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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 65


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If a party wishes thoroughly to enjoy a trip along the West Coast of this Island, by far the better plan is to hire a I conveyance, or, better still, buy horses at any of the sale yards on the coast, where they will get hacks quite good enough for from £12 to £20, and perhaps obtain nearly as much for them when no longer required. By this means they will enjoy the scenery along the roads, can strike into bye-paths and visit nooks and corners a vehicle cannot get to; and, moreover, the feeling of absolute independence and liberty is worth something; besides, good hotels are always within reach, and if ladies form part of the expedition they can rely on politeness and civility all over the coast. Even the natives now will often do most obliging things for a lady. As to luggage, that can easily be sent by rail to a central spot, but very little impedimenta is really required. Everything can be purchased nearly as cheap on the coast as it can in England, and it is astonishing how little one can manage with.

A few introductions are very useful things, and to tourists, the colonists are hospitable to a degree—in fact, to anyone; the trouble often taken by complete strangers is very remarkable, and the writer has, when out on a sketching expedition, frequently been the recipient of favours, so generously bestowed, that to return them has been impossible, and all done with such good nature, and such an utter absence of anything like a consciousness that they were doing anything out of the common, that this acknowledgment for the services rendered is the only one he has been able to make.

It is to be hoped that pedestrian tours will come more into vogue; there is nothing to prevent them becoming popular. The roads are good, and, as I remarked before, the inns are good and frequent, and the advantages for viewing places and getting about are undoubted. Care should be taken in fording the streams and rivers; they are not to be entered rashly, as the current is always strong. One good piece of advice to all strangers is: "Keep just above the ripple" on a fall, and have a good pole to sound with, but, better still, cross by a bridge whenever you can.

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If you have to camp out most part of the year you will find it no hardship you can always get a fire and build yourself a break-wind, and so keep sheltered and rest well. Should you lose yourself, follow the first stream you come to (downwards) and you will come on a farm or settlement, or some traces of habitation; even at a Maori path you will get put right, as most of the natives speak some English. But there is very little chance of getting lost on the coast line. It is only on striking into the bush it is likely to occur, and to entire strangers it is better to obtain a guide.

There is a rich field all along the coast, and inland, for the geologist; the upheavals that are constantly taking place—old lava fields, Maori middens, the Waitotara caves, marl drifts, to say nothing of the ordinary strata around Egmont. Among the basalt can be found minerals of so varied a character that one is really afraid to enumerate them for fear of being accused of romancing. The whole of New Zealand is rich in minerals, and this portion of it, when prospected, will no doubt be, at some future time, the home of thousands, who will reap the riches that are so little known at present.

And now we will just glance at the map of the North Island of New Zealand, at least that portion of it for which this guide is intended. It consists of a portion of the South Taranaki Bight, commencing where the Manawatu River falls into the Pacific, and continues round the coast until the town of New Plymouth is reached. The shores of the bight are, for a greater portion of this distance, surrounded by sand-hills, in most cases covered by native grasses, in others by sterile tracts of sand hillocks, intersected by several fine rivers and numberless small streams.

The principal rivers are the Wanganui, Manawatu, and Patea, and have a more or less extensive shipping trade, according to their position and population. The other rivers are: the Rangitikei, Turakina, Wangaehu, Kai Iwi, Okehu, Waitotara, and Whenuakura, all lying between the Patea and Manawatu Rivers and all capable of admitting small craft at certain times. From Patea the number of streams which take their rise in Mount Egmont and its ranges are so numerous that even to enumerate] them would serve no object, except to confuse the stranger with a lot of Maori names bearing a perplexing affinity to one another in sound, often only differing in their affixes.

This long line of coast is settled by Europeans to a depth of twenty or thirty miles, and is everywhere bounded on the land side by the native lands, held and cultivated by their native owners, who are divided into tribes or hapus, and whose chiefs enjoy moral or less authority, according to the amount of land owned by them, or the influence acquired in late wars, or in the Runanga Senate Houses, of which every tribe has as least one. And it is among page 7 these native lands that the future settlers of this island will find their homes. It is through the interior of this island, intersecting and cutting through many very valuable blocks, that the North Island Trunk Railway is being formed, and which, when completed, will open up to the traveller scenes that at present he can only visit with some little hardship and trouble.

