A WEEK ON THE HAURAKI GULF
Eliza Rachel Jean Jones arrived in New Zealand with her brother Humphrey on the 5 August 1857. He had been sent out by the War Office to take up the post of Military Commissariat.
At the close of that year her brother was married to a mutual friend, Emma Buchanan, a fellow-passenger on the 14 week voyage out aboard the Dinapore. Humphrey and Emma invited Eliza to share their home and this she did to the satisfaction of all concerned. Although, it seemed that she was as much away from home as in it.
Her first recorded expedition was a leisurely holiday trip by native canoe to Waiheke Island early in 1858, in company with Humphrey Jones and his wife Emma, Jenny Buchanan, Emma’s sister, and a friend, the Attorney-General, William Swainson and the Maori crew.
In 1858 on a second expedition to the Waikato, she met James West Stack. On the 28 January 1861, shortly after his ordination by Bishop Harper in December of the previous year, James Stack and Eliza Jones were married by Bishop Selwyn at a small ceremony in the Bishop’s private chapel at St. Stephen’s, Auckland.
E. R. J. Jones: born Edinburgh, 1829-1919
J. W. Stack: born Puriri, Thames, 1835-1919
From Further Maoriland Adventures of J. W. and E. Stack, published by A. W. Reed, 1938.
The part of town which most interested us at first was the native market, in Mechanics Bay, where such strange things were seen and heard that we could not help realizing that we were in a foreign land. The Government had erected a building close to the beach for the use of the Maoris, and numbers of them were always to be seen squatting on the ground outside it, or busily loading or unloading their canoes. These Maoris supplied the town with vegetables, fruit, fish and firewood, and their canoes might be seen passing up and down the harbour at all hours of the day. They were strange looking craft, varying in length from thirty to sixty feet. The sails were triangular, and fastened base uppermost, one to each mast. A canoe carried from one to three, according to its length. When no sails could be used, paddles were employed, and it was very interesting to watch the movements of the paddlers whenever two or more canoes were close together. With loud cries the steersman every now and then would urge his crew to try and outstrip the others. In perfect time the paddles on either side of each canoe would be driven into the water and withdrawn, to be driven in again with ever increasing rapidity until the breathless Maoris were compelled to stop from sheer exhaustion. When sufficiently recovered, the race would be renewed, again and again, till the shore was reached. Then the hubbub began in real earnest. Men and women alike commenced shouting directions to each other at the top of their voices. The men, with little or no clothing on, would jump into the water and, seizing the sides of the canoe, would drag it up on the beach, above high water mark. The women then stepped out and helped to carry the firewood, or baskets of potatoes, or fish, or whatever the cargo consisted of, up to the market house close by. Page 85, 86.
During our frequent yachting expeditions in and out of Auckland Harbour, Humphrey and I became so charmed with the beauty of the little islands we came across in the Gulf of Hauraki that we often said to one another how delightful it would be to live on one of them. We repeated this so often to each other that at last Humphrey seriously entertained the idea of selling Llynon and purchasing one of the islands, settling his Welsh tenants upon it, with our brother Frank as chaplain.
We talked about what we called our “castle in the air” to our friend Mr. Swainson, who was much interested in the scheme. He told us that he knew the island of Waiheke very well, having often been there, and that he thought it would just suit our purpose. When we expressed a wish to visit the island he promised to take us there in a Maori canoe when the proper time of year arrived, to ensure our having calm weather for the trip. We waited impatiently for that time to come, not only because the proposed canoeing expedition seemed calculated to further our colonising scheme, but because we ourselves wanted to experience the delights of “bush” travelling, about which Mr Swainson had so often spoken to us. We were confident in his ability as an experienced New Zealand traveller to direct all our movements. We knew that wherever we went with him amongst the Maoris we were sure of a welcome and would be treated as favoured guests, because Mr Swainson’s long connection with the Government of the country, in the capacity of Attorney-General, had taught the Maoris to regard him as a great English chief, inferior only to the Governor and Judge. We congratulated ourselves upon our good fortune in being able to see a new part of the country under such distinguished guidance. (pages 95-96)
A WEEK ON THE HAURAKI GULF
The time chosen for the long anticipated canoeing expedition was during the month of February, 1858, and I had the great joy of hearing on my birthday, the 19th, that we were to start on the following Monday. Mr Swainson came to tell us what things to take with us, and brought with him three of the Maoris he had engaged to accompany us, so that we might not be quite strangers when we met on Monday. Unfortunately, when Monday came it was too windy to think of starting, and we had to curb our impatience and wait as we best could till the following day, when the weather proved all that we could desire.
