Rambles in New Zealand - part 3
it under a projecting rock, where I saw an old mat and some sticks and rubbish; immediately they set up a terrible outcry that the place was taboo because somebody had died there. I said I did not care; but they gave me to understand that if I persisted, they should all die. I assured them that if they did not make the fire, nor come near it, certainly nothing could harm them, and as for myself I was very willing to run the risk. At last they gave in, seeing I was determined to have my own way. I wanted something to eat, and told them to put my pot on. It was brought, and I placed it on my own fire; however, seeing that theirs was better than mine, I took it off and carried it over to theirs. Before I could set it down, they snatched it out of my hand, and made a worse outcry than ever. Their fire was taboo; it was the fire they had brought in the canoe, and was not for cooking. I was greatly annoyed, and gave them a good scolding for their nonsense, telling the missionary lads that they ought to know better than attend to such stuff. At length they agreed to make a fire in earnest, especially when I pointed out to them that unless they did so, they would have nothing to eat most likely for that day and the next, as it was not probable the swell on the lake would subside very quickly after such a gale of wind. When they had pitched the tent and had lighted the fire, I allowed them to kill a pig, which set all right; at all events, I heard no more about the taboo. The gale increased all night, and it was lucky I had broken the taboo of the corner sheltered by the projecting rock, of which the natives now gladly availed themselves. I think had it not been for this they would have died of the wet and cold, as there was no possibility of making a shelter of branches, &c., which they usually do when they have occasion to sleep in the woods in bad weather.
March 7th. - Detained at the tabooed place all day by the heavy swell; the wind began to subside about mid-day, and the
rain ceased. Found several curious plants; an Andromeda, and a very curious Rubus with a gigantic woody climbing stem; the plant and leaves covered with bright yellow prickles.
March 8th. - Obliged to make a start this morning, although the lake was still very rough, because we had eaten up all our potatoes, and almost all the pork. We did not, however, advance very far, as the lake continued so rough that it was very dangerous. We landed at the first small beach we could make, and again pitched the tent on account of the rain: after two or three hours, as the wind had fallen a great deal, we again set off, and were fortunate enough to reach our port in safety. As we went on, young Pirata asked me to fire a gun, to inform his father of our return. Soon after I had fired, we saw smoke ascending, as a signal that we had been observed, and about three o’clock reached the place from which we had originally embarked on Towpo. Found old Pirata still there, and expecting us: he had got another pig for us and plenty of potatoes; he was exceedingly glad to see us again, and my natives stayed up all night relating my exploits in ascending the mountain. As the journey was over so far as my extra hands were concerned, I paid them off: there were eight of them, whom I had employed for eight days; and I gave each five figs of tobacco and a pipe, with which they were perfectly satisfied. I also gave half a fig each to my own natives, and one to Rangey-o-nare (Rangi-o-nare), the chief who had come with me from Roturoa: this was rather a treat to them, as I had kept them very short for the two or three previous days, in consequence of their bad behaviour. I gave old Pirata twenty figs and a pipe, and a knife to each of his sons, who had been with me the whole time, and were as good, quiet lads as one could wish to meet with: as for the old chief, he was really quite a gentleman of the old school - there was a quiet, unpresuming dignity about
him which nobody could fail to observe and admire. It was a most kindly-meant thing of the old man to send his sons with me, and they were of great use as letters of introduction; in fact, of far greater use than nine out of ten of such letters which I have delivered.
The natives about Towpo were not so well-looking a set as they are in some other parts of the island; this was more remarkable in the women than in the men: the handsomest girls I saw were two daughters of old Pirata, who, with their fine mats wrapped round their waists, looked quite as graceful as many of the pictures of Hindoo girls I have seen in similar dresses - or rather I should say, in dresses similarly worn, - for the thick New Zealand mats would not be very comfortable dresses in India. The older women, and particularly those who have children, wear their mats over their shoulders instead of round their waists; which is not near so graceful, but becomes them better, as I do not consider suckling improves the form especially among those, who, like the New Hollanders, &c., suckle their children over their shoulders.
March 9th. - My men were very loath to move this morning, but I succeeded at last in starting them. I took a very affectionate leave of old Pirata; his sons and daughters accompanied us for some distance on our road along the lake-shore, and when they left us, there was such a shaking of hands and rubbing of noses as detained us more than a quarter of an hour. I gave each of the young ladies a few blue beads, with which they were highly delighted, for in this part of the country beads have not yet lost their value. As I understood we were going back to Pirata (the Pa), although by a different road, I would not let the natives take any potatoes or pork with them; but after walking for several hours, I felt certain we must have kept it at some distance, or else that we were going a very
roundabout way, in order to afford an excuse for staying there all night: however, on inquiry I found we were not going at all towards it, but direct to the Waikato, on our way homewards. I now began to repent of not having allowed any food to be brought, as I knew well it was a tremendous distance to any potatoe-ground, and that we should be half-starved before we got there. About mid-day we gained the road by which we had arrived at Pirata, and continued in it for several hours: we then struck off toward the south-east, so as to cross the Waikato at a higher point than we had done before, and our course ceased to be over the barren moor which I have before mentioned. The wood was part of the same belt I have already spoken of as running parallel with the course of the Waikato. At the part where we now crossed, there was the finest forest I had seen in New Zealand; the trees were chiefly Totara of gigantic size, and grew close together. The land also was very rich and level. I here saw some of the largest Fuchsia trees (Pohutukataka) I had met with in the country; they were at least a foot in diameter, - the wood is almost as light as cork, - the flowers are about the size of those of the common Fuchsia, but not so brilliant; it is a deciduous tree.