The hardship and trouble to which a traveller is subjected by a trip through the river system and king country is very slight now-a-days, so slight, indeed, that one of the Collegiate School boys, whose trip I have given an account of in these pages, rode from Wanganui to Mount Ruapehu, ascended the mountain, and returned to Wanganui without seeming at all conscious that he had accomplished anything nearly so adventurous as Mr. Kerry Nicholls did; but perhaps the natural tenor of a colonial school boys' life is of such a nature that to camp out in his holidays, fish, shoot, ascend mountains, and to be on terms of intimacy with the noble savage, is only his normal condition. That the trip through the King Country presents no difficulties, no dangers, and only very few and trifling discomforts, is proved by the fact that the Rev. T. Grace made it periodically for years, and on his last trip a Bishopdale student accompanied him, to whose pen I am largely indebted for much information. Nothing is wanted in any excursion in this island but guides and sufficient money for expenses; the danger exists only in the pages of travellers who, perhaps, dreamt of it. There are certain places where no roads exist, and where trespassers are warned not to encroach; and I believe I have seen the same thing in England—" Trespassers will be prosecuted." There are missionaries—both Presbyterian and Roman Catholic—Sisters of Mercy, resident a long way up the Wanganui River; and only in May last, Mr. John Rochfort took one of Burton Bros.' firm, of Dunedin, with him, camera and all. Such are the dangers of the King Country!

The line of railway extends from Foxton to New Plymouth, and the distance may, if necessary, be accomplished in one day, leaving Foxton at half-past seven in the morning, and reaching New Plymouth about the same time in the evening. Of course, the traveller who adopts this by no means speedy mode of travelling will be disappointed at the rate of progression; if he is in a hurry it will irritate him almost as much as the numerous stoppages—the trains here being mixed trains, and combine passenger and goods traffic. He will do well to make his headquarters at cither Palmerston North, Wanganui, or New Plymouth, and from these centres make excursions to those places of interest worthy of visiting.

Travellers can obtain every necessary and requisite in the shape of clothing, provisions of all descriptions, from the most common- page 8 place fare to the potted meats of Crosse and Blackwell, and the condiments of India. The artist can obtain all he requires; and tents, &c., are much better obtained at one of the above towns, and quite as cheap as the imported article. Ammunition, unless of a very outside make, is also readily obtained at almost any store.

The sportsman will find plenty of native game to reward him in the season, and the necessary license to shoot game can be obtained from any of the secretaries of Acclimatization Societies, I cannot do better than refer the sportsman to Mr. S. H. Drew, Avenue, Wanganui, who knows the habitat of all the native game, and perhaps has a more extensive knowledge of the fauna of the district than anyone I know. Wild duck, pigeon, teal, are among the numerous native game; pheasants, rabbits, and hares are plentiful, and the fishing, in certain localities, is unrivalled for quantity and quality.

Pig-sticking may be indulged in to an unlimited extent, but is not pursued in the same manner as in India. The plan here is to hunt the pigs with dogs, and, when run down, stick them with the knife, the bush preventing, in most cases, much riding. I have seen many very handsome trophies the results of the chase.

The artist will find good sketching everywhere, from the foot of the Tararua Ranges, which he can reach from Foxton, or up any of the rivers. The shores of the coast are not suitable for pictures, except where a view of Mount Egmont and Ruapehu can he obtained, the gullies, ravines, and water courses are endless fields for the pencil while Ruapehu, and Mount Egmont, both snowcapped all the year round, and covered from summit to base in the winter, are in themselves never-ending subjects. One thing the artist has to beware of—the general tendency to take him to the highest hill in the neighbourhood, his reward being an extensive view, in every case sublime, but containing enough material to make a dozen pictures, and work enough, could he manage it, for a week's sitting; nor need the burden himself with more than his usual sketching umbrella and seat, beyond his tools. His heavier luggage will be much better left at some centre, afterwards to be picked up or forwarded.