First Day – 23 February 1858
At two o’clock on Tuesday, 23rd February, our party, consisting of Humphrey and Emma, her sister Jenny, Mr Swainson and myself, assembled on the beach in front of our garden gate, where we found a fine large canoe, called a pitau, waiting for us. It was about fifty feet long, five feet wide in the widest part, and four feet deep. It was painted a bright red colour, and the sides were ornamented with tufts of black and white feathers. The figure-head was a grotesque representation of a human face, with a protruding tongue, and quantities of black feathers wrapped round the head to represent hair. The part assigned for our use was covered with a thick layer of fresh fern, upon which oilskins and rugs were spread, and upon these we reclined in luxurious ease.
Besides the crew of five men engaged to accompany us, there were a number of Maori women, who helped to paddle the canoe. As we pushed off from the beach we saw our servants, Douglas and Pemberton, who were left behind in charge of the house, looking half amused and rather amazed at our novel style of travelling.
One of the crew, whom we dubbed “Onion”, was appointed Emma’s special servant, but I was allowed to choose our old friend Moses for mine; they, with George and Robert, formed our staff of men-in-waiting. Onion was a curious character, full of fun, and so much given to grimace and action that he might have passed for a professional clown. He was a little man, with face tattooed all over, giving it the appearance of a flexible mask. Robert was a greater oddity still, a blundering, good-natured fellow whom we should have called at home a regular “Paddy.” George, our waiter, was, next to Moses, the most civilised of our Maoris, understood our ways better than the others, and proved a very efficient helper.
The water of the harbour was smooth as glass, and we moved swiftly over its surface, in spite of the small number of our paddlers. We occupied ourselves chatting and singing and, at intervals, regaling ourselves on Mr Swainson’s store of delicious fruit.
While rounding the point of Rangitoto Island we were startled and alarmed by a heavy wave striking the side of the canoe and pouring a quantity of water into it. The cause of the wave when the sea was so smooth, no one could tell; probably it was due to what was called a “tide rip.” Fortunately it was the only wave we encountered, and when Onion, who was steering, called out “All right!” we felt reassured. Nothing further happened to excite our fears, and we were able, for the rest of the afternoon, to get our full enjoyment out of everything.
About half past four we reached Waiheke, and landed at the pa where old Moses had once lived and where his wife was buried. The whole population seemed to be gathered on the beach to meet us, and I was very much amused watching the strange way in which Maoris greet their friends. Onion’s salutation of a female relative, who came forward with much eagerness to meet him, was most comical. He rubbed his face on hers for some time, and they muttered and made a low wailing noise together. We noticed that this mournful noise was louder when two women greeted one another; the wailing sounded more piteous and the rubbing of noses was more prolonged. This mode of salutation was always adopted, we were told, when friends have been separated for any length of time; and the muttering is a chant in which they tell each other all that has happened within the family since last they met.
Some of the women were hugging little pet pigs. Others were busy scraping potatoes with pipi shells, but all looked jolly and happy.
We pitched our three tents on the rising ground above the village and got a beautiful view from where they stood. When everything was fixed up nicely in them, the fires made, and the potatoes roasted in the ashes, we settled ourselves down picnic fashion to enjoy our meal, and a scrambling meal we had. By a strange oversight the teapot had been forgotten. A muslin sleeve was cut up, made into a bag, the tea put into it, and then it was lowered with a piece of string into the boiling kettle and withdrawn after a few seconds.
Jenny and I left the others talking over their plans when our meal was finished, and started for a stroll on the shore by moonlight. Before we had gone far, the native dogs, scenting strangers, flew out in a body, barking at us in a most alarming way. We gave the Maori call, when Robert came to the rescue and drove them away. We thought it wiser in the circumstances to return to our party and seek a reinforcement of numbers before going near the dogs again. Mr Swainson then proposed to take us over the pa that we might have an opportunity of seeing the Maori at home.
We first peeped into a whare where a group of men and women were chattering away, among them George and Robert. Both came out and took us to see old Moses’ whare, where we found him stretched out on an exalted sort of bedstead, formed with thin manuka sticks. Onion and several others were visiting him, and soon they began to show us the grimaces and gestures, and to utter some of the raucous sounds they make when going into battle. Onion’s faces were frightful, and the way they all swayed their bodies, and kept time with the hideous sounds they gave utterance to, made one feel quite frightened, for it was clear enough what savages they must have been when they did in earnest what they were doing in play. Good old Moses did not approve of such savage doings, and lay stretched out like a Sultan on his high platform, reading his Testament. He took no notice whatever of what was going on around him, and probably felt rather scandalised by his master and his friends tolerating such doings.
On getting back to our tents we ladies of the party had great fun over our bedding arrangements. We found it no easy matter getting into our blanket beds. Emma especially, being so tall, experienced great difficulty getting into hers; but once in them we soon fell asleep.
And so ended our first day’s experience in the bush – and a very happy one it was.
