F. A Roberts.

By forest ways in New Zealand online

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Fleet Lane, London, E.C.




Wellington _ _ _




Stewart Island -



Overland to Milford Sound



The Cold Lakes of Otago -



The New Zealand Edinburgh



Among the Southern Alps -



Christchurch _ _ _



From Christchurch to the

West Coast - - _



Three Weeks in Westland -



Through the Buller Valley



The Copland Pass



The Westland Glaciers -



The Waitomo Caves -



New Zealand's Wonderland



Auckland - - - -


Lie sere


Coloured Berries of Supple

Jack - - - - Frontispiece

To face page

A Sandy Cove — Stewart Island - 22

Clinton River— Te Anau Lake - 30

Lake Wakatipu - - - - 47

Otago Harbour - - - - 59
Road between Fairlie and The

Hermitage - - - 66

Mount Cook Lilies - - - 72
River Avon at Christchurch in

Winter - _ _ _ _ 81

The Westland Forest - - - loi
Franz Josef and Almer Glaciers,

FROM Cape Defiance - - - no
Mounts Sefton and Footstool, from

Copland Pass -^ - - - 132

Glacier Hotel, Waiho Gorge - - 143

Ice Pinnacles, Almer Glacier - - 149
Mount Moltke and Victoria Glacier,

FROM Chancellor Ridge - - 159
Southern Alps, from Mouth of Waiho

River _____ 164

Lake Rotorua - - - - 179

Maori Ancestral Figure - - 197

By Forest Ways in New Zealand


The ship which brought me to New Zealand
called first at Wellington, the capital city,
with a population, as I afterwards heard, of
ninety thousand.

Ships steam up a narrow, rocky channel
into the harbour, which widens out into an
area of fifty square miles, with deep water
right up to the town, and wharves adjoining
the chief streets. All round the harbour are
hills, most of them now cleared of trees and
grass-grown ; but in 1840, when Wellington
was founded as a Colony under the British
Crown, it was a tiny settlement of huts
ringed about by miles of untouched forests ;
and you realize with never-failing wonder
how great a change has been wrought in a
very short space of time. The town is built
along the water front and up the hills behind,



and is spreading every day higher up the
hills and round the pleasant bays with which
the rocky coast is indented.

To the stranger the noteworthy fact about
these houses is the fact that they are of wood,
and as nearly all have red roofs, when you
see them perched upon the green hillsides,
you wonder if you have come to some big
toy town. Later you find that only the
residential houses are invariably of wood;
most of the public buildings — Post Office,
banks, Town Hall and shipping offices — are of
solid, grey concrete on steel frames; and both
wood and steel are designed to resist the
earthquake shocks which often visit the city,
though not as a rule with great severity.

To a visitor from England all is strange
and yet surprisingly the same as things left
behind at home. Here is a big city with
excellent shops, at which every imaginable
need can be satisfied. You can buy clothes
of every description — pretty dresses and hats
or useful boots; there are jewellers and
photographers; sellers of books, music or
pianos; a depot for Liberty's art needlework;
and outside one of the florists' shops was a


notice " Tree-ferns packed and despatched
to all parts of the world."

Tramcars run through streets paved with
wooden blocks. On all sides are men, women
and children, dressed — many of them — in the
latest fashions from London or Paris : and
it is no foreign country that you have reached ;
for the shops have English names and familiar
advertisements of Bournville Chocolate or
Pears' Soap, and all these people are your
own fellow-countrymen.

More than that, they are all possible friends,
as I found before I had been two hours in
Wellington. I asked some question of a lady
in one of the tramcars, and after a little con-
versation she took me to a restaurant for
" morning tea." Here, in a large and
airy room, where all the small tables were
decorated with vases of flowers on spotless
white tablecloths, we were served with date-
scones and sandwiches by girls tastefully
dressed in green and white. The same day,
my friend of the morning entertained me in
her own home with afternoon tea and dinner.
All this kindness was shown me because
I was, as she explained, " a visitor from


Home," and it was a pleasure to make me
welcome in the new country. All through
New Zealand I met with the same open-
hearted friendliness and hospitality.