The Manawatu, Rangitikei, Turakina, Wangaehu, Wanganui, and Patea Rivers are all worthy of visits, particularly the Wanganui. The Waimate Plains, and the road all the way from Wanganui to New Plymouth, both by the mountain and coast roads, furnish months of sketching, and are interesting from the numerous native pahs and settlements that abound. The streams all around Mount Egmont are different to any other on the coast—basalt rocks, gorges, cascades, falls, all with a profusion that, bewilders and yet delights,

A small tent is most useful, and guides are plentiful—not the page 9 Professional guide; he, as yet, is unknown, but a handy bushman, who will pack your tent and provisions, cook for you, and take you to places you would never find your way to alone, or, if you did, most likely not get back again; one who will tell you the most of the marvels of the old days when the coast was the scene of war; who knows the traditions of the natives, and can speak Maori; and will prove an interesting companion, and be of immense assistance, at a slight cost.

To the intending settler, this portion of New Zealand offers many advantages, especially to men of small capital. The present Native Minister, the Hon. John Ballance, has set apart a quantity of land for special settlement, in one hundred acre farms, to be paid for by instalments. I give the following report, by Mr. Jno. Rochfort, of the land that will be opened up in this district by the North Island Trunk Railway:—Grand Total of Lands, commencing at ten miles from Marton, that will give traffic to the railway within ten miles of the proposed line:
Crown or Private.
Arable 64,000
Pastoral 113,000
Arable 766,000
Pastoral 1,024,000
Grand total 1,967,000

Of this quantity, a million and a half is estimated as good land fit for settlement; the balance will be fair pastoral land.

Land along the Central Route Railway, commencing at the south-west boundary of the Parikarito Block, nine miles north-west of Marton.

The Rangatira Block lies on the east side of the line, and in the Porewa contains about twenty-two thousand acres of bush country, with good marketable timber; about two thirds are good agricultural, and the rest good pastoral land.

On the west of the line is the Parikarito Block, extending to about twenty-two miles, or three miles beyond the township of Hunterville. About half this block, to about four miles from the line, would feed into the railway. It contains 23,000 acres. This block is all sold, and occupied in many places, and roaded throughout, practicable for horses. On the flats of the Porewa and valleys the timber is heavy and the land good, the low hills are more lightly page 10 timbered; about one-third is arable, and the rest good pastoral land.

North of the Parikarito lies the middle Turakina Valley. It contains about fifty thousand acres, and would feed into the railway. The nearest point is seven miles from the 20-mile peg. A fairly good road is in progress. There are good flats along the Turakina and Mangapapa Valleys, the bulk being hilly bush and scrub lands, all well adapted for pastoral purposes.

From 22 miles to the north-east boundary of the Otairi Block, at 33½ miles, there are 35,000 acres which would be served by the line. A horse-road, well graded, runs through half of the block and falls into the railway line. At 33½ miles the Crown Lands end. The land is mostly covered with heavy bush, of marketable quality; about one-fourth is arable, and the rest good pastoral land. The Crown holds about three thousand acres. Along the river, from 26 miles to 30 miles, there are two considerable open flats covered with fern and flax; the largest is called Ohingaiti; it is about a mile and a half long. This is on the high terrace where the line is surveyed. Below it, towards the River Rangitikei, there is another extensive open flat, much longer, on which there are several native kaingas and cultivations. One at 29 miles is called Otara. Opposite there, is a favourable place for crossing the Rangitikei, with a road-bridge to connect the country on the east-side, known as the Otamakapua Block. It is the best place for connecting the north end of this block with the railway line.

From 33½ to 45 miles, at an average width of four miles, there would be 13,000 acres on the west side of the line. Along this portion of the Otara Range approaches the Rangitikei River, and there are several long spurs ending in high bluffs on the river. Some of these spurs unite and form high table-land, along which the line would run, and greatly reduce the work of formation. The slopes are generally gentle, and the land of good quality and well suited for pastoral purposes. It might be settled in 3oo-acre or 400-acre blocks, and each block would have flats in it. The timber is tawa, matai, rimu, and some totara, of good marketable quality; In some of the creeks there is gravel, but the main rock throughout is marl, in places hard, and containing shells.