Second Day – 24 February 1858
Next morning we were all up with the sun. We found dressing very difficult inside the tent, and a much longer process than usual. After breakfast we got into the canoe and seated ourselves upon our comfortable fern couch, where we employed our time reading and working and talking, as we felt most inclined, while the canoe glided along pleasantly within a short distance of the shore.
The coast scenery proved so beautiful that it soon engrossed all our attention, and we did little else but feast our eyes upon the lovely scenery we were passing. At one moment our attention was directed to a charming little cove with a splendid overhanging tree; and the next to a lovely sandy beach, or to a wider bay surrounded by thickly wooded hills; or to a bay enclosed by barren hills destitute of any vegetation whatever.
Our view seaward was also constantly changing. Fresh islands and reefs and rugged rocks, with canoes moving in and out amongst them, kept coming into view. Across the waters of the gulf range on range of hills appeared, and in the blue distance beyond them rose the Coromandel Mountains, bounding the view in that direction. I was constantly reminded of Scotch and English lake scenery, and so was Mr Swainson. But, of course, it was all on a larger scale, with the exception of the hills nearest to us, which were not so high and grand as Ben Nevis or Skiddaw.
About two o’clock we put into the prettiest little cove it is possible to conceive, where we had our lunch. While the kettle was boiling and potatoes roasting, we went into the bush and obtained some choice and beautiful ferns. Moses, bent on sport, could find nothing better than a poor “morepork” owl, which he shot, so we named the place “Morepork Cove”.
On re-entering our canoe we proceeded along the coast, where fresh beauties were every moment revealed to us. About five o’clock in the afternoon we reached the place which Mr Swainson had fixed upon for our next camping ground. The Maoris proved to be quite a superior set to those with whom we stayed the previous night. Their chief was a man of high rank, and a good Christian; his people held him in the highest veneration, and showed their respect by calling him “Mister” Paul instead of the usual familiar manner of calling one another by the Christian name alone. He entirely disapproved of the war dance, and nothing would have induced any of his tribe – or even our own men while they were his guests – to give us an exhibition of it. He was a tall powerful man, with a good open countenance and pleasing expression. He wore over everything a long purple sort of native cloak, called toi, made from the fibre of the mountain ti-palm.
Immediately on landing we met a pretty little English woman, the wife of a settler engaged in the timber trade, who pointed out to us with great pride a road which her husband had made into the finest piece of forest we have yet seen. The road was made to enable the timber to be brought down to the beach for shipment to Auckland.
We walked up the road until we met the bushmen returning from their day’s labour. Some of them kindly offered to take us to the densest part of the forest in order that we might see a huge kauri tree. The remarkable thing about it was its immense height and great girth and perfect straightness. Not a branch or twig was to be seen below the topmost crown of the tree. We were told that one of the longest kauri spars sent from here to England was sixty feet long, but that from other forests in the Province spars one hundred feet long have reached our naval dockyards. When sawn into boards, no knots or flaws of any sort are found in them, and it is that which makes kauri timber so suitable for ships’ decks.
Mrs Macaster, the sawyer’s pretty wife, proved to be as kind as she was good-looking. She was quite distressed to find that milk was the only thing we stood in need of, and of that she gave us a plentiful supply.
When the tents were pitched, and while our evening meal was being prepared, we heard a bell rung, and on asking the reason for it, we were told that it was “Mister Paul’s” practice to ring a bell night and morning to collect the people in his house for prayers. We joined those who, in obedience to the summons of the bell, were entering the chief’s house. It was a strange sight which met our eyes. Half-naked men and women were squatting on the matted floor, in the middle of which a wood fire blazed. The persistency with which the dogs kept coming in, after being driven out, was rather distracting to us, and reminded one of the tales told of Highland shepherds’ dogs at the Sabbath gatherings in Scotland. The Maoris seemed very devout and followed the service, which was a translation of our English evensong. After prayers, Mrs Paul, a tall, masculine looking woman, tattooed on the lips and chin, came forward to shake hands with us. I gave her a Maori New Testament, which pleased her very much, and wrote her name in it by her own request.
Third Day: 25 February 1858
Emma was the first of our party to greet the sun; she went off somewhere to sketch, before breakfast. I waited until the meal was over, and then went alone as far as I could along the forest road till I reached a height from which I got a view without myself being seen. I never enjoyed anything in my life more than I did the quiet hour or two I spent there. My only living companions were the birds, of which the forest seemed to be full. They sang exquisitely and filled the air with sweet melody, whilst the scented, aromatic foliage of the trees and plants around filled it with fragrance. Looking over the tops of the trees I saw below me the pretty little bay where our camp stood, and the yellow sands of the beach, fringed by a narrow band of white foam where the sea touched it; and looking in another direction I saw the blue mountain ranges of Coromandel Peninsula in the distance. There was no sign around me of the presence of man, except the sound made by the strokes of an axe which told of the approaching fall of a giant of the forest.
