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The Southern Districts of New Zealand

Chapter XII

page 219

Chapter XII.


From the spot where Huruhuru left us our path lay along a pebble ridge, with the sea on one side, and the lake Waihao on the other. This “hapua,” as all similar pieces of water are called, has no outlet to the sea except at times of floods, when one is made by the bank of pebbles breaking down at its weakest point: at other times its water oozes through the pebbles and sand.

After leaving Waihao, which was nearly three miles long, we passed several small “hapua” similar to it. They were all crowded with ducks, but so shy that I wasted much time in trying to get a shot at them. This, and the fatigue of page 220 constantly walking on loose shingles, caused so much delay, that we only made six or seven miles' progress during the day. Evening coming on, we resolved to halt for the night on the beach by the side of one of these lakes, called Te Whakai-a-kohika, the water of which was drinkable. Most of them we had found to be too brackish to quench our thirst.

We had lit our fire, and were engaged pitching the tent, or collecting drift-wood, in order to make our quarters as comfortable as might be, when we were surprised to see at a distance a man, alone, dressed in European clothes, coming towards us along the beach. My natives soon distinguished the peculiar form of his hat, and pronounced him to be Bishop Selwyn. And so he proved to be. His Lordship, wishing to find a desirable resting-place for the night, had out-stripped his native attendants. These soon began to appear by twos and threes; and seemed equally surprised and pleased, with ourselves, at the unexpected meeting. His Lordship invited me to sup with him, and gave me the names and distances of the principal rivers and resting-places, from Pireka, in Banks's Peninsula, where page 221 he had commenced his journey, to this place. I was able to do him a similar service in respect to the remainder of his journey as far as Otakou; from which place he proposed to go by sea to Foveaux's Straits, and visit all the native settlements within his reach.

These remote parts had never before received religious instruction, except through the imperfect teaching of native missionaries; for, although there was a Wesleyan missionary stationed at Waikouaiti, he had never extended his travels beyond Otakou or Moeraki.

Jan. 17.—After breakfast and prayers our encompment was broken up, and we separated. Our stock of provisions had for some days been reduced to fern root and dried fish, with tea and sugar. We now found ourselves better off by the addition of rice and flour—a contribution from the stores of the Bishop.

For some time after we parted, my natives continued to talk about Te Pihopa, repeating to me what they had heard from his lordship's natives. The great physical power and energy he exhibited in walking, and in fording rapid and dangerous rivers, even surpassing themselves page 222 in their own excellencies, was matter of so much wonder, that they explained it by saying, and believing, that these qualities were the gift of God for this especial work.

My natives also took notice that the Bishop had not made any extemporary prayer at either evening or morning service; so that the remarks I had before made on this point, receiving so unexpected a support, were now thought more worthy of attention: and it was concluded that the practice of making a long voluntary prayer, which all the young men who aspired to be missionaries followed, must be a “pokanoa” or unauthorized piece of presumption.

We still continued to toil along the beach for about six miles; and then crossing some low grassy hills, we again tasted good water at Waimakihikihi, for the first time since we left our encampment at Waihao. From thence we found it very difficult to get on—the soil being good, and the path consequently overgrown with bushes—till we reached the beach at Pureora, about five miles from the point where we had left it. Here the Bishop had halted to dine the day before, and had directed me to look for the page 223 carcase of a whale on the beach, near which there was good water. From this place, about four miles of beach and two-and-a-half miles of pathway, a short distance inland and more trodden than any we had yet seen, brought us to a vale where we found some old huts, as well as plenty of fire wood, and good water. As rain was beginning to fall we halted here and prepared for bad weather.

Since we had crossed Waitaki, I found that my native, Poua, knew the country very well, and could generally answer my inquiries respecting the names of the places we passed.

Jan. 18.—The station at which we had taken up our night's quarters was called Hine-te-kura, and a short distance from it was Timaru, where, a few years before, there had been a whaling establishment. Many forlorn looking huts were still standing there; which, with casks, rusty iron hoops, and decaying ropes, lying about in all directions, told a tale of the waste and destruction that so often fall on a bankrupt's property.