The Otamakapua Block, on the east side of the Rangitikei, contains 140,000 acres, one third of which, at the north end, would probably be served by the line. The character of the country generally flats, near the Rangitikei, on high table-land, through which the side streams run with deep banks; at the back the country is rough and much broken by low hills, well suitable for pastoral purposes; the timber is smaller than that across the river. Many of the hills are covered with scrub and koromiko, &c. There are three blocks of land within the block which are still native, but page 11 under lease to Europeans; the three together contain 9,000 acres they are used for cattle runs. The Kawatau River is the boundary of the Otamakapua Block as well as of the Crown lands. Beyond this boundary I have not been more than two or three miles. A large area will be surveyed by the railway.

From 45 miles to the first open country, 58 miles, the Hautapu has high marl banks within five miles of the end, where they decrease quickly until the banks are low. Extensive flats run along the river, but there are three spurs, which run out and form high bluffs. One of these can be got round by cutting, but the [unclear: other] two must be graded over. I estimate that, taking both sides of the river at nine miles back, there are sixty thousand acres of land of excellent quality, which would be served by the railway; one fourth would be arable, and the rest good pastoral land. The timber matai, kahikatea, maire, &c., of marketable quality; some of the totara are of great size; the undergrowth is rangiora scrub.

From 55 to 72 miles on the west side of the line to 72 miles (south boundary of Murimotu Block) the country is part bush and open; there is a good deal of totara on both sides of the river. On the west side of the line there are 75,000 acres within ten miles of the line, one-third would be arable and the remainder very good pastoral land. On the east side there would be 54,000 acres within the same radius, and to which the same description would apply; both are in limestone country; the open land is fern, koromiko, and grass, &c. This is called the Inner Patea country, and adjoining the last described land there is a still larger area of good open limestone country that would make use of the railway. Messrs Birch, Moorhouse and Co. hold 164,000 acres under native lease. This land consists of long valleys and low downs generally covered with grass; one third would be arable and the remainder good pastoral land.

From 86½ to 98 miles the land is mostly flat bush; the two nearest miles to Murimotu have a large admixture of birch, but the land is good. Beyond, the bush is kahikatea, matai, tawa, maire, and totara; there are several small clearings, grass and fern, and the land is generally of good quality. On the west side, within ten miles of the line, there is an area of 107,000 acres, of which about one hundred thousand acres are flat. Between this and the Wanganui River there is a belt of low broken country, papa and limestone rock, with tawa bush, and in places heavier timber; the land is generally good. Half of this area would be served by the railway and half by the Wanganui River. On the east of the line, within five miles, there are 16,000 acres, of which one-fourth would be fair arable land and the rest good pastoral; a part of this (the Rangitaua Block) is Crown land.

From 98 to 107 miles the line runs on a higher table-land, page 12 through which the rivers run with high banks, necessitating the viaducts shown in the diagram. This land is not of such good' quality as the lower flat; the timber is rimu, hinau, maire, matai, and birch, largely mixed with kaikowhaka. There are about twelve thousand acres of table-land to the east of the line, one-fourth of which would be fair arable land, and sixty-seven thousand acres on the west, one fourth of which would likewise be good arable land. Still further west, towards the Wanganui River, about thirty-five thousand acres of land would make use of the railway. Down the Manganui-a-te-ao there are many small native settlements and cultivations, where kumeras, taro, and wheat are grown. On the river sides there are generally fern flats, through which the river runs, with very high banks; the principal rock is shell limestone; some of the land is very good. The bush generally is light tawa. The Manganui-a-te-ao offers a good means for road communication with the Wanganui River.

From 107 to 113 miles (Waimarino) the country is open tussock grass and poor land; to the north-east there is a run of open and nearly flat country, past Lake Roto Aira to Taupo; this is very poor country, held under native lease as a sheep-run. There are some few patches of moderately good country, where the natives generally are located and have cultivations, but, if this railway should be made, Waimarino will be an important junction. On the east of the line there are about thirty-two thousand acres fit for pastoral purposes.

From 113 to 120 miles the line runs near the Piopiotea. Several miles are along high terrace bush land of good quality; the timber for the first two or three miles is light, but after that it is marketable, consisting of matai, kahikatea, rimu, tawa, maire, and some totara. There would be 38,000 acres available on the west, and 18,000 acres on the east, of which a third would be good arable, and remainder good pastoral land.

