W hat I believe to be genuine and authentic the collected publications of William Colenso



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Paper II.

MEMORANDUM OF A JOURNEY INTO THE INTERIOR, IN WHICH I SUCCEEDED IN CROSSING THE RUAHINE MOUNTAIN RANGE, WITH NOTES ON THE PECULIAR LOCAL BOTANY OF THAT REGION, ETC.

[Read before the Hawke’s Bay Philosophical Institute, October 14th, 1878.1058]

with additional and copious notes.

“Upon the sides of Latmos was outspread
A mighty forest;—
And it had gloomy shades sequestered deep
Where no man went.”— Endymion. Keats.

Alloi kamon, alloi onanto.”= Some toil, others reap.


Ancient Proverb.

On a former occasion I narrated my first visit to the Ruahine mountains, in which, after much toil, I succeeded in gaining the summit, although I failed in crossing the range.

I should not now greatly care to say anything more about it, but for three reasons: (1) To note particularly the localities of the peculiar Botany of the interior,—then, for the first time found, and not since, I believe, detected;—(2) To leave on record some mention of the difficulties of travelling in New Zealand in those earlier days, before there were either roads or horses, and when even [30] the route itself was necessarily so very difficult and different to what it is now:— and (3) to show that I did accomplish my original intention,—“perseverando vinces”!1059

As may be readily supposed—by those who have heard my first attempt to cross the Ruahine—I had had quite enough of the toil and hardship attending that journey soon to repeat it on the E. sides of the range; yet being still greatly desirous of visiting those Natives living beyond it, I was determined to do so as early as circumstances would permit. This, however, I saw could not be again attempted for some time, as I had not only a great deal to do at home in a newly-formed Station, where everything depended on myself; but I had also a large amount of other distant travelling to perform;1060 besides it seemed all but impossible to get Natives to accompany me,—although they were quite ready to go with me on other journeys,—the last one having so greatly disheartened them.

During that year, (1845,) I was laid aside for some time through a severe attack of low fever, and when I had scarcely recovered I had to travel on foot in mid-winter to Poverty Bay on important business, and back to my residence at Waitangi;—and then, by the coast line, to Palliser Bay and Wellington, and to Ohariu and Ohaua in Cook’s Straits,—and back again to Hawke’s Bay through Wairarapa and Manawatu. Being the first European who travelled through the then dense and all but impassable forest (“70 mile Bush, S.”) lying between the Ruamahanga in Wairarapa and the Manawatu rivers, where I also gained several rare Botanical novelties. And then I had a similar amount of heavy travelling on duty to perform throughout the following year, 1846; during which year I spent seven months in my tent.

Therefore, it was not until early in the year 1847 that I again recommenced my journey to Patea; this time by the “round-about-way” of Taupo.—I should here however mention, that during the preceding year I had been twice on foot over this new ground as far as Tarawera, between Hawke’s Bay and Taupo Lake; and had made every enquiry relative to the Patea natives and the route thither,—though the information received was almost nil.

Having got all ready for our journey, myself and five natives (including my old friend Paora, who was still very desirous of seeing his mother’s tribe), we started from Waitangi on the 9th February. Crossing the Ahuriri harbour in a canoe, for which we had to wait there some time, and travelling on, we brought up for the night at a small maori village on the banks of the Petane river,— about two miles above the present School-house, but not by the present near road thither.

The next morning, breakfast over, we again moved on, stopping at Kaiwaka to roast a few potatoes for our dinner, and halted for the night at a place on the hills called Wahieanoa. Wind very high this day, and suffering from a half-sprained ancle. At night for a long time in constant succession the noisy Petrels kept flying—in from the sea to their breeding homes in the cliffy sides of the high hills beyond us. I had often heard them on former occasions, when spending a night at Petane and Tangoio, and other villages near the sea, but this night they seemed by their cries to fly much lower, possibly attracted by our fires. The natives on foggy nights make fires in suitable spots on the high hills near their nests or burrows to attract them, and kill numbers of them easily with their sticks. They are very fat and are considered dainties.