It was delightful in the cool, crisp morning air to read and think of God’s love, where I was surrounded by so many proofs of it, and when my whole being was filled with such an overpowering sense of the sweetness and loveliness of God’s creation. Like Wordsworth I experienced that “serene and blessed mood in which, with an ear made quiet by the power of harmony and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.”
I got back in time to have a chat with the Maoris before leaving what Mr Swainson named “Emma’s Delight”. I remembered Bishop Selwyn’s remarks to me about the importance of educating children, and so I urged the mothers to send their children to the schools opened for them in Auckland and elsewhere.
We were all sorry when the time came to leave the beautiful spot where we had spent the night, but Mr Swainson said it was necessary to do so if we meant to complete the circuit of the island before returning to Auckland. We re-embarked in our canoe about eleven o’clock, and as the wind was favourable the sail was hoisted, and we glided pleasantly along the coast. We enjoyed the sailing even more than we did the paddling the day before, as the motion was swifter and we were freed from the noise made by the paddles.
After rounding Waiheke we passed Finger Point about two o’clock, when we all became so hungry that we begged our leader to put into one of the pretty little coves for lunch. There we found shelter and seats under a large, wide-spreading tree, and did full justice to the delicious stew Mr Swainson concocted for us. It was made of two fine fowls, and vegetables, and the necessary condiments to give it a proper flavour. We named the spot “Go-ashore Cove”, as that is the colonial name for the pot in which the stew was made.
After lunch we walked up the hill to a spot which commanded a lovely view, and while Humphrey and Emma sat down there to sketch, I went on a little farther, where I met a young English girl who had never seen an Englishwoman in that part of the island before. She was so startled by my unexpected appearance on the scene that she regarded me at first as an apparition; but we soon got on friendly terms together, for I soon discovered that she had been well taught and like talking about the subjects I was most interested in. Presently we were joined by the rest of my party, when she took us all to her brother’s house, which stood close to the place where the canoemen had been told to meet us. There we saw her mother and the rest of her family. They were most friendly and hospitable, and seemed ready to give us everything they had. We accepted from them a present of vegetables for our next stew in the “go-ashore”. They seemed to feel very much the isolation of their position, and especially being cut off from all religious services. I promised to send Mrs Cousins some books and papers as soon as I got back to Auckland; and we parted with regret from these good people, feeling thankful that it was not our lot to live so far away from Christian ordinances in the wilds of New Zealand.
On reaching the canoe we continued our course along the coast until we reached a place called Huruhi, where we pitched our camp for the night. Here we again found a splendid piece of forest scenery, and the Maoris of the place were most kind and friendly. On landing we engaged a native to guide us into the forest. We found a well-formed road leading into the depths of it, with fine kauri trees growing on either side, and quantities of great logs lying about, ready for the saw mill. The tree ferns and nikau palms were most graceful, and gave the forest quite a tropical look. We found a great variety of small ferns, of which Emma and I procured some good specimens for our collections.
Taking a winding path which branched off from the main road, we climbed to the top of a hill, from which we obtained a splendid view, the beauty of which words fail me to describe. Looking towards Auckland we saw a long stretch of the mainland, with its numerous volcanic cones dotted about, and its indented coastline. Away to the eastward lay the ocean, stretching away to the horizon. Turning in another direction our eyes ranged over the forest lands spread out beneath us, and the graceful curves of the Waiheke coast, along which we had been sailing during the last two days. Variety was lent to the scene by the many islets which studded the gulf. Mr Swainson, who always seemed to have the right thing ready at the right time, produced his flask just when we were all feeling rather exhausted with the climb, and made us each take a little refresher from it, which quite set us up again and prepared us for the descent to the beach, where we did not arrive until after the moon had arisen.
When our evening meal was finished we sat and watched the Maoris who gathered round our fires. They amused us very much by their attempts to make themselves understood in “pidgin English”, and I expect our attempts at conversation with them were equally amusing. As we all felt very tired we went early to bed, and were soon fast asleep.
Fourth Day: 26 February 1858
We did not get up as early as usual next morning because Mr Swainson purposely misled us when we first woke by calling out “Five o’clock!” when it was really much later. He hoped to induce us to take a little longer rest. When I did wake I found that Emma and Humphrey had gone somewhere to sketch. I strolled away into the forest, along the banks of a brawling stream, till I came to a group of tree ferns which formed a natural arbour, where I sat down and enjoyed the peaceful quiet of the spot. A robin was my sole companion; he came hopping along the ground towards me, stopping every now and again to give me a good look, but as I kept very still his confidence increased, and at last he came close to my feet and began to peck at my shoes; but the moment I moved he flew away. The New Zealand robin, which is a dark slate colour on the back, and greyish white on the breast, is a very friendly little bird, and so is the chattering fantail. They are favourites with the English settlers, amongst whom it is a point of honour not to betray their trustfulness by injuring them.