The shops, like those in other colonial
towns, differ from English ones in having
outside verandahs — roofs of corrugated iron
on iron posts ; the verandahs make the shop
interior a little dark, but afford most useful
screens either from sun or rain. The town is
known as " Windy Wellington" ; and it is said
that you can anywhere recognize a Wellington
man by the way in which he holds on his hat
at street corners ; the wind blows away
microbes and keeps the inhabitants healthy,
but is very wearing both to clothes and
temper, and it is never wise to allude to it.

Neither is a strong wind always blowing.
I have been in Wellington on calm days of
glorious, sunny weather, when the town lay
bathed in golden light, the blue harbour
reflected the blue sky, and all the surrounding
hills were blue, with peaks behind paling to
grey in the distance. From the top of any
of the hills that crowd closely together in
narrow ridges behind Wellington, you look


down on the town and on the irregular
promontory on which it stands. On one side
of the promontory is the harbour — a thread of
blue water running out to the open ocean ;
and on a clear day, you look beyond the
harbour to the coast of South Island with the
snowy peaks of mountains near the coast.
On the western side of the promontory, you
can see over the thirty-three miles of Cook
Strait to the nearest point of South Island,
where blue headland and island, separated by
purple shadows, rise confusedly from the sea.

At your feet, sheep feed on the short, sweet
grass ; and here and there in the gullies are
still trees and ferns, reminders of days gone by.

The Dominion Parliament meets at Wel-
lington in a wooden building that was until
recently Government House; and the House
of Representatives sits in the old ballroom,
to which visitors are admitted by ticket.
I went twice to hear the debate.

The Speaker's Chair is a small throne
cushioned in crimson velvet, set under a
carved canopy of polished brown wood ; on
the right sat Mr. Massey and the members of
the Government ; on the left. Sir Joseph Ward


and the Opposition. There are galleries at
either end, one for reporters, the other for
strangers and members of the Upper House ;
and round the room was set a row of chairs for
members' wives. The Mace was on a table
in front of the Speaker's Chair.

The whole building is far too small, and will
soon be replaced by a larger and grander
house, of which the foundations have already
been laid close to the present one.

Near the Houses of Parliament is the
Museum, a small wooden building, in which
there is very little room adequately to display
all the treasures, and some have to be packed
away and not shown at all.

The chief treasure is a Maori house — not a
house for living in, but one in which the
Maoris used to hold councils — a native Town
Hall. It is a long, narrow house of one room,
with a high-pitched, sloping roof, and it had
originally one door and one window, both
side by side at one of the narrow ends.
Ranged against the two long walls are grotesque,
carved, wooden figures of ancestors of the
tribe of Maoris by whom the house was made
— these figures are carved out of blocks of


dull, red wood, and are three to four feet high ;
pieces of glittering blue and green shell are
fastened in for eyes, and all the figures are
ornamented very effectively with circular
patterns in chip carving ; there are sixteen
figures on either side, and other figures again
at both ends. The wall space between
each figure should be filled in with reeds set
close together, and crossed by narrow strips of
wood fastened by thin bands of flax ; in this
house at Wellington, the reeds have all been
replaced by wood, fluted, and painted a
pale yellow ; the ancestral figures too have
been raised some way above the floor. Origin-
ally the walls were only the same height as
the figures, and the roof sloped from the
ridge-pole to the carved heads. The Maoris
used to squat on the ground at their assemblies,
so they did not need great height in their
council halls.

Besides the entire Maori house, this
museum has other specimens of Maori carving;
such as a wooden verandah ; and, set up on
a high post, a tiny wooden room, slightly
ornamented with carving ; this latter the
Maoris used as a food-store. Here too, I saw


Maori clothing : aprons for men and women,
all made of flax, woven tightly at the top and
the ends left long and loose ; there were long
cloaks of flax, decorated with thrums of flax
tied at intervals over the outer surface ;
sleeping mats too, neatly woven of flax.