Rangey-o-nare and myself, having nothing to carry, had pushed on very much faster than the rest of our party, and consequently arrived at our proposed halting-place about six o’clock, where there were a hut and the men and women whom we had first seen on the other side of the Waikato, which river was now about four miles distant. I found that these people had crossed the river on purpose to meet us here, doubtless for the sake of some more tobacco. I suffered dreadfully on this day’s march from sore ankles, which, from fatigue, I had so often kicked, that they were entirely raw, and seemed likely to continue so for some time. My best hand, Moning-'aw, arrived with the
tent about an hour after; but I began to fear the others had taken a different road, as they did not come up till eight o’clock: they were all dreadfully fatigued, which was not to be wondered at, as they had had nothing to eat from six in the morning, except a few raw potatoes and raw craw-fish, perhaps at the rate of two potatoes and one craw-fish each man. I did not, however, pity them much, as if they had not deceived me about the road they intended to take, they might have arrived at the resting-place long before they did.
March 10th. - We this day employed all our strength to carry potatoes, as we knew that none were growing within two days’ journey - the women came with us for the purpose of carrying our first day’s meals. We had great difficulty in crossing the Waikato, owing to the smallness of the canoe and the want of paddles; for the people who had left it there for us had, I suppose, hidden them so completely, that we could not find them in half an hour’s search, and consequently were obliged to pull her for about five miles against a current like a mill-stream. The road over which we now passed to Roturoa, I have already described.
March 12th. - Last night, at about ten miles’ distance, we could plainly smell the hot springs of Roturoa. We got into the great Pa at ten o’clock, but were obliged to remain there all day in consequence of the wind not permitting us to cross over to Mr. Chapman’s in a canoe. During my absence, the Waikato people had attacked Muckatoo - a town on the sea-coast east of Tawranga, which belonged to the Roturoa people, who said they thought Mr. Chapman was gone there to try to make peace. This news made me more than ever anxious to get over to the mission-house, and I exerted all my eloquence to persuade the natives to launch a canoe, but to no purpose. When at last they chose to take me ever, it was after tea-time at Mr. Chapman’s.
I did not then know what was their reason for keeping me there so long, as I was sure they could have crossed the lake before, had they chosen to do so. I afterwards discovered they were debating whether or not they should kill my two Waikato men, Moning-aw and Mahia, and were only prevented by the opposition of Rangey O’Nare, and the consideration that they were but slaves; it had been such a nice point that they had actually loaded a musket to shoot them. I am very glad I did not know this at the time, for I might have made matters worse than they turned out, as I was uncommonly angry at being kept there so long, and the having nothing to eat all day had not improved my temper: although very hungry I did not like eating what was dressed in the hot springs; and there was no wood to be had in the whole Pa for love or money. I had an instance to-day of the great value the natives sometimes set on their ornaments of green stone maries (meri), as the whites call them. I saw one which I admired, which was not so elaborately carved as some are, but simply a straight piece about five inches long and half an inch wide; on my asking the native to sell it, he had the moderation to demand my double-barrel gun for it, nor would he lower his price: this was in fact but another way of telling me that he would not sell it at all, it having been a present from a deceased friend. These pieces of jude might be very easily imitated in England, but I do not think, they would then be valued by the natives more than large beads, or anything else of the kind, as their value certainly arises from their having been made by a friend who is dead, and given by him to the possessor - somewhat in the same way we value a keepsake; but the feeling is of a much more superstitious character with these people than with us.
I cannot describe the delight I felt in again visiting a house belonging to one of my own countrymen - heightened by the
extremely kind manner in which Mr. and Mrs. Chapman received me. I shall never forget the pleasure of that evening. The tea and bread were great delicacies to me, as I had not tasted either for several days, although I had been very sparing of the supply of bread I took with me, and had managed to keep it much longer than I otherwise should, by cutting it into slices and drying it before the fire: my tea and sugar had been washed away in crossing Towpo. Mr. Chapman was delighted to learn that I had been able to ascend to the summit of Tongadido, as the natives had always asserted to him that it was impossible, in consequence of the precipitous nature of the ascent; but he intended to try it when he next went there: he said the news of my having ascended the mountain would soon be carried all over the island, as indeed I found afterwards it had. The report of the attack on Muckatoo was quite true, and at the time I arrived, several young natives who had been despatched there on missionary business had been taken prisoners, and it was expected that some had been killed: under all the circumstances, Mr. Chapman said he should not feel justified in allowing me to proceed to Tawranga, until he had received further news of the war party, who were said to be actually occupying the road I should have to travel. I accordingly passed several days at Roturoa, and employed myself very pleasantly in examining the different hotsprings and solfataras around the lake; at the same time I made several valuable additions to my collection of plants.
March 13th, Tuesday, to Wednesday, March 21st. - Employed these days in visiting all the most remarkable parts of Roturoa. The boiling-springs extend over the whole country around the lake, and are some of them very large; the great one at the Pa pours forth a stream of water four feet wide and one foot deep; the waters are perfectly clear, and nearly tasteless; they are,
however, slightly styptic, and many of the rocks near are covered with an efflorescence very like concrete sulphuric acid, but is, I suppose, an aluminous salt with a great excess of acid. The natives of Roturoa have very bad teeth, said to be the consequence of always eating their food cooked in these streams; but I saw many of them here with as good teeth as elsewhere: there was one girl at Mr. Chapman’s who had, I think, as fine a set of teeth as I ever beheld, and she was altogether so beautiful that I very much wished for her likeness, to have sent to England as a favourable specimen of New Zealand beauty. I discovered in the woods here a species of Eugenia, bearing an eatable fruit, and a most beautiful epiphytal orchideous plant [probably Earina mucronata], with a very powerful perfume: if this plant would grow out of doors in England, as I think likely, it would be quite a new feature in gardens. I bought for two blue beads a cockatoo or rather parrot (nestor), the most common bird in New Zealand, and good to eat - the natives catch them by means of tame ones: they make a little shelter in the woods, and then hide themselves in it, with a stick in one hand, and a string, to which the bird is tied, in the other; they then tease the parrot, which makes a great noise, when the others come to fight him, and are knocked down. It is strange so sly a bird should be caught in such a way, as I could never manage to get near enough to shoot one. The tame parrots or “cacas” have always an ornamental ring round one of their legs, which is generally made of human bone.