We found the mosquitoes rather too devoted in their attentions to us whenever we entered the forest, so we sought refuge from them on the beach, where we loitered about until one o’clock.
While there the principal chief of the village came to call upon us. He was accompanied by a nice old man called Peter, who asked me whether I could give him a Testament, and on finding that the chief was the only person in the village who possessed one, I gave Peter the last I had. He opened it at once, began reading with great fluency, and assured me that he was very grateful for my gift.
An old woman came up and claimed acquaintance with me in Auckland, but I could not recollect ever having seen her before. I gave her a string of beads. She looked at them with great pride, and asked a young woman standing by to help her fasten them to her ear. But the young woman ran off laughing, and came back in a few minutes with the beads round her own neck.
As it was Humphrey’s turn to concoct the next stew, I helped to gather oysters to put into it. When we had collected a sufficient quantity it was time to get into the canoe and paddle off to our next camping ground. Peter came down to help shove the canoe off, as the water was shoal, and our men found the task of floating it rather beyond their strength. We got off amidst the loud farewells of the villagers who crowded the shore to watch our departure. Their old chief, who was standing on a high point far away, shouted his farewell message, which we heard quite distinctly. The Maori voices carry much farther than those of Europeans, owing to their language possessing so many vowel sounds.
Our crew began at once their strange boating song, in which half the rowers repeat a line, which is replied to by the other half, question and answer being alternately repeated as the rowers keep time with their paddles. We glided pleasantly along, but felt the heat greater than we had yet experienced. We kept going until four o’clock, when we landed in a tiny nook where there was just room for us to sit down under the trees near the water; and there we partook of Humphrey’s excellent stew, and named the place “Despatch Box” out of compliment to him.
About six o’clock we reached Putiki Bay, near the home of William Thompson, one of our men, who joined us at Moses’ village, where we changed into a different canoe from the one in which we arrived from Auckland. He was quite as great a character as any of the others – a steady fellow, with a fine open countenance. An anecdote I heard of him made me like him all the better. Mr Swainson owed him a shilling for something, and, meeting him one Sunday, offered him the money. “Oh, no,” he said, “no pay on Sunday; Monday pay money.”
The English settlers at Mosquito Bay told us that it was impossible for them to lose count of the days of the week because the Maoris always kept Sunday so strictly and refused to do any kind of work for them on that day. It is sad to think that English Christians generally set such a bad example to these new converts from heathenism in the manner of Lord’s Day observance, and in other ways, too, of still greater importance.
While the tents were being put up, William Thompson volunteered to act as our guide during the walk we proposed to take in the neighbourhood. He seemed particularly desirous that we should go and see his own home, which he told us was only a mile away, though it proved in the end to be double that distance. He hurried us along at a great pace up hill and down dale, through densely wooded country, the beauties of which he did not give us time to examine. Suddenly we heard the roar of the surf striking the exposed side of the coast, a sound to which we had long been strangers, owing to the invariable smoothness of the waters around Auckland Harbour.
Emerging from the forest, we found ourselves standing in the middle of a cultivation of melons, hundreds of which were lying on the ground all around us. This was the spot to which our good William had been in such a hurry to bring us, hoping that it would prove an agreeable surprise. We were soon seated on the sands and given our choice of the best rock and water melons which the garden contained, and William was delighted to see how thoroughly we enjoyed them. In an incredibly short space of time four of the largest of his melons disappeared among five people. We then took a stroll along the beach to see the full moon which was just rising out of the ocean, and then, with many regrets, we left the delightful spot and made our way back to the camp.
Our walk through the dense forest was accomplished with great difficulty, for although the moon was bright, its light did not penetrate the deep gloom which encompassed us and, but for our guide, who kept the track by feeling for it with his bare toes, we should have lost our way and got “bushed” for the night. But, thanks to William, we reached our camp, carrying with us a good supply of his delicious melons. The hospitality of the Maoris is one of the best traits in their character; they always seem perfectly delighted to give the pakeha the best of everything they possess, and it would be quite an insult to offer them payment.
Before retiring for the night a great consultation was held as to whether or not we should return to Auckland for Sunday. It was finally decided that, as the weather promised to keep fine, it would be better to remain where we were at Putiki Bay.
Fifth Day: 27 February 1858
Though tired enough when I went to bed, I did not sleep, owing to the irritation caused by the mosquito bites two days previously in Mosquito Valley. I was very glad, therefore, to find that Saturday was to be spent mostly on the water, going about from bay to bay, examining each locality with a view to its suitableness for the purpose of what we called our “castle plan” – settling our Welsh tenants upon it.