———— “Above, in the light
Of the star-lit night,
Swift birds of passage wing their flight:—
I hear the beat
Of their pinions fleet:—
I hear the cry
Of their voices high
Falling dreamily through the sky.
But their forms I cannot see.”

11th. Early this morning we recommenced our journey; the westerly wind still dreadfully high so that on those exposed heights we could scarcely stagger on against it! Halted at Te Pohue to breakfast; thence on, by the mountain pass Titiokura, to a little village on the banks of the Mohaka river called Mimiha, where we halted for the night.— In ascending towards the crest of the pass—Titiokura, I was much pleased in again observing that fine plant Ourisia macrophylla; it grew in large beds, or patches, in boggy and damp spots by the sides of the mountain streamlet, and being in full flower and undisturbed looked well with its large glossy leaves. I had first met with this fine plant in 1841, in the country between Poverty Bay and Waikare Lake, but then it was not in flower.1061 Dr. Dieffenbach had also found it growing at Mount Egmont. This is one of the few fine “garden flowers” of New Zealand. Here, on the high ground among the fern, grew my new species of Coriaria (C. Kingiana),1062presenting much the same appearance as when I originally discovered it in 1841; this plant, in a soil it loves, would look well in the foreground of a large shrubbery. On the summit I discovered [32] several Botanical novelties: viz.—a fine bushy species of Gnaphalium (G. prostratum), of low growth but with numerous ascending branches bearing a profusion of flowers. This plant was also found by Sir J. Hooker in the Antarctic Islets, who has given a fine drawing of it in his Flora Antarctica, tab. 21. A peculiar tufted Ranunculus with small leaves on long petioles and bearing very long scapes (R. multiscapus): a low shrubby species of Coprosma (C. depressa), bearing sweet berries which were good eating: and a very low plant of Gaultheria having large edible fruit hidden under its leaves,—reminding one of the allied Whortle-berry of one’s native Land; this plant,—which also grows plentifully on the open downs of Taupo, and elsewhere,—is, I suspect, placed by Sir J. Hooker, under G. antipoda, as a var. of that species; but it varies greatly from the true G. antipoda, which is a very common plant,—particularly at the N. parts of this island, and differs widely from it in habit, &c. Among the crags I found,—a curious species of Exarrhena (E. saxosa), densely covered with coarse white hairs: a minute species of Pozoa, a pretty little plant, resembling the coast species (P. trifida), but smaller in all its parts, with coriaceous sessile leaflets and bearing bristly hairs: and, hidden among the stony cliffs, a very small Fern of compact cæspitose growth, a species of Grammitis,—which Sir Jos. Hooker has included1063 under Polypodium Australe, but which is, in my opinion, very widely different from all the states I have seen of that plant,—as well as from my Grammitis ciliata,1064 (a rare and little known Fern, which I also believe to he specifically distinct,)—although, in the “Hand Book”, Sir J. Hooker has also included this, and others also, with it. Two additional species of the genus Uncinia (U. leptostachya, and U. rubra,) I also obtained here; this latter species often gave to some parts of the dry plains in the interior quite a red hue when viewed from a distance, so that, at first, I wondered what it could possibly be that made them look so strangely red.1065 From a small isolated hill near the centre of the pass is a delightful view of Ahuriri and the southern part of Hawke’s Bay including Cape Kidnappers;—

—“Where the round ether mixes with the wave;”—

—this landscape is well worthy of a drawing. I have often in passing this way, when the weather was fine and air clear, contemplated it with admiration.1066

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:


Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness.”— [33]