Wednesday, March 21st. - Left Roturoa. The reports about the war-party were so contradictory that I doubted their truth, and being anxious to return to Tawranga, I determined to run the risk of encountering them. As I landed from the boat
which Mr. Chapman had provided for me, a woman very coolly asked me if I did not want a wife; this was rather a bad sample of the morals of the Roturoa people, and particularly as several of the natives belonging to Mr. Chapman were present, and would take back the report to the island: not being a “marrying man,” I begged to be excused. We passed over the same road we had travelled on our way to Roturoa without meeting with any adventure till after we had encamped for the night. About ten o’clock, as I was lying in bed, I thought I heard a dog sniffing close to my head, and on getting quickly up I heard something make a rustling noise through the bushes; this alarmed me very much, as it was certain there must be some one near, or there would be no dog; I accordingly awoke my companions and told them what I had heard, which was confirmed at the same time by the howling of a dog at a short distance; they were much frightened, but said it was no use doing anything till the morning; and that I need not be afraid, as there was no danger of my being killed even if they were, which I thought but too probable. My two Waikatos, Mahia and Moning-aw, were perfectly comfortable about it; it was now their turn to be so, as the people dodging us, if any, belonged to their own tribe, while these who had been so easy while the debate was going on at Roturoa on my final return to the Pa, were in great alarm; I was, however, surprised to find them all asleep about two hours afterwards, while I, who was in no danger whatever, could not rest for the remainder of the night. It would have been a shocking thing to have reflected that I had caused the death of so many human beings, merely by my selfish perverseness in setting off from a place of safety in opposition to the advice of those who knew the danger so much better than I did, and who so kindly and anxiously had warned me against it. No more alarms, however, occurred during the night, but we were very careful
not to make much fire in the morning, lest the smoke should betray us to any outlying war-party.
Thursday, March 22nd. - We encamped in the evening at the same place as on our first night from Tawranga. We were then in a sheltered place, and although we could have gone several miles farther towards our journey’s end, we thought this preferable, the remaining part of the road being an open plain, where we should have been exposed by the light of our fires for twenty miles around, and morning might have found us all with our throats cut. We passed during the day, with some anxiety, the road which led from the Waikato to Muckatoo, where the war party was said to have encamped while we were at Roturoa; but no war-party had been there, for the path required good eyes to discover it. We found the marks of three people having slept not far from our last encampment, and there was no doubt that the dog which caused us so much alarm belonged to them. We afterwards learnt they were Tawranga people returning from Roturoa, and had set out from a different part of the lake on the same day as ourselves.
Friday, March 23rd. - The hottest day I felt in New Zealand. Thermometer 65. The view of Tawranga as you approach it from the land side is very beautiful; Manganorie, the solitary hill at the entrance of the harbour, is a splendid object; were it necessary it might be made a second Gibraltar. When I arrived at the missionary station there were three vessels in the harbour, so that I did not expect much difficulty in getting up to the Bay of Islands. I also learnt that a large war-party, or Tower, was on its way from Muckatoo to the Waikato, and was expected daily, and that there was no truth in the report of a party having been between Tawranga and Roturoa.
Saturday, March 24th. - Finding there was no chance of either of the vessels going to the Bay for a week or more, I would
willingly have explored the Waikato country, but was dissuaded by the missionaries, who said I was certain of being robbed, as a war-party never respected persons, and that even the missionaries themselves would be stripped if they were to fall in with a party on its march. They so strongly dissuaded me from going that I waited for several days; but as there was no further sign of the “Tower” I began to get impatient, and at last made up my mind to set off and run the risk of meeting them. I provided myself with a sort of safe-conduct from the wife of a white man at Tawranga, who was a Waikato woman and a chief, and a great friend of mine; and also I took a white man with me who knew the people well. It was, however, obvious that “Mary” or “A-poi,” the woman I have mentioned, did not place much confidence in the forbearance of her friends, even when visiting them with a kind of letter of introduction from her, for she sent me by a road at least thirty miles out of my way, for no other reason that I know of than that I might not run the risk of meeting her countrymen.
Thursday, March 29th. - We were nearly all day doing what four hours’ good paddling in a canoe would have done, from the unwillingness of my crew. Our route was along the harbour of Tawranga, which extends for many miles to the northward, almost as far as Mercury Bay; it is a long, narrow, and very shallow channel, formed by several flat islands lying close to the coast, and laid down on the charts as part of the main land. Several rivers have their outlets into it, up one of which we went and encamped for the night. We found that a party from Mattamatta had occupied the place (which was the first ford of the river) just before us, and we were glad to find them actually gone; they had, however, left such multitudes of fleas behind them that next morning I was a mass of red spots; it was a lesson to me afterwards never to occupy a deserted encampment
of the natives. The cliffs we passed on this day’s journey were very curious, they were about twenty or thirty feet from the water, and consisted of perfectly horizontal layers of a clay resembling chalk in appearance, but composed of decayed pumice, with occasional intervening layers of a black vegetable substance evidently passing into coal. One of the seams was about a foot thick, it was the under one, but had no consistency, and when pressed it crumbled in the hand so as to discover its component parts, which were leaves, twigs, and seed-vessels of plants now forming the flowers of the island; this must be as recent a coal formation as may be seen in any part of the world. The natives said that they used it as fuel, but they cannot do so to any extent, as the trouble of procuring it would be greater than would be required to get wood, owing to its situation, at or rather below the edge of high-water mark.