We got into the canoe shortly after seven o’clock, taking our “go-ashore” and as few things as possible for the day. It was my turn to cook the stew. George had shot some wild wood pigeons the day before, and these formed the foundation of it, but we had neither onions nor other vegetables, so it was necessary to forage for them in some direction or other. We paddled off to an adjoining bay which looked most inviting with its enclosing hills, wooded from base to the summit. The dark green leaves of the karaka trees which grew along the shore formed a pleasing contrast to the colour of the tree ferns and nikau palms, and varying hues of the foliage of the countless varieties of trees which grew behind them in rich profusion.
Landing, we took a walk along the beach and passed close to a neat cottage, its little flower garden gay with clustering roses. An elderly Englishwoman, observing us admiring them, came forward in a friendly way to speak to us. I thought at once of my poor stew, and looked longingly at her vegetable garden, which I remarked looked very tempting. Nothing more was wanted; she instantly loaded us with sage, beans, thyme and onions. I went into her house, and for the first time in our travels found that the offer of a couple of shillings would not give offence. No sooner, however, had she consented to take money and accepted two shillings than she began bringing us presents. First she gave us a quantity of her fresh home-made bread and butter, then some eggs, and, to crown all, her husband asked her to get the cake, and a large portion of it was cut off and put into my basket. Our foraging had proved successful, and no mistake, and I felt no more anxiety about my stew. It was not much after nine o’clock in the morning, so we had time to put the stew on the fire with its sage and onions and other additions, leaving it in charge of one of the Maoris, and go for a walk before dinner.
We decided to make for the highest hill within reach, from the top of which we might spy out the land and judge of its suitability as the site for the “castle”. There were plenty of streams of good water, and a considerable area of flat land; the part lying along the foot of the hills seemed well sheltered from winds. The shrubs and trees which covered the land afforded good evidence of the richness of the soil. In parts the vegetation was so dense that it reminded us of some tropical scene, and we all agreed that no better site could be found for the “castle” than in this beautiful garden of nature’s planting.
Passing on, we entered a thick forest consisting, like most forests of this country, of every variety of tree and shrub, where tree ferns and nikau palms rivalled each other in graceful beauty of form, and where the undergrowth was bewildering in its quantity and variety. Emerging from the forest which clothed the lower slopes of the hill we were climbing, we struggled upwards through the thick bracken to the top, from which we obtained a splendid view which promised so well for our colonising scheme that we called it “Castle Rising”. Emma made a hurried sketch of the view, whilst we sat and enjoyed its charms, meantime eating one of William’s delicious melons, which proved most refreshing after our hot climb. On reaching the foot of the hill we found Jenny where we had left her, on the outskirts of the forest; she had been too tired to attempt the hill. On our return to Muddy Creek we found our stew as ready for us as we were ready for it, and felt very grateful to the good lady of Rose Cottage for helping us to get such a good dinner.
While resting after our meal, an incident occurred which caused great fun and hearty laughter. Robert, George, Onion and Jenny, who were standing near the mouth of the creek, appeared to be seized by sudden mania. They dashed into the water, armed with sticks, and began beating it in the most frantic manner, jumping about all the time. Their attitudes and behaviour looked most ridiculous and meaningless until we were told that they were attacking a shoal of fish coming up the creek with the tide. Unfortunately, in spite of their violent efforts, they did not succeed in securing a single fish for our use.
When we had rested sufficiently we got into the canoe and paid a visit to the adjoining bay, where we found a picturesque and more than usually neat looking little house belonging to a French family of the name of DeWitte. They were not at home, but the person left in charge of the premises took us over the house, treated us to delicious milk, and gave us some almonds grown on the place. The garden was evidently as much taken care of as anything else. Unfortunately the cattle had broken into it recently and had eaten down the fig trees and vines, which in this country thrive in the open air. The whole place wore an air of neatness and comfort, both inside and out. The earthen floor was covered with small white shells, arranged in patterns, beaten into the clay, they looked clean and cool. Profiting from our lesson in foraging received from Mr Swainson, we gave a gentle hint, while being shown over the dairy, that our eggs were getting low, upon which a dozen were instantly presented to us, and a sufficient quantity of flour to make the pie which Emma had suggested as the best change from stew for our Sunday dinner. To complete all, we were given a beautiful bouquet of delicious roses and other flowers.
After leaving our cards and thanks for Madame De Witte, we continued our stroll until it was time to return to Putiki Bay, which we had thought of calling Half-and-Half Bay, because we found one morning that the remains of the previous day’s tea had been left in our kettle teapot when the morning coffee was made; and finding the mixture drinkable, we proposed to commemorate the cook’s blunder by dubbing the place Half-and-Half; but our day’s exploits in the way of begging induced us to select what we decided would be the more appropriate name of “Beggars’ Retreat”. Our tea this night at the “Beggars’ Retreat” was something sumptuous, what with the Rose Cottage bread and butter and cake, the De Witte’s eggs, and the “Melon Beach” melons. It was evident that we had made no mean progress under our skilled instructor in the art of begging.
