.”
The Taranaki towns, Wanganui, Flock House, Bulls, Palmerston North, a look-in at Woodville and Masterton by way of the Manawatu Gorge; then a quick return to Wellington, and the Royal tourist will cross in H.M.A.S. Australia to Picton for his South Island quick change jaunt by motor car and rail.
Down the West Coast.
The high lights of such a land cruise in the South are the Big Three, the West Coast glaciers, the Aorangi sector of the Southern Alps, and the Otago and Southland Lakes. It is a long way from Picton and Nelson down the Buller route to Westland and to the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, but there is change of scene all the way. The quiet rural charm of Nelson, with its great orchards, the splendid motor run down the winding valley of the Buller River, a valley that becomes a gorge where the road engineers have carved a wonderful highway; the coal towns of the West Coast, Hokitika with its memories of the roaring Sixties; memories of the rough old days of the land of gold, and legends of the greenstone-working age.
A hundred miles further, for much of the way through tall forest avenues and past calm lakes of the woods, silent, calm, reflecting all the beauty of the forest selvage and the high and gleaming Alps. Then, with serene farm scenes as the foreground, the forest that seemingly swallows the down sweep of the Franz Josef's white causeway that descends nine thousand feet in a few miles. The contrast between ice and forest will be most marked at this time of the year because the rata that clothes the lower mountain sides on each flank of that strange writhing tongue of ice should be out in flower, a frame of glowing colour for the pure white stream.
Over the Range.
Back to the railway, there is that triumph of railway making, the transalpine road across to Canterbury, up the rata bordered Otira Gorge and by way of Arthur's Pass, with its five and a quarter mile tunnel; then down the eastern slants into the great pastoral downs of Canterbury and on to the farstretching farming plains; Timaru, Oamaru, and finally Dunedin.
The Southern Lakes.
Dunedin, with its grace of architecture, its plenty of green groves and softly wooded hills that belt it, will be for the Duke a pleasant place. So, too, will be the great plains and downs he will traverse on his way to the Lakes. It is likely that he will have a speedy drive out from Invercargill to Lake Manapouri or Lake Te Anau. The former is preferable, for a quick motor journey. With its many green isles, its water of magic blue and silver, its glory of alp and forest, it is the loveliest lake in all New Zealand.page 23
Wakatipu will be visited, and our Royal guest, it is tolerably certain, will never forget the barbaric glory of the South Arm through which his steamer will pass on the way from the railhead at Kingston to the pretty waterside town of Queenstown.
This South Arm is remarkable for its narrowness, the profound blue of its depths, the exceedingly precipitous, lofty and broken character of its mountain walls. Above Kingston, on the left, are the craggy peaks of the Eyre Mountains, rising to nearly 7,000 feet, snow-sprinkled and cloud-wreathed; and on the right are the heights of the Hector Mountains, poetically called by the Maoris Tapuae'nuku, “The Footsteps of Uenuku,—the Rainbow God—because they were so often seen spanned by rainbows. The steamer's course is steered within a short distance of the jutting rocks. Shrubberies climb a little way up the steeply slanting mountains, which soon stand out bold, intractable and bare, shooting skywards into savage blades and rugged turrets, and seamed with many a deep couloir, the race-track of the avalanches. The Bay Peaks, sheer precipices of nearly 5,500 feet, are passed on the left, and now even wilder and more grimly fantastic mountain summits rise on each side of the narrow waterway, gorgeously tinted with glowing colours which are reflected in the mirror of the lake. The sunrise and sunset effects on these mountains are to many the greatest charm of Wakatipu scenery. On the left are the Bayonet Peaks, rising into spiked pinnacles of desolate rock, four thousand feet above us. Next comes Mount Cecil, heaving forth its buttress into the purple depths, and now the lake bends sharply to the west. As we draw away from the eastern shore we open out above the cliffs the grandest mountain picture of all—the whole front of the Remarkables, a long, serrated range of shark's tooth peaks, carved sharply against the sky, rising near their northern end into the Double Cone, twin crags of knife-like rock. The whole face of the range is a vast jumble of sharp ridges and deeply-cut couloirs, down which the broken bones of the mountains are ever crumbling to the valleys.
The Hermitage, and an Alpine Garden.
Queenstown, attractive as it is, will not hold the Royal pilgrim long, for there is a long motor run before him, over the ranges and the downs to Mt. Cook Hermitage. There he will have one clear day for viewing something of the snowy glories of the central zone of the Alps. The mountain kings are all around, their crowns of ice flashing back the summer sun. There will not be time to attack those peaks, nevertheless there is many a place of alpine peace, beauty and solace close to the Hermitage.
The City of the Plains.
A private visit to the celebrated Longbeach estate of Mr. Grigg will give the Duke much-needed rest and a quiet look around at big-scale farming and a taste of the country's sport. Then a couple of days at Christchurch, the “Garden City,” with its abundance of garden beauty, its bright little river that winds like a girdle about its parks, its air of long-settled repose, though it is ten years younger than cither Wellington or Auckland.
And the farewell to the Island will take the Australia, bearing the Prince, through rocky sea-gates that are even bolder than the harbour mouth by which he entered the Dominion, for Lyttelton Heads are the walls of one of those ancient volcanoes but for which all this Canterbury coast would have been a dead monotony of far-spread-out levels.
Haere ra! at Lyttelton Heads to the Royal visitor. He will not yet leave New Zealand behind him, however, for there is sport awaiting him at the Bay of Islands. A touch of the deep sea thrill of swordfish hunting, and a look around at such places as storied Waitangi and easy-going Russell, ex Kororareka; and it will be with the desire to come again, one trusts, that he will finally wave good-bye to these islands where the godwit takes its flight for the mysterious north, to return each season with the summer warmth.page 24