Friday, March 30th. - Our road to-day lay over a range of mountains called the Arrohaw; the ascent on this, the eastern side, is gradual, but in many places on the other side almost a wall; the whole range was thickly wooded, denoting a very good quality of land. I here first saw the great Dracophyllum; it formed a small tree about six inches in diameter, and twenty feet high; it is one of the most curious plants in the world; the leaves grow in tufts at the ends of the branches, just as in the dragon tree (Dracaena), and are the same shape, but in this species they are elegantly reflexed, like the feathers of a soldier’s plume; they are a foot long and an inch broad at the base. The bunches of flowers (which I did not see, the plant being in seed) are, I believe, white; as large as moderate bunches of grapes, and of the same shape. I have very little doubt that it would grow out of doors in England, but could not succeed in getting any ripe seed. I also saw here for the first time the gigantic tree fern (Mummuke), the young fronds of which are
eaten by the natives, as well as the soft part of the head of the trunk, corresponding to the cabbage of the palm. In its natural state it is very slimy, so that if you bite it, you will find some difficulty in spitting it out again; but by long baking in the native ovens, it becomes of somewhat the consistency of baked apple, which it would resemble in taste if it were at all acid. Nevertheless, it is by no means disagreeable. I measured some fronds twenty-two feet long, and at the base eight and a half inches in circumference; it far exceeds in beauty any other fern-tree I have ever seen; the largest trunks were not more than eight inches diameter. I was surprised to learn that fern-trees are very easily transplanted; in fact, if out off with an axe, and the trunk buried about a foot, it will rarely fail of growing after a short time. This range of mountains was level at the top, and when viewed from a distance appeared like a wall. I however found it difficult to determine when we were on the highest part of the pass, as we traversed many minor hills and valleys while actually on the top of the range. I was at last much pleased to get a glimpse of a great plain to the westward, which showed at all events we had at length actually passed the highest part. I imagine this range to be about 4000 feet high at the north end; it becomes very gradually lower towards the south, but still keeps its wall-like appearance: on this range as well as on several high hills along the coast, there are very singular pillar - like rocks standing in groups on the summit, some of them cannot be less than a hundred feet high, and yet appear mere pillars. I regret that I was never able to approach any of them so as to discover of what kind of rock they were composed they always appeared to be completely covered with bushes, so that they could not be clusters of pillars of columnar basalt, which would have remained naked from the imperishability of its nature.
At one point of to-day’s journey on a narrow neck of land, which was far from being the highest, I saw the ocean to the eastward, where it appeared close beneath my feet - and westward about fifty miles distance, at a place called Carwia or Carfwea - for I do not know the correct orthography of the name, which is a very puzzling one to spell, as we have no letters to represent the peculiar blending of the “r” with some other sound before the “w,” it might as well be an “h” as an “f,” but most Europeans, to make the matter easy, call it at once “Carfeea.” We met a party of about a dozen natives, chiefly women, who were going to join the “Tower;” they said that the great party had left Mattamatta three days before, so that we were sure not to meet them, - a piece of intelligence I confess I was not sorry to receive.
Saturday, March 31st. - Continued our descent of the mountain, and entered the great plain of the Thames, or “Waiho,” the most splendid piece of country I have met with for the purposes of colonization. This plain is, I should think, about one hundred miles long, and varying from twenty to thirty broad; it runs north and south, being bounded on the east by the perpendicular wall of the Arrohaw, and on the west by the mountains on the west coast. The river Thames runs through it, and is deep enough to be navigated by track boats or light steamers for a great distance. At the place I crossed it was about five feet deep and one hundred yards wide; the stream is however so strong, in spite of the apparently perfect level of the country, that it would be useless to attempt ascending it by oars, or sails. The whole plain, with very little exception, is clear of wood: - it is abundantly watered, and would I think be one of the most splendid situations for a colony that could be found in the whole world. It must not be considered that this plain belongs to the river, for it is evident that such
is not the case, as it is impossible so insignificant a river could have scooped out such a valley. The river, it is true, runs through it, but is also formed in it by the innumerable streams which run off its mountainous barriers on both sides; it in fact takes its rise in the plain, and consequently could not have formed it. The body of the soil is, as are all the best soils in the country, decayed pumice; but in several parts, more especially on the east of the river, I saw large tracts covered with stones: these tracts, however, formed a mere trifle in comparison with the good parts. The chief fault of the plain at present is its excessive wetness, - about one half is a complete marsh; but nothing would be easier than to drain it; and which ought to be done, at a very trifling expense, as there are deep water-courses running through the plain in all directions much lower than the marshy spots; but they have always elevated banks, which prevent their acting as drains for the portions of land which they traverse, but as soon as the bank was cut through, the land would drain itself. The longest marsh we had to cross to-day was about four miles; the natives wanted to carry me as they had previously done, but I was afraid of their falling with me and making me dirtier than I should be in wading through the mud without their assistance. I nearly stuck fast several times, and was obliged to tie my shoes with flax, in order to keep them on my feet: the mud was in many places three feet deep, of a soft custard-like consistence, and of a light brown colour, from the decomposed vegetable matter. I was heartily rejoiced when I was told we were near the end, when suddenly a bunch of reeds on which I had relied gave way, and I sunk up to my middle, so that I was obliged to call assistance to get out. After passing the marsh we went through a grove of about a mile square of Kaikatora and Totara trees of enormous size. The Kaikatoras were loaded with their
beautiful scarlet and black fruit, which looked like a blaze of flowers. Here the natives brought me to a pool, saying that I ought to wash, in order to be clean when we came to the Pa, which was close by. I was much amused at this piece of vanity, which I humoured, because it was agreeable to myself, and not that I cared how I looked on my arrival before the critics of Mattamatta. The natives it was evident did not like appearing as guides to a shabby fellow, and thought it would raise their consequence with their friends if I looked more like a great man than was usually the case with their visitors.