In a bay near this place, we unexpectedly fell in with some natives encamped under the shelter of a cliff. They proved to be Koroko's page 224 party, who had set sail from Moeraki the morning before with a strong southerly wind, and had made the voyage by nightfall. The boats were hauled on the beach, and by them stood the cargo with which they had been freighted, consisting chiefly of “poha-titi” or casks of preserved mutton birds. Many of these were from five to six feet high, and ornamented with feathers: they were all designed as presents to relatives at Waiateruati, or Banks's Peninsula; and from the latter place, in all probability, a great number of them would be sent to the north side of Cook's Straits.

The “poha,” which I have called a cask—as it performs the office of one—is constructed by the natives in an ingenious manner, worthy of description. A kelp bag—the air bladder of a fucus—is easily found of the size required, made by nature. In this the young “titi” are packed, after being cooked, and the oil which has escaped in the cooking is poured on them. Over the exterior of the bag is then laid the bark of the “totara”* tree, and the whole is page 225 strengthened by means of several sticks sufficiently stout for the purpose, with which the bag and its bark covering are pressed into the form of a sugar loaf.

The “titi” or mutton bird, as it is termed by the whalers, is, I believe, a species of puffin. In the breeding season, it seeks a spot where it can burrow a hole in soft soil or sand, in which to deposit its egg. Some small islands near Ruapuke, and the east coast of Stewart's Island, are favourite places of resort of these birds. The natives never visit the islands, except when they know that the young birds are nearly fledged; and they then use every precaution not to disturb the old ones by destroying their nests. With this object, they dig a hole just over the furthermost end of the burrow, which is from two to three feet long, in order to reach the young bird the more readily; and having taken it out they fill up the hole as well as they can. The old bird, on her return, finds her progeny gone; but, as her usual door-way is undisturbed, she lays another egg, and hatches it, possibly to share the same fate.

The old birds are not considered worth eating, page 226 but the young are exceedingly fat, and to the palate of a New Zealander dainty morsels. Those who feed much on them generally suffer from an eruption about the arms and thighs, accompanied by intolerable itching; which, however soon disappears with the aid of cleanliness, and abstinence from such gross diet. Both my natives were thus affected while at Waikouaiti, where they were for ever feasting on this delicacy; but were quite sound again on reaching Banks's Peninsula. The eruption—a form of disease called eczema—is no doubt much aggravated, if not partly caused, by the repeated application to the skin of the rancid fat in which the bird is potted; that irritating substance being unavoidably transferred from the hands—the natural substitute for knife and fork—to different parts of the body.

I found that Koroko had brought all my baggage in safety, except a gun case which had been forgotten in the hurry of his embarkation the day before. He was very anxious, however, to explain to me that it was not entirely his fault, pleading in excuse that he had lent it, in lieu of a pillow, to Mr. W—, their missionary, page 227 who had come with them as far as Moeraki; which place, the wind proving fair, the boats had left before daylight, while that gentleman was asleep.

Jan. 19.—A fine bright morning. Encampment in a bustle, launching boats, and stowing cargo. Poua, my volunteer guide from Waikouaiti, had found his father at this place, and now brought him to introduce to me, and to offer his services, instead of his own, for the remainder of the journey to Wai-a-te-rua-ti; saying that he was weary of his long march, and wished to take a place in one of the boats with his friends. The father, whose name was Te Rehe, happened to be at a fishing station not far off when the boats made their appearance, and had come over to see who his guests might be. He was now about to return home by land, and, as I was desirous to follow the same route, I left Poua to take all our baggage by water, and then set off at once with Te Rehe and the two natives I had brought from the North Island.

The place we were now leaving is the only spot where a boat can find shelter, between Banks's Peninsula and Te Awa-mokihi (The page 228 Yellow Bluff). After walking for half-an-hour across an open down, we arrived at Te Aitara-kihi—the commencement of what is called by the whalers the ninety-mile beach—which extends from this point, in one unbroken line, to Banks's Peninsula. As we descended from the higher ground to the beach, I remarked that several feet of the base of the cliff was a black solid scoria, similar to that at Hobson's bridge near Auckland, on which rested the soil—a sort of clay—of which the neighbouring hills and cliffs were composed.

