Account of Mr Valpy's Overland Trip from Canterbury to Otago.

The Canterbury Plains 150 years later.

Otago Witness Saturday 12th June 1852
Reference: Papers Past Images online.

To the Editor of the Otago Witness
The Forbury, 4th June, 1851

    Unable to procure a guide, I started on the 13th May from Canterbury on a Timor pony, accompanied only by my shepherds, Donald and Duncan Cameron, whom I furnished with horses. The provisions furnished for the journey were 15lbs oatmeal, about the same quantity of biscuits, 12 lbs sugar, about 3 or 4 lbs tea. A light tent, capable of holding eight or ten persons, which was made with the expectation of a party accompanying us; this, folded up, served as a saddle for one of the men; the blankets answered the same purpose on the poney. To the only saddle we had suspended the heavier goods. Thus equipped we left Christchurch on the 13th May. The first day we went as far as the River Selwyn, about 22 miles, we encamped at the fork of the river.

    There was a very heavy S.W. gale through the night, with rain. In the morning we had a beautiful sight of the whole range of mountains far north of Canterbury to Timaru, being covered with snow to the very plains. The next day (Friday) we directed our course to Mr. Saunderson's station; but not knowing exactly where it lay, found, when we reached the river, that we were five miles too high, close to Mr Stoddart's station, where we refreshed ourselves. We made our way to Mr Saunderson's station, and arrived at sunset. We met with a very hospitable reception here, as in the last place. In the morning we made an early start, and forded the Ricaia, which was swollen by the preceding rains. After travelling the rest of the day through the plains of the richest pasture, we encamped to the southward of the River Ashburton, which we crossed about 4 o'clock; I should say we travelled nearly 25 miles this day. It was almost dark before we encamped, and we were not able to find any water. We intended resting on Sunday, but were obliged to proceed in hope of finding water. We were about three or four miles from the coast. After trying all day to get to the beach, we were obliged to return and encamp at the place where we had breakfasted.

    The next morning (Monday) we struck towards the hills for about two miles, and so headed the swamps. This is the River Hind. We easily arrived here in about three hours. We rested the horses, and were from 12 till night crossing the River Alford. This was the most dangerous river we crossed, owing to its numerous quicksands. We encamped at the mouth of this river. On Tuesday evening, after a tedious journey over a portion of the 90 Mile Beach, at about 3 o'clock we arrived at Timaru, Rhodes's station, where we were very kindly received by the gentlemen in charge. He supplied us with a little flour; we did not leave till 12 o'clock. This was a hard day's travelling, being nearly the whole day on a shingle beach. We encamped at the edge of a swamp after dark and much to our disappointment we found the water quite salt. The next day was started at daylight, and got out breakfast at the River Waihou, and arrived at 4 o'clock at the much-dreaded Waitaki River, which I everywhere heard was impossible to cross with horses. I found the report true respecting the impetuosity of the current. Near the mouth we crossed the river in a craft the Maories had constructed for the purpose (a most ugly, unwieldy affair), and encamped close to some Maories whom we very fortunately found. We left the horses on the other side till the next day. After searching for some time, we made the agreeably discovery of a ford, which we crossed at noon, prosecuting our journey the same evening to the end of the plain. On Saturday we pushed our way through this hilly country in a thick mist (the first hills since we left Christchurch). We arrived at Mount Pleasant, where we were kindly received by Duncan Stewart, an old shipmate in the "Ajax." The following evening I received a hearty greeting from Mr Suisted. The next day partook of Mr Jones' kindness and wonted hospitality. On Tuesday, I left for Dunedin, followed by Donald Cameron, Duncan having undertaken to lead the pony, which was quite knocked up. I have great pleasure in stating, much to the credit of my men, Duncan and Donald Cameron, that when they found I could not procure guides at Canterbury and the rest of our party had disappointed me, they refused to desert me, although they were anxious to return, and were offered a passage in the "Henrietta."

    I cannot close this account without acknowledging the Divine Protection which preserved us and rendered out trip successful.

I remain, Sir,
Your obedient Servant,
William Henry Valpy, Jun.

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