Among the natural history exhibits the
greatest curiosity is the " moa," an extinct
New Zealand bird, who had no wings, but
used to stalk over the country on enormous
legs. No complete specimen of this bird
has ever been found, but many eggs have been
dug up, and sufiicient bones and feathers
for naturalists to reconstruct a life-sized
model. There the bird stands, like a huge
grey emu ; as I stood by the side of it, my
head reached the middle of the bird's thigh.
There are several eggs on view — large white
eggs, the size of cocoanuts ; and some feathers,
soft grey fluffy ones, like those of the emu,
with whose feathers the model is covered.
Present-day New Zealand birds are to be
seen, with fish and beautiful shells from the
South Seas. There are a few unexpected
curios ; such as a scrap of red and gold
brocade from a cloak worn by Charles I ; also


certificates from Langley, Buckinghamshire,
stating that two people named Powell, were in
1690 " buried in woollen, according to law."

Wellington has pretty public gardens, ex-
tending over many acres up the hillside and
down to a well-wooded ravine, and every-
where native trees and ferns flourish. Below
the hill is a broad stretch of level ground,
where you find flower-beds gaily planted
with English asters, zinnias and sweet peas,
and shady pergolas with climbing roses.

There are Zoological Gardens too, spread
over another hill on the opposite side of the
town : the cages for birds and animals are
set among trees — high dark pines, with under-
growth of lighter green — and the animals are
rather hard to find as you trudge up and down
the steep paths. A brown bear was in a cage,
with the usual pole for him to climb : there
were a fine African lion and lioness, sea-
lions in a pond, monkeys, lemurs, squirrels
and opossums ; a good selection of many-
coloured parrots and cockatoos from Australia,
and most gawdy macaws from Malay.

I was most interested in a native " kiwi,"
which I persuaded the head-keeper to find for



me. The kiwi lives in the bush and only walks
abroad by night, so that when he is in cap-
tivity he retires during the day to the darkest,
innermost recesses of his cage. The keeper
found him and pulled him along by his beak —
a bird the size of a large hen but on longer legs ;
it has a very long slender beak, and fluffy, grey
feathers, and resembles its giant relation,
the extinct moa, in having no wings.

In addition to gardens close to the town,
Wellington has lately acquired several thous-
and acres of forest land round a sandy bay
across the harbour. Here you find tall " rimus "
and " totaras," green ferns and mosses, and
many lovely tree-ferns — the variety with
white undersides to their fronds, which in old
days the Maoris used, like children in a fairy-
tale, to mark out trails.

In springtime, the hills behind the town and
the high cliffs along the shore are dazzling
with golden broom and gorse; and on sand-
hills, where it has been planted to bind the
sand, the yellow tree-lupin grows as freely
as a buttercup.

Wellington has a large boys' school and fine
University buildings. The University is


affiliated to the Colleges of the other large
towns, and women are admitted to degrees
on equcd terms with men.

There is always a steady air of bustle and
business about Wellington ; it is an important
port — big ships come and go, with cargoes to
be discharged and taken ; and the fact that it
is the seat of the Government makes it a
necessity for the Governor and his suite to
live here for several months of the year, and
also brings New Zealanders from all parts of
the Dominion.



Stewart Island lies south of the two main
islands of New Zealand, sepaxated by Foveaux
Strait, a channel only thirty miles wide ;
but usually the sea there is rough, and the
passage from South Islund to Stewart Island
in a small steam tug an unpleasant one.
Stewart Island is about forty miles long from
north to south, and has a coastline of between
five and six hundred miles. In addition to
Stewart Island proper there are numerous
small islands, named and unnamed, scattered
round the coast and away still further south.
Stewart Island has two mountains, one
two thousand, the other three thousand
feet. The whole island is more or less hilly,
and almost entirely covered with native

There is one township called Oban, and a
number of houses and cottages scattered about
throughout the island. The steamer leaves



the Bluff, the port of Invercargill, twice a
week for Stewart Island, and takes passengers
and mails to Oban's tiny wharf on Half-
Moon Bay. There are several * ' accommodation
houses" for tourists in Oban, all packed with
people during the holiday season. The one
in which I stayed soon after Christmas was
so full that some of the visitors had to be
housed in a small cottage in the garden, others
in a canvas tent, and one in a bathroom.
There were over forty visitors, and the
one small drawing-room was so crowded
that we were glad to pack ourselves carefully
on a cushioned seat running all round the

The weather is very often wet on Stewart
Island : it rained every day during the eight
days I spent there, and though I walked out
in all weathers, it was a pity to see the island
so frequently through torrents of rain.

