Other formats

    TEI XML file   ePub eBook file  


    mail icontwitter iconBlogspot iconrss icon

The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 1 (April 1, 1940)

In the Unknown Forest

In the Unknown Forest.

Into the bush again; now it was unbroken, primeval. Kauri trees linked branches overhead, some of them looking like grey cliffs, so enormous were their straight boles rising without a branch for fifty feet or more. The
A view of the Pelorus River, Nelson. (E. D. Burt, photo.).

A view of the Pelorus River, Nelson. (E. D. Burt, photo.).

page break rata and puriri uplifted immense heads of thick branches and dusky foliage; the ponga fern trees spread their wide feathery canopies; and an intricacy of vine and creeper tied loops about everything like forest imps bent on preventing human intrusion into their secrecies. Here it was that our adventurer discovered the New Zealand supplejack and bush-lawyer. He sweated like a bushfeller as he slashed and hacked away with sword in one hand and Wild West bowie-knife in the other.

“Take it easy, Mister,” said Jackson. “You'll knock up, and we'll have to carry you.”

“I'll have to be a very dead man, sir, before you put me on a bush stretcher,” said Von Tempsky, laughing. “I'm enjoying this; it's glorious! Everyone of these tanglefoots is a Maori to me. Off mit his head.”

The light faded in the bushy depths, where the human pigmies were struggling along like so many insects in high grass. Presently it began to rain. The country grew wilder. The small gullies that gave trouble out of all proportion to their size became deeper and steeper; they were ravines now, and the heavily laden Rangers made heavy work of it, clambering down into and out of the jungle-wooded depths. The clouds hung low on the ranges; the ground was more and more uncertain. All around became a dim chaos of tree-trunks and branches and dark-leaf curtains.

“Enough for to-day,” said Jackson. “We'll get some water and then camp.” A gleam of a half-hidden stream and the murmur of a waterfall in a gully were welcome to the tired thirsty men.

The Rangers descended to the creek, and drank their fill of the water; filled too the billies—they called them quart-pots in those days—and encamped on a narrow bit of level ground on the other side of the brook. But no camp-fires were lit. This was enemy country. Each man looked to himself, chose his tree, unrolled his blankets, and tucked himself into them.

Jackson and Hay stationed sentries for the first watch of the night; they were to be relieved every two hours.

Von Tempsky and the two officers made their night quarters underneath a big rata with a root-buttressed hollow where some old boar had made its lair. The Rangers ate some army biscuit and the remains of their lunch sandwiches. No hot drink for them, but at any rate they could smoke, and with his pipe going well the “paper-man,” as Jackson and Hay called their companion, felt quite comfortable and sleepy.

Von Tempsky remarked on the safety and comfort of the New Zealand bush as a camping-ground.

“Now, if we were in America or Australia,” he said, “we'd have beaten all about these ferns and bushes and hollow trees for snakes. It's as much as your life is worth to lie down there without clearing the ground first. And even then you'd as likely as not find a poisonous bedmate in the blankets with you in the morning.”

A rainy night, and no fire. But the Rangers slept well.

* * *

Next day was colder and wetter. The little corps penetrated far into the trackless forest. Dark gorges of the wildest character, with veils of mist trailing along the precipice sides, opened up at their feet. No Maori trails there. About four o'clock in the afternoon Jackson halted for the night. Thoroughly drenched, the men built rough shelters of ponga fern-trees and nikau palm leaves and requested permission to light fires to dry their clothes to some extent and warm themselves.

Jackson, Hay and Von Tempsky held a little council of war. It was decided that fires might be lit as soon as darkness had set in fully. They were, however, to be extinguished two hours before daylight.

Von Tempsky and his friends stretched their feet towards their own small blaze, and contemplated through their tobacco smoke the camp scene before them—a perfect picture of a brigand band's bivouac — and the prospect of dry socks in the morning. The rough huts or wharau, run up in a few minutes, kept out the rain quite well; the long leaves of the nikau are the readiest and best of bush-roof material. So all were in comparative comfort that night on the scouting trail—all except the sentries during their hours on watch. But, as Jackson remarked, eight shillings a day and the honour of being a Forest Ranger must be paid for in some way.

A scene in the Buller Gorge.(E. D. Burt, photo.).

A scene in the Buller Gorge.(E. D. Burt, photo.).

page 40
See New Zealand By Train and Railway Road Services

See New Zealand By Train and Railway Road Services