After tea commenced the business of pie making in the bright moonlight, and Emma went to work in real earnest. The top of Mr Swainson’s box formed the paste board, and a bottle the rolling pin, and soon a noble pie appeared in the moonlight, composed of De Witte flour, Rose Cottage butter, pigeons shot by George, and gravy from our last stew. The next business was the baking of the pie. We borrowed a lid for our “go-ashore” from an English sawyer living close by, and having put the pie dish into the “go-ashore” and the lid over the top of it, glowing embers were heaped upon the lid and also placed under the pot. We watched the process of baking with great interest for an hour, when the lid was removed and the pie found to be quite cooked and ready for our Sunday dinner.
Our week at Waiheke was now ended, and after our week’s exertions we were quite ready to struggle into our blanket bags and draw our friendly mosquito curtains round our heads and go to sleep.
Sixth Day: 28 February 1858
When Sunday morning dawned, being in no hurry to go anywhere, I did not get up till nearly seven o’clock, and then enjoyed a good wash and getting into clean clothes, as much as if I had been deprived of such luxuries for years. To complete my smart appearance, George had the night before carefully cleaned my shoes ready for Sunday polished them, for want of blacking, with a piece of tallow candle, which we can recommend to all bush travellers as a substitute.
We were awakened by the chanting of the Psalms by our Maori men at their prayers; and very pleasing it sounded in my ears, knowing that the voices were uplifted in praise of our common Father in Heaven. The sounds were far from melodious as far as the music was concerned, for I think Maoris try to make their music as discordant as possible; but heartfelt songs of praise to God can never be discordant in the sympathetic listener’s ears, who recognises in the sounds the expression of feelings common both to himself and the singers.
Before breakfast I managed to enjoy a quiet half-hour alone in the woods, and really felt that it was Sunday. I was glad to have the opportunity of spending one of the happy Waiheke days amongst the natives who had so lately been brought out of heathen darkness, where no Lord’s Day was known a few years ago, but where now it was honoured, and its hours employed in a way that put many English Christians to shame.
Shortly before breakfast we started for Melon Beach, accompanied by all our Maoris, except Moses, carrying with us our pie and the fish which Onion and Robert succeeded in getting the day before. Moses, good old creature, had assisted in dandifying Onion for Sunday by lending him his own white straw hat, with its broad ribbon band, and was nothing loath himself to enjoy an entire day’s rest, keeping watch over our tents. Perhaps, too, he was tired with his extraordinary exertions the previous evening, when Mr Swainson actually called us all out of our tents to see “one of the events of the week, if not quite the event” – namely, Moses running a race with one of the others for the spring at the other end of the beach, from which we got our drinking water. Not having his entire Sunday costume with him, and disliking to do things by halves, Moses undressed instead of dressing himself, and remained all day in his blanket, which he wrapped around his body. All the others looked so clean in their white shirts; but Onion surpassed them all in his resplendent array, for besides the white straw hat he wore a brilliant scarlet jacket, the cast-off garment of some military officer.
We had a delightful walk to Melon Bay, through the dense forest, in which we spent some time examining and admiring the large trees and undergrowth. Onion presented us with some part of the nikau which he said was good to eat; we tasted and liked its rather nutty flavour. He obtained it by stripping the old leaves off the palm stem till the budding new ones were reached; these he broke off, and from the bottom of the bud got what he gave us to eat.
One of the Maoris showed us the tree from the berries of which they extract their favourite hair oil, which they prize highly on account of its scent.
On the outskirts of the forest we were shown a shrub with broad leaves, standing five or six feet high, the stalks of which are like cork, very buoyant. (Whau) The Maoris use them to make floats for fishing nets, and rafts for crossing rivers; and where the trees grow to a sufficient size, as at the East Cape they use the trunks to make catamarans on which a man will venture alone some distance from the shore to fish. They are used along the coast where the surf is too heavy to allow small canoes to be employed with safety.
On reaching Melon Bay we were invited by William Thompson to help ourselves to melons, and having got all we wanted, we went in search of a good resting place, finding one in a very retired nook under a fine, broad spreading pohutukawa tree growing among the rocks just above high-water mark. Here we had prayers, Humphrey acting as our chaplain.
After prayers all except Humphrey, who complained of headache, went to visit Patara, a highly respected native chief who lived at a pa about a mile and a half away. It was strange to see the ease with which our Maoris, with naked feet, helped us over the sharp rocks, of which we felt the points even through our shoes. After a pretty walk by a narrow native path winding in and out along the coast, we arrived at Patara’s pa, which we found by far the best we had yet visited. Patara was a noble looking man with a fine open countenance, and we were honoured with his company on our walk back to Melon Beach, where he held a Maori service, which Jenny and I and Mr Swainson attended. There were about twenty adult Maoris present, all most fervent in their responses. Patara read with a loud, clear voice, and spoke with much earnestness when preaching. When I looked round his audience I could scarcely believe where I was, joining in an act of worship with persons who had once been cannibals and who perhaps had eaten human flesh on the very spot where we were holding a Christian service, but who now worshipped the same God of Love with ourselves, and were trusting to the same Lord Jesus Christ for their salvation.