Mattamatta is situated on a slight elevation in the middle of the plain, and is a Pa of some consequence. Its chief defence besides the stockades consists in the marshes which almost surround it. There was a mission establishment at Mattamatta, (or as the missionaries call it, Matamata,) but it was abandoned in consequence of the bad conduct of the natives, who robbed the resident missionary (Rev. A. M. Brown, now of Tawranga); they are now very desirous of persuading missionaries to return, but do not deserve to succeed. In consequence of the war party having drained the population, there were none but old men, young women, and children, in Mattamatta. The women were the best-looking set I ever saw; they were almost all strikingly handsome. The natives of this place have a very indifferent character, so that although it is many years since white men first visited it, there was but one resident at this time, and he was from home. As it is one of the best places in the island for buying pigs, it is evident there must be some truth in the reports of their bad propensities, or more persons would venture there to secure so good a harvest. The native who had charge of this man’s house, permitted us the free use of it, as if it had been his own. It was a terribly ruinous place, built many years since, when Mattamatta was a great mart for flax.
In the plains near, I saw the finest specimens of the flax-plant I ever met with; they were at least twelve feet high, covered miles of the plain, and were growing in all the moist places not actually bog. The people brought large baskets full of the berries of the Kaikatora (Dacrydium excelsum) for sale. I bought them at the rate of one inch of tobacco for a bushel: these berries are very like those of the yew, but not slimy: they are good tasted, and form a great part of the food of the natives during the season in those places where the trees are abundant; they are produced in such quantities as to give the trees a scarlet appearance.
April lst. - Began to retrace our steps towards Tawranga; the first few miles were over the same road we had before travelled. Several natives who were going to join the “Tower” accompanied us. I was much amused at seeing their wives cross the river; I had crossed before they arrived, making a gigantic chief carry my clothes in order to keep them dry. I dressed, and sat down on the bank to await the arrival of the rest of the party. When the women came they loosened their mats, and then stooped down at the edge of the water, into which they walked, still stooping, so as to show nothing but their knees; as they got into deeper water they gradually straightened themselves until at last they were chin deep, still holding their mats above their heads; when they get into the shallow part on the other side they again began to stoop, and at last dropped their mats in their proper places and stepped ashore; appearing as much diverted as I was at the great pains they were taking to preserve decency. The men had no such difficulty; for they coolly stripped, and walked into the water just as if no woman had been present. We encamped at the foot of the mountain, near a waterfall which had been conspicuous for the last two days, and close to the place where Mr. Platt was robbed, (see report of the com-
mittee of the House of Lords,) and left to find his way home to Tawranga in his shirt. The “Tower” had made this a resting place, and there were sheds enough erected to accommodate about five hundred men; the place as usual was swarming with fleas. The encampment was put up without much regard to order; the greater part of it consisted of sheds about four feet high, open on one side, and very long; one was a hundred and fifty feet, and just wide enough for a man to lie across. It was exceedingly cold, and wood was very scarce, the war-party having consumed every bit that could easily be procured. The mountain rose almost perpendicularly behind us, and was bare for a small distance from each side of the path, everywhere else it was thickly clothed with wood. The river from the waterfall, which I have before spoken of, ran within fifty yards of our feet in a deep ravine, the sides of which were more thickly covered with fern-trees than I ever saw elsewhere. I think that the glowing terms in which many speak of the ferns are not borne out by their general appearance; it is only when seen from above that they are such surpassingly beautiful objects; seen from below I do not think they are equal in beauty to the generality of palms. While the supper was cooking I tried to reach a waterfall in the vicinity of our resting place, but was benighted on the mountain, and should probably have lost my way had it not been for the fires of the party below me. I got far enough to see that the only possible way to reach the edge of the fall would be to walk down the bed of the river; for how great a distance I could not then tell, but was determined to try next morning.
April 2nd. - The natives informed me that the river crossed the road we should travel to-day at no great distance from the fall, so I accepted of their guidance in preference to hunting out a more direct route through the wood. About half a mile after reaching the edge of the wood, on the top of the hill, we found the river, which was about fifty feet wide and knee deep. I
waded down it till I reached the edge of the fall, which is at least five hundred feet perpendicular; and, although not a fall of much consequence, so far as the amount of water is concerned, it is the largest I have seen in New Zealand; and indeed, if it were in Europe, would be considered well worth travelling many miles to see. I was much astonished at so considerable a stream running from what appeared so narrow a ridge of land, for seen from the plain the Arrohaw range appears a mere wall. It was not till I had travelled for the whole day on nearly level land across the range that I could believe myself so much deceived: every quarter of an hour as I went on I expected to get a glimpse of the sea, but did not reach the other declivity till about four p.m. The whole of the range is thickly timbered, and the soil good and well watered with small streams; the ascent from the land (west) side is, unfortunately, nearly impracticable for carriages of any description, but on the sea (east) side it is much more gentle. The road was dreadfully bad, owing to the passage of so large a body of men over the soft clayey soil, and in so narrow a path; for they must have travelled, as usual, in single file.