The old road by the ancient maori track through the fern, in descending from Titiokura to the banks of the river Mohaka, was then very different to what it is now; for, on nearing the high banks of that river, a sharp turn was taken to the right running parallel with it, by which you descended into a small stream at a place called Mangowhata, and crossed it at the very edge of a cataract, on indeed the slippery brink of the bed of a single rock forming the fall, which curved suddenly upwards towards the verge, and having a deep dark pool close within; and then, on landing on the opposite side you climbed up a steep ascent until you came again quite as suddenly on to the very brink of the cliff, by the edge alone of which the track lay! This was owing to the high hilly back ground immediately above falling very abruptly towards the cliff in front. Both those perpendicular spots, situated too within a few yards of each other, were very dangerous, and, as a track, fearful to look at; and, in travelling inwards the interior, you could not see them owing to the thick overhanging fern and other herbage growing on the brink, until you were on, or partly passed, them, and then it was too late to think of retreating. I supposed the height of the waterfall to be about 80, and that of the adjoining cliff about 120, feet. The small stream in the summer season was often lost in fine spray before it reached the bottom, where it fell into a semi-circular basin, or large pool, having thickets of white pine and other trees on the low banks around it. After my first surprise on my first visit, in which I was very nearly carried over, I always managed to crawl along on my hands and knees through the fern and small manuka shrubs (Leptospermum). Once passed this place, however, the descent to the Mohaka was gradual and easy, which indeed was the sole reason of the old natives adopting that course.1067

12th. This morning we crossed the Mohaka, which is pretty rapid here, without very great difficulty;—by means of long poles to which we secured ourselves, and by wading diagonally;—in some places, however, we could scarcely keep our footing, and there is a cataract just below.1068 The bases of the cliffs, [34] near the water’s edge were closely covered with a matted vegetation of a small species of Viola (probably V. Cunninghamii), which bore fruit plentifully but was without flowers. Travelled steadily on to a place at the edge of a forest named Te Waiparatu, where was a stream of water, and where we halted to roast “our roast” (potatoes); thence, resuming our journey, four hours more walking brought us to Pirapirau, a small village of Tarawera district: much fatigued today with the hot dry and dusty pumice! which overlies much of this country.

I gained, however, a few new and interesting plants; among which were,— a new species of our endemic genus Melicytus (M. lanceolatus), making, as I think, the sixth species of that genus found in N. Zealand;1069 also, two species, or varieties of Aristotelia, now placed under A. fruticosa. I also noticed, on the higher grounds in the forests, some remarkably large specimens of that curious genus Griselina, which, from their huge grotesque yet dumpy trunks, seemed very aged; here, also, were some large specimens of Carpodetus serratus,—one which I measured being 4 ft. 5in, in girth; a distinct species of Drimys, (originally discovered by me in 1841, on Huiarau,) D. axillaris, a much larger and handsomer tree than the species found at the N., was also common here: this plant would make a fine shrub for a shrubbery if it would live away from the forest’s shade.—On the barren pumice plains near Tarawera grew commonly in clumps a new species of low shrubby Dracophyllum (D. subulatum). In the streamlets, deep down in the narrow ravines which intersected this pumice-stone plain, were many elegant fresh-water Algæ,—of the genera Conferva, Tyndaridea, and Oscillatoria, of various colours,—one, in particular, possessing a steel-blue metallic appearance; of all these I secured specimens for Home. From the sides of a small river near the village I obtained a peculiar looking Grass, Gymnostichum gracile; and from a cliff overhanging the stream, a fine new species of Gaultheria (G. oppositifolia), which greatly pleased me. Strange to say I have never found another plant of this species, although from its size, large green leaves, and unique appearance, it is not easily overlooked. In subsequent years when passing by this way I often obtained good specimens from it. [35]

At this little village I remained two days; the natives (who had lately embraced Christianity) wishing me to spend a Sunday here with them,—and I was very desirous of giving my still painful ancle a rest. This village is on the very edge of a dense dry forest, so that it was truly delightful to wander in its shade, which I did for some hours this day (Saturday), while waiting for the natives to assemble, who were at this season absent at work in their several scattered and distant plantations. There I obtained many choice and elegant specimens of the Orders Hepaticæ and Musci;1070 some of the former were odoriferous, and of the kinds formerly used and prized by the New Zealanders for scenting their anointing oils.—

— “Within the gloom of these majestic woods;


Roaming or resting under grateful shade,
Where living things, and things inanimate,
Do speak at Heaven’s command, to eye and ear,
And speak to social reason’s inner sense,
With inarticulate language.”—