At the close of the service we sought our cosy nook at the corner of Melon Beach, where we found luncheon awaiting us. Emma’s pie, which was the chief dish, proved to be as nice to the taste as it looked to the eyes, and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. The boom of the breakers on the beach hard by served as our band as we partook of it. Our men, who had their meal not far away, were surrounded by a large group of their friends, and I longed to be able to tell them in their own language how much I had enjoyed their Maori service.
During the afternoon we strolled slowly back through the forest to our camp in time for tea. I afterwards spent a little quiet time reading by myself in the woods, but was driven sooner than I wished into the tent by rain – the first that had fallen since we left Auckland. It soon proved to us that, however pleasant and agreeable camping in tents might be in fine weather, it was not so pleasant in wet.
Jenny’s turn had now come to prepare for Monday’s dinner, which was to consist of fried potatoes and fried pigeons. Her inexperienced efforts to accomplish her appointed task caused us great amusement and many a hearty laugh at her expense.
When the rain stopped we strolled along the shore by moonlight till ten o’clock, when we turned for the last time into our blanket sacks.
Seventh Day: 1 March 1858
At five o’clock in the morning of this first day of March we were awakened by the loud shouts of Onion, crying out at the top of his voice, “Get up, Lysha! Get up, Cheen!” a summons we promptly obeyed. Emma took a last sketch of our encampment in the “Beggars’ Retreat”; I packed up and had time for an hour’s quiet in my favourite sylvan oratory. I returned in time for breakfast, which it was intended should surpass any previous meal of the kind during our bush expedition. It consisted of fried eggs, bacon and toast; and much we enjoyed it, though I confess that had the food been put upon a table at home its uninviting appearance would have been enough to ensure its being immediately sent back to the kitchen.
Owing to a very high wind having arisen, our Maoris thought it would be safer for us to return to Auckland in a cutter, instead of the canoe as intended, and we thought it was well to follow their advice.
Just before breaking up our encampment Emma propounded the following riddle:
Without harm you may pitch me
From a mountain summit to its base;
Strike me, and that instant I collapse,
And leave a vacant place. (A Tent.)
With sincere regret on both sides we parted from our good-natured Maoris, who had been both attendants and friends and an unfailing source of amusement to us. They promised to come to see us in Auckland. I told them I should always associate them with different scenes and incidents on our trip: Onion with the Waiata songs and fun of all kinds; George with the cleaning of my Sunday boots with tallow; Robert with Schnapper Bay, catching fish; William Thompson as king of his pa, dealing out his delicious melons with royal liberality; and old Moses (as Jenny said) “doing the grand” in his own whare, then running a race in his blanket to the spring.
We Beggars left our Retreat with much sorrow, and I don’t think any of our party enjoyed the return by cutter as much as we did the coming out by canoe. Emma and I saw the hills and woods of our dear Waiheke fade away in the distance with many regrets.
The lively motions of the cutter in the choppy sea made us all feel rather uncomfortable. Emma tried to sleep, while Mr Swainson resigned himself to his fate in a quiet part of the cutter, where he was least under our observation. Humphrey and Jenny looked very unhappy, and I tried in vain to read. We were very glad when, about twelve o’clock, the cutter, after a quick passage, ran alongside Wynyard Pier. We all walked home along the beach, looking nearly as uncivilised as our friends whom we had left behind in the bush. A good many passers-by, seeing our dilapidated condition, stared at us, and some whom we knew exclaimed that we looked as if we had been leading a Maori life, we were so brown and dirty.
On coming down the hill Mr Swainson espied our dear canoe in Mechanics Bay. It had actually come across the gulf as quickly as ourselves. Relieved of our weight, our Maori friends thought their canoe could cross safely over, and ventured to follow in our wake. To Humphrey’s surprise they were ready to bring all our things from the vessel, and were most anxious that we should find them all right. If the natives are fond of doing nothing, they are also fond of being useful and kind and liberal. The one thing which struck me more than anything about them was the good terms on which they lived with one another. I never saw or heard an unkind look or word to each other during the time we spent among them. We English would be far happier if we were to follow our Maori friends’ example in our behaviour to each other.
On reaching home we thoroughly enjoyed a good wash, and putting on clean clothes and sitting down to a nicely appointed table, with white linen and glass and silver.
Jenny’s stew was one of the dishes on our table, and proved very palatable.
In the evening the Buchanans and Mr Swainson came to talk over our happy week, and while the Doctor read out Jenny’s journal of our daily doings, the listeners consumed the last of William Thompson’s delicious melons.
And so ended our successful canoe expedition to Waiheke Island.