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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 65

The Wanganui River

page 31

The Wanganui River.

If the visitor wants to have a comprehensive view of the town, let him do as we did, and mount the steep flagstaff hill, which looks down upon the river, spanned by its noble bridge on iron piers; and there, while his sense of smell is regaled with the sweet scent of the blossoming withhin, his ears ravished with the dulcet chorus of the warbling larks and linnets, let him feast his eyes on the magnificent panorama which unfolds itself before his gaze.

Away from the symmetrical town, nestling round its two sandy moles, and skirted by the silvery river at your feet, your eyes are drawn as by some irresistible fascination to yonder mighty altar, uprearing its spotless architecture right away up from the [unclear: pony] brethren around it till it stands out clear, distinct, sharp cut, in virgin purity, looking like 'a great white throne' let down from Heaven.

It is Mount Ruapehu, crowned with eternal snows, draped with samite, and glistening in the sun; and yet so calm, peaceful, pure, that as you gaze the spell works, and you stand hushed, subdued, and yet with the sense of a great peace within you, as you think of the pure majesty of the Creator of that wondrous pinnacle of light and glory, and can feel that even the tiny lark poised above your head, throbbing with song, has its every feather noted by His all-seeing eye, and that in the boundless infinitude of His love, you too, have the portion of a child."

That is what the correspondent of the "Sydney Town and Country Journal" wrote about the view from the flagstaff, but had he seen the same at sunset, when the glittering white changed to the faintest pink and deepened to a rosy red, while the sky blazed with ultramarine, vermillion, and gold, and after a while he would have seen the whole slowly grow grey, fade like a dream into the shadows of night, but leaving a tawny glory in the west like a pillar of fire.

The river is, perhaps, the most important in New Zealand. When the present snagging operations are completed, steamboats of a light draught, will be able to proceed up about 140 miles, and though there are no very extensive plains between Wanganui and Taumaranui, there are numerous valleys running into the Wanganui, capable of supporting large populations. A main road is to be constructed from Taumaranui to tap the Central Railroad, page 32 which runs through very good land, and, moreover, will be the direct road to the Tuhua or King Country, where authorized prospectors have quite lately discovered gold, (it has yet to be proved whether in payable quantities or not). But at any rate, the new country will support a large proportion, and the time is at hand when it will be opened up.

Between the town of Wanganui and Aramoho, is a fine reach of water, of great depth, used as the course at the Wanganui Regatta, said to be one of the finest, if not the very best, bit of water for acquatics in the Colony. And very gay the river looks, when the banks are lined with the well-dressed crowds, and the Garrison Band enlivens the gay scene. But the Wanganui Clubs were no match in 1885 for the Canterbury boys, who went away from here the champions of the meeting.

From the town to Kennedy's, or Upokongaro, is seven miles, a good road on both sides of the river, or a fine row in a boat, not sufficient current to make it too great an exertion, and just sufficiend to paddle lazily back with. Kennedy's consists of an hotel, kept by John Kennedy, stores, also belonging to him, school house, Church of England, and the Court Theatre, a large room, in which is a pretty stage and a beautiful act drop, painted by Charles D. Barraud (subject, Rio Janeiro). On this litttle stage have been mounted some of the most successful pieces produced in this district by amateurs.

There are a good number of families about Upokongaro, and no place in New Zealand enjoys a greater reputation for hospitality.

From Kennedy's, the river winds a great deal through wooded banks to Kaiwaiki, fourteen miles. At Parikino and Atene (Athens), are native settlements, but at Ranana, Major Kemp's settlement, about 2000 acres are under cultivation. The cottages, or native whares, are all comfortable. There is also a fine runanga, or meeting house, while a European baker supplies bread to the settlement.

The scenery between Ranana and Jerusalem is splendid, weeping willows overhang both banks of the river, the quince trees are in groves, the peach equally plentiful, and innumerable sheep and cattle dot the hill sides, all the property of the natives.

At Jerusalem, there are about 3000 acres of fine grazing land. There is a Roman Catholic Mission Station, in charge of the Marist Fathers, the Rev. Fathers Soulas and Lepreke, being at present stationed there. A community of Nuns, under Sister Mary Joseph, late of Napier, is also located there. Considerable improvements are being made by the missionaries, a convent and church having just been built. The sisters are chiefly engaged in educating the Maori children.

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Paparoa Wanganui River.

Paparoa Wanganui River.

page 33

The Island of Moutoa, on which a battle was fought between the friendly and hostile natives, and which saved the town of Wanganui from invasion, is the next point of interest, and the scenery grows wilder and grander every mile. The numerous streams that contribute to the main river have each some special beauty of their own; falls, rapids, gorges, and every now and then splendid passed valleys until Taumaranui is reached. The river upwards from Taumaranui is not so accessible, but it increases in grandeur, and we are told on the authority of Mr. Knorpp, C.E., the scenery-is equal to the Rhine and Danube Rivers.

Those who think of forming a party to ascend the river, should first obtain Major Kemp's permission. Probably the best plan would be to consult Mr. R. W. Woon, Native Resident Magistrate, and as a steamboat will be ready for traffic in January next, probably facilities will then be offered that are not now available.