Monday, 15th. Rose early before 5 and started at 6; halted at 7.30, at a place called Opitonui to breakfast. This was a truly pretty spot; in a grassy patch near, that neat little plant of Liliaceæ,—Herpolirion Novæ-Zealandiæ abounded, enlivening the place with its flowers; yet it was the only locality I ever saw it in: the discovery of this gem pleased me very much. After leaving Opitonui the travelling was wretched! up high hills and through lately burned forests,—black prostrate trees and ashes! without any vestige of a track, so that we were often at a loss. We all wanted water greatly during this day’s hot march; at last I found some in a large hole in a Tawhai tree (Fagus ?fusca),1071 which, dark-coloured and nauseous as it was from the leaves of the tree, seemed like nectar to our dry throats. The Fagus trees of this forest were remarkably fine and straight;



— “forests huge,
moult, robust, and tall, by Nature’s hand
Planted of old;”—

and standing largely apart, so that there was no difficulty in travelling through them; this is mostly the case in the forests of this tree, where there is little or no undergrowth, owing, no doubt, to the shedding of its leaves, which thickly cover the ground. Our easy travelling, however, was not without danger, for there was no track, or we could not find it, having lost it early in the morning, so we travelled in a great measure by compass. I was not a little surprised today, in walking through open fern-land, to find the fern covering the ground to be a species of Dicksonia, which there grew much like the common N.Z. fern, or [36] Bracken (Pteris esculenta). It extended for some distance, and presented a novel appearance. From its habit and manner of growth, &c., I named it D. unistipa,—but I find Sir J. Hooker has considered it to be the same as D. lanata, (to this fusion, however, I cannot agree,) very likely owing to his receiving parts only of fronds from me, the similarity in several species of the Dicksonia, and also of the allied genus Cyathea, being very great; so that it is almost impossible to distinguish their true characteristics from dried specimens of portions of large fronds. We called at Moturoa, a small village on the Taupo plains, hoping to get a little food, but there was none to be had at this season,—the potatoes not being yet ripe in these high localities. Proceeding on, very wearily, (my native companions sadly needing food, and I still in pain from my ancle,) we met a woman with a large basket on her back, who had just come from a clearing in a thicket hard by, in which there was an old forsaken potatoe plantation. Poor soul! she had travelled a few miles thither in hopes of gleaning some food for herself and children, and now was returning to her home;—with that genuine hospitality so common to the New-Zealander, she soon dropped her load and gladly gave us (strangers) a few handfuls of the smallest potatoes I ever saw! they were all throughout just the size of marbles (not large ones), or of the potatoe berry, yet pretty nearly ripe !—forcibly reminding me of what the potatoe was originally in its native woods. We continued our course towards Taupo Lake; passing a waterfall, which came out under a natural bridge; and a little further on the head of the Rangataiki river, which here takes it rise from a small lake; and crossing the great plain brought up at 7 p.m. at a common place of bivouac of the Maoris named Ohineriu; all hands completely tired! Here, unfortunately, was neither wood nor water; we tried, however, to get a poor fire by pulling up the withered tufts of long wiry grass, which, according to the mode practised here by the natives of these parts, we twisted together before burning, through which device they did last a little longer, and so we managed to scorch our scanty supper of small potatoes, and soon lay down as we were for the night,—with the stars shining down upon us.