At the edge of the fall I was astonished by a splendid view of the whole range of Tongadido, consisting of five peaks all covered with snow. They lay nearly S. S. W. of this place; which compared with its relative position, ascertained previously by me, of east by north of Cape Egmont (when I was at Tongadido, Cape Egmont bore west by south), will give its exact position. Tongadido seemed at a great distance, looking like a mere white cloud, for which it might have been easily taken but for its distinct outline. As we passed on our road to-day, the marks of the passage of the war-party became more and more recent, and we expected momentarily to overtake some of them, but fortunately did not. We encamped by the side of a stream, close to the place where we emerged from the wood, on the bare tract of land which skirts the sea-coast in this part of the country. Some
of my natives went on to see where, the “Tower” was, and reported that it was over the hill at the bottom of which we were encamped. I was rather alarmed at this news, thinking they might come back and rob us in the morning, in order to get themselves into practice for their intended exploit at Muckatoo; they did not however molest us, and we passed the night in quietness.
April 3rd. - We were not now above six or seven miles from Tawranga, or at least from Otumoiti - the place from which I had started - but it was impossible to get there without passing through the war-party; and I pushed on, more than half expecting to be robbed, and perhaps stripped. We came up with it at a creek which we had occasion to cross; they had encamped on the other side of this water, and we were obliged to ask them for a canoe to cross it in. About twice as many as were wanted immediately started with two canoes, and I was compelled to divide my things between them, in order to prevent a quarrel, which they seemed much disposed to pick if possible. I became more comfortable, however, when I saw among the crew of one of the boats a chief of Monotapoo, whom I had seen at Tawranga, and knew to be a very good fellow. On landing I was immediately surrounded by all the rabble of the party, and had hard work to keep my temper with them; the chiefs as usual said nothing, and kept aloof, but the mob of slaves and boys began to twitch my clothes and gun as I passed along, and make all kinds of impertinent remarks; however, I walked on as fast as I could under the guidance of my Monotapoo friend, and after about a mile got rid of all but the most determined of my persecutors. We then came to another creek much wider than the last, where I was carried across on the shoulders of one of the natives: here I lost my two best men - Mahia and Moning-aw who were detained by their friends to have a howl, according to their custom of showing gladness when they meet. I was very
sorry that these fellows stayed behind; because, being the steadiest and most trustworthy of my followers, I had given them my dried plants to take care of, and I thought it too much to expect that they would be able to prevent such a prize as a dozen quires of cartridge-paper from being distributed amongst their friends. I consequently gave up as lost my much-prized specimens, and was proportionately overjoyed when I saw them enter Otumoiti about two hours after me, with their loads quite safe.
People in England imagine that splendid specimens of carving are common among the New Zealanders, but such is far from being the case; the only specimen I met with in the country, which I thought worth having, was a paddle I saw to-day; it was most beautifully carved all over the blade, and I tried to buy it, and even offered ten pounds of tobacco for it, but without success. It was “taboo,” and I dare say the value of one hundred pounds would not have bought it at this time, as it was, I understood, connected in some way with the present war.
While crossing one creek where we had to wade above half a mile, a native told me one of the women was tattooed behind like the men. I asked her if it was the case, and she said, yes, and that if I would wait and let her get on a little ahead, she would show it, which she accordingly did to my great edification. It is a very rare thing for women to be tattooed anywhere but about the lips and chin, and this was quite a curiosity. I used to think it rather ornamental in the men, but what its use can be in a woman I cannot imagine, as they are always covered: the women are often quite covered with blue marks, which might be called tattooing in England; it is of the same kind as sailors are so fond of pricking into their arms; but it is a totally different thing from the elaborate engraving on a New Zealander’s face or rump: - inasmuch as in one case the skin is cut and remains in the same pattern as the stains, and in the other
the marks do not at all affect the smoothness of the skin. I have seen the arms and bodies of the New Zealand women so covered with these powerful blue marks, that they looked as if they had on them a tight-fitting figured chintz dress.
April 4th. - The war party do not seem much inclined to fight - they have been a fortnight advancing a distance which ought to have been easily travelled in two days - they did not reach Otumoiti till this evening, and will, I am happy to say, leave it early to-morrow morning, in order to save the tide, as did they not leave at the time of low water, they would have about a dozen miles further to march. Although the war-party are perfectly friendly with the Tawranga tribe, and in fact, are at present fighting the battles of the latter, yet the white people residing at Tawranga are not quite comfortable, and have taken all possible precautions to prevent robbery, even to the locking of their stockades, and securing in them such bulky articles as canoes and boats, which would otherwise have been very probably taken away or destroyed.