Mr. S. H. Manson, in view of the increasing up-river trade, has, in addition to the stores already established on Taupo Quay, Upokongaro, and Murumotu, opened an additional one at Taumaranui, at the place where the junction of the river and road traffic will join to connect with the Central Railway. This will be a great boon to travellers, who will be able to obtain stores. The building is a weather-board one, and no doubt as the traffic increases Mr. Manson will provide further accommodation for travellers.

Table of Distances, Wanganui River.

Wanganui to Kennedy's 7 miles; Kennedy's to Kaiwaiki 7 miles; Kaiwaiki to Otamari 24 miles; Otamari to Korinite 2 miles; Kojrinite to Ranana 10 miles; Ranana to Tawhitanui 1 mile; Tawhitanui to Pipiriki 3 miles; Pipiriki to Utopie 10 miles; Utopie to Paketapu 12 miles; Paketapu to Whakahora 15 miles; Whakahora to Rhakora 25 miles; Rhakora to Taumaranui 29 miles. These distances exceed those given by survey, but are the native distances by canoe; the survey makes the distance 14 miles less.

The Premier's Trip.

The following cutting is from the "Wanganni Herald":—It was generally expected that the Premier would have reached Wanganui on Saturday afternoon, but those who expected him were doomed to disappointment, as he did not reach town until last evening. The party, consisting of the Hon. the Premier, Mr. Blair (Assistant Engineer-in-Chief), Mr. Mills (Managing Director of the Union Steam Shipping Company), and Mr. Rochfort (Surveyor of the Central Line of Railway), left Punit after the sod-turning and visited Orakau, accompanied by the famous old warrior, Rewi. That night they went on to Kihikihi, next day through Cambridge and to Oxford, then on to Wairoa, through Ohinemutu, page 34 reaching Rotomahana. Here they stayed, and visited the Pink and White Terraces. Next day they made Taupo, where they put up for a night. The following morning (Monday) they rode to Tokano and rested for the night. Early next morning a start was made for the Wanganui River, and the edge of the bush, Moerangi, was reached by night. Bush travelling was the order of the day on Wednesday, the Puketapu track being used. That evening they slept at Ngapuki, a native village about six miles from Taumaranui. The country had been rather rough; the altitude of the land between Tokano and Taumarunui is some 2,500 feet above sea level. The land has some excellent totara bush on it, and the bush land there is of better quality than the open. At Taumaranui the country lies much lower; there is some good land. On arriving at Taumaranui, at 10 o'clock on Thursday morning, they found a large gathering of natives, who had met there to welcome the Premier. After speeches of a congratulatory character on both sides, the party remained for a few hours getting their traps ready for transhipment, &c. At 3.30 they started by canoe for Wanganui, Mr. Rochefort having made all the necessary arrangements. That night they camped out about a dozen miles below Taumaranui; on Friday, they got within eight miles of Utapu, and camped out. Next morning they stopped at Utapu, where a great tangi was going on. The chiefs there addressed the Minister, thanking him for coming amongst them, and Mr. Stout replied in suitable terms. Proceeding on their journey, they arrived at Ranana on Satarday night, and finding it impossible to make Wanganui they stayed there, having the use of the fine whare runanga there. Yesterday morning they started on the last section of their river journey, and just below Koriniti they met a canoe sent up by Kemp to meet the Premier. Here they changed canoes, and taking their own men on arrived at Kennedy's about 5.30. Host Kennedy served up a substantial supper for the travellers, who then came on to Wanganui by coach, reaching town at ten minutes to 8. At 12 o'clock a special train left with the party for Foxton, where they were to catch the morning coach. Mr. Rochfort remains in town for a few days, and then returns to Ranana, whence he will travel through to a section of the Central Line on which a party of his men are engaged. The whole of the Ministerial party expressed themselves as highly pleased with their trip, The Premier thinks the river a grand one, and in his opinion it is Wanganui's first duty to have it opened up and made use of. The land which the railroad will tap close to the river is, he says, excellent, and he believes, without expressing a professional opinion, that the river could easily be improved. The river, it may be said, was seen at its worst, inasmuch as it is now very low, but even at this disadvantage it was considered a noble river; Mr. Blair and Mr. Mills both page 35 expressed themselves as much pleased with the river, the scenery, and the general appearance of the country. Mr. Rochfort's opinion as to the ease with which the river could be improved is not altered in the least, and he has now seen the river a number of times. Mr. Rochfort informs us that the central line is being "located" now in various places by himself, that when this is done the surveys will be gone on with at once. The tunnel section near the other end has been surveyed, and the plans are now in Wellington. While on the railway business, it may not be out of place to state that the Premier was not able to say whether or not any demonstration could be arranged at Marton, not having been in communication with Wellington for some days he did not know what had been done. With the party there also came to town Te Ngatae te Manuka, the chief of the Taumararunui tribe, and one possessing great influence. This noted chief has not been down to Wanganui for many years, having lived an isolated life at his own settlement.

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