We soon after came to a hut on the banks of a large “hapu,” called Waitarakao, where we saw Mrs. Rehe, and a few women drying fish on the scorching sands. We waited here while the husband went to make some arrangements about his nets, and the wife cooked us some fish and potatos. The fish were excellent, having somewhat the flavour and size of white bait. At this season of the year, they are found in numerous shoals in the brackish waters of these lakes.

After ten miles along a beach or sandy plain, we arrived at another “hapua,” into which flow page 229 the waters of two rivers. Waiateruati is two or three miles inland on the banks of the northernmost of these, which is navigable.

The boats had already been hauled across the beach into the lake, and had disappeared. Te Rehe now became so impatient to reach home, where a feast was preparing for his guests, that we lost sight of him in a flax swamp, and had to find our way as we best could. Such an unceremonious way of treating one is not however the usual practice of the New Zealander; and it consequently drew from my two natives some expressions affecting his character as a gentleman, which would not have gratified him. Perhaps, in thinking of ourselves, we were unjust in not making a reasonable allowance for his anxiety to meet his old friends and relatives, who had come so far to see him.

On our arrival at the native settlement, we were conducted to a hut, the best in the place; but as I discovered soon after that it was commonly used as a chapel, and also that it was well stocked with fleas, I preferred the shelter of my tent, which I placed in the court yard outside it, that I might have a fence to protect page 230 me from pigs. Most of the inhabitants of the Pa were now absent, being busied with their cultivations at Harowhenua, a large wood about four miles off, and a conspicuous object, for in no other direction is there a tree to be seen: standing thus alone above the level of the plain, its appearance is just that of a solitary island at sea.

This was also the season for digging the root of the “ti” or “whanake,” which grows in great plenty and vigour near the base of the mountains forming the western boundary of the plain. The soil must therefore be deeper and richer there than it is nearer the sea coast.

Jan. 20.—The natives of Waiateruati appeared to be much interested in the question of the sale of parts of Banks's Peninsula to the French; a report having been brought down the coast that the long-expected payment was soon to be distributed. I took advantage of this state of feeling to obtain the names of the inhabitants; but a great disinclination was manifested to mention the names of persons who did not belong to families, whose right to part of the soil about the Peninsula was acknowledged by page 231 them. Such persons they included under the general term “tangata hara” or men of an odd number, or men not worthy to be reckoned—an expression which I had never met with, in this sense, in the North Island. These I discovered to be a few slaves, and families descended purely from Ngatimamoe, besides natives belonging to other tribes who had settled among them.

Jan. 21.—Sunday. This and the two following days were very rainy. Completed my census; but there no doubt were several omissions occasioned by the reserve on the part of the natives which I have just mentioned.

I had frequently experienced the difficulty of satisfactorily dividing such a population as that of New Zealand into the classes—men—women—children—the latter being so indefinite a term. In any village, it would be impossible to reckon all below a certain age as children; because a New Zealander can never tell you his age—nor could you, without passing the whole in review before you, guess at their ages. The method that I found most convenient, and to be depended on, was first to follow their own recognized sub-divisions of “hapu,” and then, page 232 under each of these, to write down the names of every man and his wife, or wives; and after each of these pairs their children—beginning with the eldest, if possible, and distinguishing the sex. The following result was thus obtained for this place:—
Names ofNumbers ofTotal.
Hapu.Derived from.Iwi.MalesFemales
NgatihuirapaNoNgaitahu, or Kaitahu212344
KatiwhaeaNoNgaitahu, or Kaitahu7916
KatikahukuraNoNgaitahu, or Kaitahu6814
KatimahakiNoNgaitahu, or Kaitahu201535
Katihinekato, no Tarapui NoKatimamoe549

* Podocarpus totara, Don.