ROUND THE NORTH ISLAND.
IMPRESSIONS OF A STRENUOUS HOLIDAY;
,(By Wm. C, Puhoi.),
Wanganui, the next stopping place, was reached on New Year's Eve, on which evening it appeared a smaller Auckland, with its crowds of shoppers, its young people promenading the main thoroughfares, and its lately-instituted electric car service in full swing. The cars in use are similar to the new Auckland double-front cars, but are smaller. On New Year's Day visits were paid to Cook's Gardens, the museum, and St. John's Hill; a trip was made up the river to the scene of the famous sculling match, and a few hours were spent at CastleoUfl', Wanganui's sea-side resort, where the greater part of the population were making holiday. The chief centre of "attraction here was the sunken little steamer Charles Edward, where a diver was at work lightening the vessel preparatory to refloating. Wanganui is a fine place from a • sconio point -of view, its hills on either side, and in the town itself, giving it a distinct advantago in this respect over Palmerston North, which has no elevations to relieve Its monotonous dead level.
The 53 miles through Martonand Bulls to Palmerston was one of the easiest stages of the tour, the wind being favourable and blowing almost a gale, and the road for the most part remarkably smooth. The weather now again turned out wet, and Palmerston had to be seen between the Bhowers One or two wettings were experienced before Wellington was reached; and the whole time I spent in the capital city rain Jell incessantly. One could not help being unfavourably impressed with Wellington; the steep.--ness of its hills, the narrowness of its main thoroughfares, the heavy rain which continued to fall, and the wind (for whiah the city is proverbial) blowing .strong on this occasion, all tended to • lower one's estimation of the place, and as soon as the weather showed signs of clearing .a start was' made for Napier, via the Wairarapa, The run through Pefcorie and up the Hutt Valley to Upper Hutt was an easy one, but from here for about a
dozen miles the road is a fairly steep up-grade, to the summit of the Rimutaka, which meant steady pushing for two or three hours. However,, every hill has two slues, and the glide down the eastern side of this ( range 'into the Smiling Wairarapa plain in great part made up for the arduous asoohb. The Wail'arapa Is Baid to bo ono of tho most prosperous districts in the Dominion, and oortalnly tho ride through seemed to bear this out. Excellent crops, especially of oats —.which was being harvested on all sides, and was variously estimated to yield from 70 to 96 bushels to the acre—bore testimony to the fertility of the soil, while the towns, Peatheraton, Greytown, Carterton, and especially Masterton, with their new buildings, the general appearance of all business premises the order in which the streets were kept some of them being asphalted) presented a most thriving, up-to-date appearance. The-second day's journey from Wellington led through the undulating country of the Forty Mile Bush, which name has lost much, of its. significance, the greater part of the bush land having been convorted to fine dairy farms. One could not but be struck with tho change o.f' industry of these parts. 'Originally saW-railling, here and there could be scon all that remained of the old .sawmills in great heaps of sawdust, while all along the road, taking their place were tho übiquitous creameries and butter factories. Pahlatua is. without dpubt the most rapidly advancing town -in this district, and has a rather unique appearance, with its main thoroughfarja divided down the centre by enclosures containing ornamental trees and shrubi,' From Woodville a side excursion whs made through the famous Manawatu Gorge, tho rugged grandour of which was well worth seeing. The narrow road' cut Into tho face of tho oliff above tho river; the several landslips, which obstructed It, and over which one had repeatedly to climb with one's bike on one's baekj the litter of great stonos, also brought down by the recent rain, all along the Toad; the flooded foaming river far below; the precipitous' sides of the gorge stretching far above; the little patches of bush here and there on the otherwise bare faces; and the railway, with its tunnels, steel bridges, and stone breastworks, bub a Btone's-throw hway the other side, all served to make the trip through and back most: interesting. Napier was reached the third; nighfaftor leaving Wellington, tho ' distances covered those three days being respectively 11, 78, and 85 mile's. Tho features of ! Napier, which aro- found especially interesting, were, the Marino Parade, of which the city' is Justly proud, tho Botanl«al Qttrdons, St. John's Oathedral, Hospl* 1 tal Hill/and the breakwater, yhere the I huge concrete blocks of which it is constructed were seen in the making.