The usual plan for visitors is to make up a
party of twenty or thirty from one of the
hotels, hire a boat, take lunch, and boil the
billy in one of the charming bays which abound
all round the island. The day after I arrived
was bright and sunny, just the day for such an


expedition, and a large party of us started
gaily in a motor sailing-cutter on a trip to
Glory Bay and Ulva Island. The sea was
calm, with sufficient wind blowing for us to
dispense with the motor engine and trust only
to the sails — a much pleasanter way of travelling
than by motor. We had a delightful two
hours' run to Glory Bay, where we anchored,
and were all landed in a small rowing boat on a
beach covered thickly with grey pebbles, large
and small. Here we found a convenient fire-
place fixed up — two iron supports firmly
fastened in piles of stones, a stout branch of a
tree laid across the uprights, and on the branch
iron hooks dangling — ^all provided by Govern-
ment, to prevent any danger of damage to
the bush by careless picnic parties. On the
hooks three billies were hung, a fire of sticks
was Ughted underneath, and when the water
boiled, tea was sprinkled into each billy. In
a few minutes the tea was ready, and we had
cups of it ladled out to us with an enamelled
mug, and sat down on the beach to an excellent
picnic lunch of meat sandwiches, jam sand-
wiches, and tea. The trees and ferns came
right down to the beach, and we looked across


the quiet bay through a framework of greenery
to a wooded island with the open sea

To-day I made acquaintance for the first
time with the New Zealand " rata," one of
the finest of the forest trees, attaining a
height of fifty to a hundred feet. The rata
is a species of myrtle, and was covered just
now with crimson myrtle flowers, which in
the sunlight turned a vivid scarlet, so that
in patches the bush seemed to be on fire.

After lunch we explored the bay in the
rowing boat, took snapshots, then again
boarded the cutter, and sailed away for Ulva
Island. This is an island several miles in
extent, densely covered with bush ; we landed,
and walked for two miles along a very narrow,
mossy track. The bush is very thick here, and
shady : tall trees with ferns and mosses grow
everywhere, while on the ground and over the
tree- trunks and among the green moss are little
fragile, white flowers. Even more noticeable
than the trees are the tree-ferns — hundreds of
them — with drooping, feathery green fronds
crowning the slender, brown stems, which
vary in height from six feet to forty. They


grow in remarkable perfection and abundance
on Stewart Island itself and on the islets

Our bush-track ended on a sandy beach.
We then walked along a well-made path for a
short quarter of a mile to a post office and
store, kept by a soHtary man who is the only
inhabitant of the island, and who apparently
lives there very contentedly ; he collects the
letters from the settlers on the neighbouring
islands, and sells grocery, thread, stationery
and other useful articles. We had been told
that this was the most southerly post office in
the world, but learnt later that in the Auckland
Islands there is one many miles nearer the
South Pole. Before we returned to the boat
it began to rain, and rained steadily all the
way back to Oban — real rain, which came
down in sheets, and made it impossible to see
anything of the scenery.

This expedition was the only one during my
stay on Stewart Island, for after that, the sea
was too rough for the boats to venture out.
So stormy was it that twice within the week the
steamer from the Bluff could not cross, and
as the cable was not in working order, we were
completely isolated.


A great part of Stewart Island belongs to
the Government of New Zealand, and the
bush is carefully protected, and heavy fines
are imposed on anyone who wilfully damages
it by fire or in any other way. For the
benefit of tourists Government has spent some
hundreds of pounds on making tracks in all
parts of the island : in places simply a roughly
beaten path, in others a " corduroy " track,
formed of stems of tree-ferns laid side by side.
The walks along these tracks are enchanting,
either through dense bush, or skirting the
edge of the forest, with charming views
through green ferns and crimson rata to
islands near and far, and the ever-distant
ocean. Often the tracks lead down to some
sheltered bay with steep tree-clad cliffs, whose
bases are washed continually by the blue
Pacific. Above one of these beaches stands the
most southerly cable station in the world — an
upright post, boarded four-square, through
which the overland wire vanishes, to re-appear
at the opposite station on the Bluff.

