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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 14, Issue 2 (May 1, 1939)

Plenty of Kai

Plenty of Kai.

“Saturday, 16th July.—The display of food provided by the natives for this meeting is very grand. There are 1,200 kits of kumara, large baskets of taro, papa or bark cases of birds cooked and preserved, including tui, kaka, kiwi, and there are also eels. The birds are boiled in their own fat, and covered over with it; they will keep thus for three years. Pigeon, weka, duck, and whio (blue mountain duck) are also included in the papa, which are decorated with the feathers of the birds they hold. They look very well. Pigs and potatoes are abundant. In apportioning page 16 the food, the natives observe great decorum. The name of the tribe, and the place of residence, or either, is called out, and the portion of food for it is struck with a stick; and so on, for the several tribes present, or absent, to the end of the line of food; or for such of the guests desired to partake of the food. Food is seldom named or called for the chief individually; as that would, according to their old customs, render it sacred; it could only be eaten by him.

“This country is the most broken and unavailable that can be met with. It is a perfect jungle thrown up in such confusion, as if man's occupation of it was never intended, at least civilized man's, whose superior ability for subduing a country to his use would be fruitless in a place like this. All the eye surveys is horrid steeps and cliffs, with slippery hills and braes. Climbing over precipices, while holding on by the roots of trees, some of these decayed, is not an agreeable occupation, with heavy winter rains, when every false step you take may send you to eternity.

Land of Avalanches.

“Glencoe is considered to be a wild part of the Highlands of Scotland; but the scenery is much wilder here than there. Within the last two hours, from eight to ten at night, we have had seven avalanches (or land slips) on the opposite side of the river. Instantaneous and awful are the operations of nature, and how obvious they are in a mountainous country. I fear these avalanches endanger the navigation of our river; for to-morrow, if we are spared, our own position, should such movements become more general, does not appear altogether safe; as we are situated on a high overhanging rock, well-placed for defence in time of war; but how insignificant does such a natural defence prove, when under the operation of mysterious workings. Thousands of people in New Zealand have fallen victims to sudden avalanches. Five hundred people were sunk in one night on an island on the coast.

“Next day again (June 19th) was wet and stormy, with strong freshet on the river. It is quite tempting Providence to start in such weather. I feel that I should have remained at Otaki till to-day to have done more good for the Government.”

Maclean noted this with a shiver no doubt. But the party all set out to run the rapids, and they reached the Wanganui safely, and had a comfortable passage for the rest of the voyage. For the journey Maclean, through the Missionary, paid £110/-, also eleven shirts and some tobacco to the crew.

“It is satisfactory,” he wrote, “to have completed a journey, and seen so many natives at a season of the year when such journeys cannot be undertaken without great trouble. The Manganui-o-te-Ao is a dangerous river, and we had a narrow escape in coming down its rapid streams and torrents, overflowing with a heavy freshet; and so steep on both sides, that a person could neither climb up, or save himself in any way from drowning, or perishing in the frozen streams, on which the sun seldom reflects at this season of the year. We, however, got through in safety; but I shall be more cautious in future how I come along such dangerous places.”

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