I saw this evening a grand war-dance, and certainly think it would be sufficient to strike terror into the heart of any man. Imagine a body of about 3000 nearly naked savages, made as hideous as possible by paint, standing in close ranks, and performing a sort of recitative of what they would do with their enemies if they could lay hold of them. They stood in four close lines, one behind the other, with a solitary leader (as it appeared) in front at the right end of the line. This leader was a woman who excelled in the art of making hideous faces (viz. poorkun). The feet had but a small part of the work to perform, as they did not break their lines, but merely kept up a kind of stamp in excellent time with one foot; their arms and hands had plenty to do, as they were twisted into all possible positions to keep tune with the recitative; their eyes all moved together in the most correct time it is possible to conceive –
and some of the performers possessed the power of turning them so far downwards, that only the whites were visible. This was particularly the case with the woman whom I have spoken of as the leader; she was a remarkably handsome woman when her features were in their natural state, but when performing she became more hideous than any person who has not seen savages can possibly imagine: she was really very much like some of the most forbidding of the Hindoo idols, - the resemblance to a statue being rendered more perfect by the pupilless eyes, the most disagreeable part of sculpture. The words of their song I could not get a translation of, but I understood that they merely described how they would kill and eat their enemies, as well as the attack, the firing of muskets, &c. The intonation could hardly be considered musical; but they would repeat a number of words in a short staccato manner, and then dwell on one with a general hiss, which would make one’s blood run cold: at other times the sound would be still more horrid, but one that it is impossible to describe, - it was not, according to my idea, a yell, but something far more dreadful. One of their hisses, however, reminded me of the sound of returning ramrods, when well performed by a large body of soldiers. I can only describe the manner in which the words were repeated, by supposing they were according to the time of a piece of music, but all in one note; for the different hisses, groans, audible shudders, &c., could hardly be represented by any kind of musical intervals. The whole performance was so perfectly horrid that, although I am possessed of strong nerves, I could not repress a shudder, and my hair almost stood on end, and I certainly felt very glad that I was on a different side of the Pa from them. The whole performance took up about an hour: afterwards they had some speechifying; and then they separated. I believe they have these war-dances, &c. in order to keep up their courage to the sticking point, as they are such
cowards that they would never fight without some such adventitious excitement. The next morning they had all left Otumoiti, and had reached Monotapoo, another village about two miles off, and where they stayed all the time I was at Tawranga. The missionaries used every endeavour to prevent their going on to Muckatoo, but were unsuccessful. I afterwards heard that they really never did reach that place, and consequently there was no fight after all their grand preparations; proving that I was right when I thought they were not half inclined for it, or they would have moved on rather more rapidly than five miles a day: in fact, I believe they stopped at Monotapoo on purpose to allow the missionaries to persuade them not to go on. I embarked on board the schooner Columbine, belonging to the mission, and after a stormy passage of three days arrived in the Thames. I do not know whether the autumns are always so cold in this part of the world, but this one was dreadfully so. I am certain that a cruise along the south coast of England in October would be far more pleasant than this one of mine. We all kept in the cabin during the whole passage, or if we did make our appearance on deck, were always cloaked up as much as we could. My opinion of the climate of New Zealand during the time I was there would be summed up by the word “raw;” and I certainly think that rawness is the principal characteristic of the air of that country, not so much however in winter as in summer and autumn. I have no doubt there will be quite sufficient heat for any crops which come to perfection in England, and perhaps France; but I do not think the wines, &c. will ever have the richness of those of Spain or Madeira. From all my observations at the Thames, where I remained some weeks, I think it is the proper place for a settlement; except perhaps Port Nicholson, it is certainly the most desirable situation in the island. Port Nicholson I have never seen; but from what I have heard of it, I am inclined to
think it must be a more advantageous situation, geographically considered, than even the Thames. I do not know whether the land about Port Nicholson is as mountainous and barren as it is usually on the coast, but should suppose, from the geological formation in which it is situated, if any level land is to be found in the country it will be in that neighbourhood. I know that coal exists in the neighbourhood, if not actually there; and that would be an additional advantage over the Thames, where there are none but volcanic rocks. At the Thames I first saw the pine or cowrie (Kawri), which does not grow to the southward of that place. It is always a sign of bad land, and grows so sparingly even in those places where it is found, that I am inclined to think in ten years New Zealand planks and spars will be more scarce than they are at present. Independently of the rarity of the tree, a great drawback to its value is that it grows only on the tops and sides of steep hills, from whence it is very difficult to transport. At present the supply is obtained from the most accessible spots, the sides of hills next the sea and rivers; but even now these situations are becoming quite denuded of their timber; and I am sure that twenty ships a year would quite exhaust the supply of cowrie in ten years or less, or at all events that part of the supply which could be got at so easily as to be profitable for exportation.
There are not many anchorages in the Thames, and but three places which can be considered harbours: the one called Coromandel harbour is undoubtedly the most eligible situation, unless hereafter some other harbour shall be found higher up in the frith, as it is called. The shores are all very rocky and covered with trees, but the cliffs are not in general high, and are always very rugged; those at the water’s edge are covered with oysters in a most extraordinary manner; generally they are more than a foot thick, and very good; other shell-fish are also abundant, particularly Cockles - of these I have seen more than a man could
carry collected by one woman during the space of a tide; Scallops are also tolerably abundant, and are most delicious eating. There are no Lobsters nor Crabs, but a great abundance of fish of all kinds; one, the Salmon of the English, or Carwai (Carwhy), is a most excellent fish, the best I have tasted in the southern hemisphere; it is about the size of a salmon, and so like it in figure, fins, &c., that I should think it must belong to an allied family. Flat-fish are also more abundant than they usually are on these coasts, but I have never tasted any equal even to a Plaice. All the fish in New Zealand are much superior to those in New Holland, which, indeed, they can easily be, for such a set of wretched, tasteless things as these of the latter I did not believe could have been found. The natives about the Thames are not numerous, but a very bad set, great thieves, and very impudent. One of the largest canoes ever seen is now in the great Pa at the Thames, Wakautiwai (Wokatuwhy); it is eighty-eight feet long, and highly finished. It belonged to a Bay of Islands chief, who came down to the Thames to fight, and got beaten; I believe he was a great rascal - at least so say all the whites.