From 120 to 131 miles it is bush land, of good quality; timber similar to last, except that the last three or four miles are chiefly large totara trees of great length without branching. In this length of line there would be on the west 42,000 acres, of which one-third would be arable, and 63,000 to the east, of similar character, one third would be good arable and remainder good pastoral land.

From near 131 miles a native horse-track goes by Ruamata to Taupo; the track is bad, but the land along it is very good soil. A better road can be got up the Wanganui River. From a little lower down another track goes to Taupo by way of the Puketapu and Pungapunga River. The country along this line shows pumice in places, and is not so good for land as the Ruamata track, but there are some good patches of totara in some of the valleys. Up the Pungapunga is where the natives believe gold to exist. I saw page 13 some quartz and slate, but the indications are not good. There are two settlements and cultivations up the river,

From 131 to 137½ miles (Taumaranui) to the south of the line, 48,000 acres of land would be available; it is chiefly open, what bush there is is totara. The soil is fairly good, one-half would be [unclear: arable] and the remainder good pastoral land. There is some drift pumice in the soil, but I do not consider it injured by it. To the north of the line there are 28,000 acres of patchy land, one-third of which would be arable; part is very good and part pumice.

From 137½ to 160 miles (Waimiha) the country is generally open, with considerable fern flats all along the Ongarue River, with a good many native villages and cultivations. The land is generally covered with heavy fern, but it is patchy, part being very good, and part largely mixed with pumice-sand; the hills are often bush on top, and generally good soil. On the west and south of the line there are two blocks of 109,000 and 61,000 acres accessible to the railway, one-third would be arable and remainder good pastoral land. On the east there would be 75,000 acres, which include the low-wooded country at the back called Tuhua, said by the natives to be good country. I have not been on much of it, but have looked over it from several points; I should estimate one-third of it as arable. There is some good land and native settlements up the Taringamutu, and a large amount of totara.

All the country down the Wanganui, at least as far as Maraekowai, or the confluence of the Ohura and Wanganui, would be served by the central route line. The Ohura offers a road communication though the centre, connecting with the line at 154 miles, where the native track is from Mokau. All upper good land of the Mokau is also accessible. I consider the central route would embrace all the country along the western route to within sixty-two miles of Stratford.

From 160 to 166 miles on the west there are 16,000 acres of low bush hill country, with strong fern in the valleys. Most of the bush land is very good, and the timber marketable; about one-fourth would be arable. On the east there are 43,000 acres of land, a third of which up the Waimiha and Ongarue is open flat country and very poor; the remainder is fair pastoral land, with one-fourth table.

From 166 to 175 miles the country consists of long flat valleys, with low hills between them, with bush clumps; the open land is grass or fern, of moderately-good quality. There are 5,000 acres on the west and 5,000 acres on the east of the line, a third would be [unclear: arable]. I should class this as land which should be held in blocks of four or five hundred acres.

From 175 to 154 miles (Mangapu) on the West there are 92,000 acres within ten miles of the line. I estimate two-thirds open and page 14 one-third arable. It is mostly limestone country, of very good quality; dotted over it are many native villages and cultivations; wheat and oats are grown, and also maize and hops. The river, which has little fall, is the high road of traffic with the towns outside. On the east of the line there are 84,000 acres of land, of which four-fifths are open and one-fifth arable. This block is mostly good, and what little forest land there is is generally kahikatea and pukatea.

From 194 to 212 miles on the west, within ten miles, there would be 96,000 acres; beyond this the traffic would work to Kawhia Harbour. The land is chiefly open and good soil, with some considerable swamps. About half would be arable, the rest good pastoral country. Fern is the general growth. There are many native settlements and cultivations; wheat and all kinds of crops are grown. On the cast, within ten miles, there are 74,000 acres, mostly open fern land, of good quality. One-half of this would be arable, and the rest good pastoral land. There are also several native villages and cultivations on the block.

—I have, &c.,

John Rochfort.

The Chairman, Main Trunk Line Committee, North Island.