16th. Rose, stiff, and very unwillingly, at 5, and soon started. An hour brought us to a beautiful clear stream of water, which we were told was the head of the Mohaka river, that here takes its rise from a small lake to the S. and E. of the large lake of Taupo,—its water was very cold, and appeared delicious. There being no wood here by this stream we were unwillingly obliged to continue our journey, and that without much stopping, to reach a breakfast place. I obtained, however, an elegant fern, a Gleichenia, which grew thickly together and of uniform appearance and height in beds or patches on the low wet banks of the stream; this novelty pleased me much and I named it G. Hookeriana; but I find Sir J. Hooker has placed it as a var. (alpina) of G. dicarpa; from that old and well-known Australian species I still think it will yet be found to be specifically [37] distinct. A species of Cyathodes,—apparently differing widely from the N. form, in size, leaf, flower, and fruit,—grew here on the hills, which plant, however, Sir J. Hooker has placed as a var. of C. acerosa; to me it seemed very distinct. Travelling on, in an hour more, we reached a wood called Te Kotipu; here, at last! we breakfasted on boiled rice. Looking about in this wood, while breakfast was getting ready, I detected a new species of Pittosporum, a handsome leafy small upright shrub, with dark-green leaves, which I named P. viridis,—now, probably, the P. fasciculatum of Sir J. Hooker. From this wood we proceeded on towards Taupo Lake, passing Te Waiharuru, where a stream rushes leaping and bounding underground through an awful chasm, shaking the earth for some distance around,—whence its fit name the Rumbling Water. From this place we travelled to Hinemaia, another river of bounding water: thence to Apungaotekura,—the course being mostly up hill. At 6 p.m. we gained Orona, a small village on the Taupo Lake, very hungry and very tired.—For the last 3 miles, however, the travelling was comparatively easy, over open ground and downhill.

17th. The next morning we did not leave very early, being wholly dependent on these villagers for our breakfast; while it was cooking I strolled on the sandy shores of the lake, and there detected a new species of Chenopodium (C. pusillum,) growing plentifully. In conversing with an aged native, I found, that he was one of that very marauding party who had attempted the descent on southern Hawke’s Bay natives in years gone by, and who, owing to the sudden loss of a number of their party on the tops of the Ruahine range, through their being carried down by the snow, had returned without effecting their design (as related by me in my first Paper, page 17). He narrated the whole affair, giving the names also of those who had so miserably perished there; and gravely adding, that it was all brought on through one of them having wantonly desecrated that sacred spot—the heights above (mingit). Which superstitious belief had, I suspect, a great deal to do with their not seeking to afford their unfortunate cornrades any relief. It having also been construed by their priests as ominous of future defeat at Hawke’s Bay, if they persisted in going thither, caused them to return. When this man heard from Paora, that I had been on that very spot, he got angry, and would not for some time believe hirn,—making also a great fuss about our now going thither or returning to Hawke’s Bay by that way—on account of its sanctity—being a tapu spot! Forcibly reminding me of what the old Maori priests at the N. had formerly said, when they found that I had really been to the Reinga (beyond Cape M. V. Diemen), and had drunk of the sacred “spirits well” there.1072 [38]

Leaving Orona we travelled S. by the shore of the lake to Motutere, a much larger village than the former, reaching it at 1.30; here were several natives. We staid here a while to dine, being hospitably pressed by the natives. Just outside the village a single large sized Karaka tree (Corynocarpus lævigata) was growing; a rare sight so far from the sea-coast. At 3p.m. we left, and travelling steadily on halted late on the banks of the river Waikato, near its head, where we found a small party of natives employed in dubbing timber. We had heard of them, and were in hopes of getting something from them to eat, but, unfortunately, we were again obliged to go supperless to bed.—

18th. Rising this morning we were constrained to await the arrival of a native who had gone to fetch some potatoes. We left, however, at 8, being ferried across the river by the natives in their canoes,1073 and arrived at Rotoaira village, at the base of the Tongariro mountain, in the afternoon, and were well received by the natives,—so here we stopped the night. As this was the last S. village of the Taupo country I endeavoured to get a guide hence to the Patea district, and only after great difficulty succeeded; as the country over which our course lay was rugged and difficult, and there was no regular track hence to the Patea villages; only once a year,—or in 2, or even 3 years,—did a small party of Maoris visit Taupo from Patea; rarely if ever did any go from Taupo to Patea. Nothing is more surprising to me among the many and great changes which have been effected in this country during the last 40–45 years, than this,—of common fearless communication between the Maori pahs (villages) and tribes, which intercourse formerly did not exist,—not even between what are now considered (even by the natives themselves) as neighbouring villages. I could not, however, help fearing, that, just as on a former occasion so now, our “guide” would prove to be of little real service.1074



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