There are a number of native birds on
Stewart Island. Chief among these are the
"bell-bird" and the " tui." The bell-bird


has a clear, musical call of its own, and can
also imitate other birds. The " tui," is often
called the " parson-bird," on account of two
pretty white feathers which hang down under
his chin like old-fashioned Geneva bands ; the
rest of his plumage is a dark glossy green ; he
is about the size of an English rook, bigger
than the bell-bird, and like the bell-bird, sings
well and musically. There are plenty of little
birds ; the robin, whose breast is yellow
instead of red ; tits, wax-eyes, wrens, and
others, who dress in sober colours, and
chirp to one another in pleasant, quiet notes.
Round the coast you see penguins perched
on the rocks. The smaller islands are
favourite breeding-places for mutton-birds
— grey birds about as big as quails — which
are much esteemed by the Maoris as a
delicacy : they are carught by the Maoris
in quantities before the birds can fly, and
after they have been plucked and smoked,
they are preserved for future use in bags made
of long ribbon seaweed.

Very good fish are to be caught near
Stewart Island, as indeed all round the
New Zealand coasts ; blue cod is one of


the most delicate, eaten either fresh or
smoked, and the Stewart Island oyster-beds
are famous from one end of the Dominion to
the other.

The people who live on Stewart Island have
the reputation of being rather lazy. Most of
them are English, some of them are Maori
half-castes. Part of the land has been cleared
and is used for sheep runs, while some of the
inhabitants are employed in cutting down
timber. The chief business of the place is
looking after the tourists who go in hundreds
during the holiday months, and have a
splendid holiday with boating, fishing, bathing
and picnicing, or simply enjoying the mild
climate and the lovely scenery.

Oban itself is a small township with a post-
office ; two small stores, where you can buy
post-cards, caps, boots, pencils or grocery;
and a baker's shop, with a baker who takes
great pride in his home-made bread, and had
never heard of German yeast. Of public
houses there are none, as Stewart Island
favours local prohibition, and no intoxicating
liquors may be sold. There is an "Athenaeum"
or reading-room, an Anglican Church, a


Presbyterian Church, and some small meeting-
houses for religious purposes.

The Athenaeum is used as a public hall for
dances and concerts. One night a large party
of us went to a concert there and heard songs
and recitations. The chief item on the
programme was the " haka," or ancient
Maori war dance, which was performed by
four half-caste Maori youths. There was no
gliding movement, but much stamping of feet,
gesticulating and shouting, all in unison : it
is a most exhausting dance, and though it was
most heartily encored, very little of the
performance was given a second time.

As the weather was so bad, we were very
much thrown on our own resources for amuse-
ment inside the boarding-house. Some sang
or recited, or played on piano or violin, and one
of the men proved a most dexterous and
amusing conjurer. One night about fifty
visitors joined in progressive euchre — a game
which is much played in New Zealand, and
another night we had a games party.

All through we contrived to be merry, in
spite of the rain.



The walk along the Milford Track from Lake
Te Anau to Milford Sound has been described
by a New Zealand writer as " the finest walk
in the world." It is a walk of thirty-three
miles, through scenery of ever-changing
variety and beauty, and is now undertaken
annually by hundreds of tourists during the
summer months.

Milford Track is in the South Island,
among the lakes and fiords of Otago, and
goes through an uninhabited and unexplored
country of dense forest and inaccessible
mountain. Tourists go by train to Lumsden,
a small lowland township, and then on
by motor coaches. These run for forty
miles on a rough and stony road, almost
impassable after heavy rain by reason of the
mud and swollen creeks. At first it is rather an
uninteresting drive, with flat ' 'tussock' ' country



on either side, and in the distance low hills;
but gradually the scenery becomes wilder,
the low hills give place to mountains bearing
patches of never-melting snow, and the great
lakes behind which they rise are surrounded by
miles of untouched forest. The road here
dwindles to vague ruts leading through the
foothills of the more distant mountains, and
tourists are taken for another twelve miles in
wagonettes drawn by horses, to an accom-

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Online LibraryF. A RobertsBy forest ways in New Zealand → online text (page 1 of 9)