i'ho hundred miles from Napier to i'aupu were coveleu in two du^s —two oi Uie hardest 01 tuo tour, llie lii'&t uozeu, over tuo Spit. aud. through ketone, were comparatively level, oat the next twenty to Pohui were very hilly, so much so "that this place, which 1 had calculated on reaohing by 1 pan., was not gained till three. Imagine my feelings when 1 was iuiormea that this stage was "a lawn" to the next, tuo twenty-five miles to Tarawera, where 1 would meet "country that would paralyse my eyesight." With the growing idea that it was likely to be a ca3e oi legs, not eyes, becoming paralysed, having snatched a hasty luncii, 1 left i'ohui, teneral surprise being manifested at my etermination to proceed that day. The reason for this surprise I was not long in finding out. Up a long hill from Pohui, and 1 found myself descending the notoriously rough and muddy road —recent repaired (?) with large stones, flax roots, and soft clay—down the steep incline of Tutiokuri—a decent of four miles to the bottom of the Mohaka Valley. Bumping against boulders, sliding iv slush, dodging titreo sticks and flax roots, and sinking into sand, the while marvelling at what the mechanism of the machine could stand, I at length reached and crossed the fine bridge over the river below, From here the road winds for yearly five mileß up the other side of the valley, nine-miles thus being taken up in crossing this one valley alone. On over some undulating country, through a pretty piece of bush, past -a native settlement, and tho great zigzag of Turangakuma, had. to be negotiated. Fortunately, this , was . reached just before dark. Par below could be seen the bed of the river, and almost straight underneath, stretch after stretch of tho road. It was over one of the sharp corners of this zigzag that on one 00-. casion the Napier coach took a short cut to the bottom; with the result that the driver nnd team of four horee-s were killed l —fortunately there were no passengers. This zigzag measured about four miles by cyclometer. The remaining few miles into TaTaWera led through more of the same kind of country, as a consequence of which the Hot Springs Hotel was not reached till nearly ten p.m. The following day, a dreary ride of forty-six miles, with a stop. at the solitary, half-way hotel at Kangitaiki, through the. sandy Raingaroa Plains, brought mc to Taupe, where a day or two was spent seeing the wonders of the Spa, Wairakei, Huka Falls, etc. Of the thermal sights pf the Spa, the Crow's Nest Geyser, which every four hours throws up a column of boiling water to about 100 eet, is the chief, but the Wairakei Geyser Valley wonders eclipse anything; that can be seen anywhere else in the whole Hot Springs District. What ; distinguish the boiling springs and gey-
sers of this valley are the great amount ot water thrown Up anil tue leinantuo.i! regularity with they play. Here, tilt! Oliaiupagne Pool—'eeventy-uve leet across—bolls Up in groat domes incessantly 1 there, tho Great Wairakei Ucyser throws up an immense volume of water every toil minutes] further ou, the Dragon's .Mouth pourß forth Its volume every vine minutes; and in another place the :Eagle's Nest sends up a hugo jet oi sparkling water at intervals of twentylive mluutes. Besides these, there are the Soda Water Spring boiling Over once every minute, the Fairy Pools of mud bubbling up into every imaginable form, tho Lightning Pool, so named from tho immense white bubbles of steam which follow one another in zigzag course up from the bottom, the Black Geyser with its deposit of manganese dioxide, the Blue Pool apparently containing copper sulphate, the Prince of Wales' Feather Geyser sending up its divided shot, while at one cud Kruger's Long Tom keeps up a low booming accompaniment to the whole activity of the valley. From the Wairakei Geyser Hotel, a most convenient and comfortabel place to stay, trips can also be made to the Waiora Valley, famous for its beautiful coloured pools, from which the tints were obtained for "kalsomining" the ceilings of the new hotel; to the Rarapiti Blowhole, from which a blast of steam is ejected at a pressure of 1801bs. to the square inch; and to the Huka Falls and Aratiatia Rapids. The Huka Falls are truly magnificent. Here, the whole overflow from Lake Taupo thunders along under a suspension bridge connecting the perpendicular walls which cause the water to be concentrated into a space of about thirty feet, the whole water being churned to foam for some considerable distance till, in a magnificent final leap, it gains the comparatively smoother stretch in the wider river beyond. The rapids, some few miles further down the river, are similar to the Huka Falls, but extend for about half-a-mile, and do not culminate in a final leap, which is the distinguishing feature of the latter.
A long drag of fifty miles through a very sandy road —the struggle through which may be left to the imagination— brought mc to Rotorua, where only a short stay was made, its wonders having been seen on different former occasions. From here I pushed on through Te Teko and Whakatane to Opotiki, which, always a prosperous place, has made great strides during the past few years. The many large new business premises; the shop fronts emulating those of Auckland city; the new residences erected all over the town; the telephone exchange, lately instituted; the high figures at which properties had changed hands;- the increased population due to a steady influx of settlers from
other parts; all told of considerable advance! The answer to tho query as to V\-hat had wrought the change was, the opening up of tnis back country* Later, 1 had tho pleasure of a ride through some of this back country, through some miles of excellent bush land, all settled, and much of it cleared and carrying thousands of sheep—country which some half dozen, years ago was not available for settlement. All through the Bay of Plenty similar signs of progress Were Plaengaxoa Junction, a few years back but a finger post, ia developing 'into a little township; the country between Te Puke and Tauranga is now largely settled; Tauranga, with its numerous new enterprising settlers, its increased population shown by the numerous new residences dotted all over the little peninsula in places formerly waste, its arrangements for a water supply from the Oropi bush, and for the institution of gas, is keeping well in line>j and the whole bay is unitedly agitating for an East Coast Railway to connect its various centres with Waihi—a connection which is all that is needed to enable this portion of Auckland Province, blessed as it is with excellent land and the finest climate of the Island, to step into the front rank among the prosperous centres of the Dominion.
A run of seventy-eight miles on January 27th from Tauranga through Waihi and 1 Paeroa to Thames practically completed the round trip, steamer being hero taken for Auckland. Another thirty-two miles, which had to be covered to reach home, made the total mileage cycled 1,412 miles, and brought to a close one of the most enjoyable, and, at the same time, instructive holiday tours imaginable.
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