A great many persons have lately been buying land at the Thames; the first who came with the real intention of employing themselves in agriculture were two old settlers from New South Wales, of the names of Thorpe and Prout, who disposed of their concerns there and emigrated to New Zealand. I do not think they have done wisely; but they are the best judges of their own affairs. At the upper part of the frith the land is low, but at the mouth of the river the water gets too shallow for the approach of ships of any size. The Waiho, of which I have already spoken, is a missionary settlement: the land is low; and if the water were deeper it would be a splendid place for a first settlement, as it would immediately lead to the largest tract of level land in the country - in fact, I believe, the only large tract of level
land in the whole island. On the north coast of the frith is another missionary station, that of Mr. Painham. This person claims nearly the whole of the north coast, a tract of about thirty miles square, independently of the land around Manukau harbour on the west coast, a place which has been very much talked of in all books that have yet been written on the country. This celebrity has arisen from the fact of the extreme narrowness of the land at the head of Manukau; the frontage is certainly not half-a-mile; but I believe, from all the information I can collect, that Manukau is a very useless place, as it is full of sandbanks, and has a bar at its entrance, which almost precludes the possibility of entering, although the books say the contrary. I never met with one person in New Zealand who did not give it the character I have above described; should it not be the case, it will be a place of great consequence in time. It is perhaps the narrowest isthmus in the world, or at all events the narrowest joining two such large tracts of land. The length of coast to the north is not enough to prevent a vessel from sailing round, in preference to coming through a canal at Manukau, should there ever be one; for the sailor I think might generally calculate upon a greater loss of time in going through the canal than sailing round the land. Although the tract of land claimed by Mr. Painham is in all probability the largest, being about a million of acres, yet several missionaries claim tracts of from one hundred thousand to six hundred thousand acres in different parts of the country. It would be ridiculous for any government to recognise such claims, which would prevent the sale of government lands while any of these tracts remained unsold, as it would be for the interests of the holders to sell for less than the government price. The colony would be in fact swamped, just in the same manner as was Swan River by Mr. Peel’s grant. I imagine almost all the land to the northward of the Thames is claimed by Europeans; many tracts have five or six claimants; and I know of people in
New South Wales having spent as much as six hundred pounds at a time in the purchase of those lands from one of the claimants, in thorough ignorance of the validity, or even the reasonableness, of one claim over another, supposing of course that any were valid. The cause of these disputes has sometimes been the dishonesty of the Europeans in selling the same land to different individuals, but more frequently from the natives having done so; not always dishonestly; as, according to their notion of titles, (see report of House of Lords’ committee,) a totally different tribe may consider they have an indisputable title to the same land that has been sold by another tribe only two years before, because in the interim they may have cleared and planted with potatoes, or otherwise occupied it for one whole year without interruption. This can only apply to lands which are far from the usual haunts of any tribe; but almost all the large tracts purchased by Pakihas are lands thus situated, for the Mowries would never sell lands near their settlements for sufficiently low prices to induce Europeans to become purchasers of more than enough for the sites of their houses, gardens, &c. In two purchases which I saw made, one at Tawranga and the other at Roturoa, the prices given were preposterous, and could only have been submitted to by the purchasers because they could not do without the land. The spot at Tawranga was not above fifty feet square, and the cost of it not less than fifty pounds in trade. That at Roturoa was about half an acre of water frontage, and the cost twelve pounds ten shillings; but the first was in the middle of a Pa, while the other was only near one, and had always been used by the purchaser as a landing-place to his residence ever since he had been at Roturoa. He told me he considered himself very lucky to get it even for that sum, as he had been trying for years to buy it without success; and even this land did not appear to me a perfectly free purchase, for there were on it two spots which were “taboo,” and from which I was
called back in great haste by the missionary lads for fear I should be seen there, and stripped for my infraction of their laws; and this was actually within a hundred yards of the house of a missionary.
The natives always require an additional consideration for taking off the “taboo,” or making “noa” any places which may be included in a purchase. I could not discover. if the “taboo” was lost by lapse of time, but suppose it must be so by reason of the forgetfulness of the people, for as they dare not approach these prohibited places so as to renew the marks of prohibition, the original marks - sometimes a bundle of rags, sometimes a bit of human flesh, or other perishable article - become lost, and in time the places are again approached and built upon, for they are generally the sites of houses or the like places. Were it not for something of this kind, these places must have been much more numerous than they are, although even now they are sufficiently so to be very disagreeable to a stranger.
These rambles were abruptly put an end to by the increasing business of the mercantile firm at Sydney with which I am connected; and my time and attention became occupied in other pursuits.
But soon after my return to Sydney it was determined that I should go again to New Zealand on commercial business, and having resided for some time at Port Nicholson and its neighbourhood, I am, at this time, (August 1840,) enabled to add many further particulars respecting the country from my own continued personal observation.
The Thames, or Waiho river, discharges itself into the gulf of Hamaki, which contains several harbours, only one of which however has been visited by large vessels; this is Coromandel harbour - it is on the south side of the gulf, and from thirty to forty miles from the mouth of the Thames, and the commence-
ment of the available lands. At the back of the harbour the mountains rise very abruptly to about 4000 feet, and there is no passage from thence to the level lands at the head of the gulf. The land is all quite as steep as that in the neighbourhood of Port Nicholson between Britannia and Thorndon, and the shores so bold and rugged that it is impossible to walk for any distance along them. The only harbour which is worth mentioning at present is Waitemati, the intended new settlement; it is a good harbour, but very little known; when I was there it had never been entered by vessels of any burthen - the land is more level than on the southern side, but the soil is bad and very swampy, and wood for fuel even is very scarce; it is from thirty to forty miles from the rich level lands which are held out as the inducement to draw settlers to the Thames, and land-carriage at present is impracticable.
The mountainous land on the Thames is generally covered with timber, but from the rugged character of the ground where it grows its value is greatly diminished, as the cost of its transport to the water would be very great. The timber is chiefly the Cowrie pine, which always grows in poor stiff clay soil, very inferior for agricultural purposes to any of the land around Port Nicholson.
The river Waiho, or Thames, joins the sea on the south shore near the head of the gulf; the land is swampy for many miles from the mouth of the river, which cannot be entered by vessels of more than ten tons burthen.
The Thames runs through a level country, free from timber, for about eighty miles from north to south, and with an average breadth of fifteen miles; the mountains bound it on the east like a wall; they are the same I have spoken of as forming the back ground of Coromandel harbour; at their termination they are quite perpendicular for about one third from their summits, and the remainder so steep as to resemble an artificial embankment.