MR. VALPY'S OVERLAND JOURNEY FROM CHRISTCHURCH TO OTAGO.
The Forbury, Dunedin,
June Bth, 1852
Dear Sic, —I have much pleasure in transmitting, according to promise, the following account of a journey performed on horse-back from Port Cooper to Otago ; and, especially, when I remember the obliging manner in which you assisted me, and encouraged an undertaking, once deemed so formidable, on account of the many rapids to be crossed. I hope very soon to return to your beautiful settlement, where I spent a few weeks with so much satisfaction, partaking of the hospitality and kindness of its inhabitants.
To-morrow I purpose going down to the Waihola to collect all the stock, and make arrangements for a move to your splendid district, unequalled in New Zealand, where, should my journey be prosperous, I hope to locate my flocks.
Before I commenced the undertaking, I found myself not only disappointed of my proposed companions, but also of the guides who were to conduct me. Under these circumstances, my highland shepherds generously refused to desert me, and on the 13th of May we started from Christchuich. I supplied the men with horses, and rode myself the Timor pony, which I was taking as a present to my mother. A tent capable of holding six or eight persons, a couple of blankets, provisions for fourteen days, of oatmeal, biscuit, tea, and sugar, formed an equipment. We had intended keeping the 90 mile beach, but a short distance from town, were met by Holland, the guide, who promised to follow us. Altering our course, we encamped
above Mr. Lake's, near the fork of the Selwyn. It rained hard through the night, with a S.VV. gale. In the morning the hills were covered with snow to the very plains. Started eavly, and striking up rather too high on the plain, and arriving at the Rakaia, found ourselves close to Mr. Stoddart's station, where we were kindly received. We remained here only a few hours", and reached Mr. Saunderson's a little after sunset. The quantity of rain which had fallen, made me apprehend some difficulty in crossing the river. In the morning, however, it had gone down sufficiently to admit of our making a passage. One of the horses was nearly washed off his legs; had it been the case he must have been drowned, for the stream was too strong to recover himself. Upon this I went lower down the river, and with another horse above me, to break the force of the current, managed to get the pony across, taking the precaution to hold on to the horse above in order that I should have some chance of escape were the pony washed away. We gained the summit of the opposite bank at 12 o'clock, and by the compass took a S.W. course, continued in this direction till half-past three, when we made the end of the hills our steering point, passing through some very fine feed. We crossed the Ashburton at half-past four, passed over very rough swampy ground, thickly covered with flax aud toi-toi, and encamped after dark. Could find no water, but had firewood. We mixed a little brandy aud oatmeal for our supper. Starting at daylight we went some miles, and again came into large swamps. At twelve o'clock arrived at the river Hinds, after breakfast tried to reach the beach, and travelling the rest of the day found ourselves obliged to return to the same place we had left at I o'clock, having been entirely beaten by the swamps. The next day we again made the endeavour, but had to retrace our steps, determining never more to try a swamp, we therefore headed them all by striking a couple of miles towards the hills, where we had the satisfaction to find the plain hard and dry. In about two hours we reached the Alford. The banks are not so steep as I was led to expect. Following the stream for a mile or two, rested the horses, walking about to reconnoitre. Though the stream did not appear at all strong, you may fancy the force of it by a snag in the bed of the river, forming a jet of water more than three feet high. This is dangerous to cross owing to the quicksands. We however got over in safety, about half a mile below a manuka scrub, on the south side of the rivei\ Our track here was so serpentine, the attempt to describe it would be useless. We gained the coast about dark, and encamped close to the beach. Started at sunrise. Found this day's journey very tedious, being mostly on the shingle beach. Rested the horses almost every other hour, for the pony was very tired. The day cold ; S.W. blowing fresh with showers. All along this coast was swampy. Thousands of ducks on the lagoons ; we very much regretted being without a gun. We reached Mr. Rhodes's station at half-past three, and were hospitably received by Mr. Laghorn, his superintendant. Started in the afternoon for another tedeous journey on the beach, encamped on the spit, where there was no fresh water. The country was not bud between this and Tiniaru, but as far as I could see without a stick of bush. Behind the beach was a large swamp, extending nearly to the river Waihou. There is no country here like the Port Cooper Plains, except a small piece at the Waitaki. I believe Mr. Hornbrook is to occupy this run. This extraordinary beach is worthy of notice—it is nearly twenty miles long. The swamp I have mentioned behind it must have been covered by the sea. The wall of shingle is An parts 25 feet high, and not more than 50 yards broad, forming at one end, on the sea side, three terraces. The large lagoon behind is quite salt. Our place of encampment on the spit, was about four miles from the Waihou. On the North bank there is a very large bush, at the foot of the hills, which will prove valuable to the stock-holders on the plains. The frost not allowing us to sleep we started before day-break, and stopped at the Waihou for some hours, where we breakfasted. We left ufter 12 and easily reached Waitaki in three Hours. We were close to the far filmed and long dreaded Waitaki, before we noticed it, so very high are the banks and perpendicular. Standing for some time watching the river running below us, we were much gratified to perceive the smoke of the fire of some Maories, who had hiippily come clown the night before eeling.
After some search we found the way down to the river near a ruined maori encampment. We crossed several streams and gained an island in the middle of the river, where the Maori was waiting for us, with his mogee, a canoe made with bundles of raupo tied together, the most unweildy affair I have ever seen. We tried to cross the pony, but could not manage it, and as it was nearly dark tethered the horses on the island. We passed over with the Maoris and slept on the south bank, longing as you may suppose to know the result of the next day's endeavour. My men were examining the stream up and down for a belter crossing, whilst I went over again, and sent the Maori back to fetch over the men, wishing to see how far the stream would take the mogee down, and be likely to land the horses; the men returned discouraged. I walked up the stream for more than a mile, and perceiving the river widened in one spot, and the current not so strong, I began to hope it might be forded. I ran back for Donald. We made our way over one or two of the streams, and found them easy enough. In high spirits, though still with some misgivings, we went back for the horses. The
Maori laughed when he found we discovered the ford, having the night before positively assured ns there was none. He led the pony through, the water, which was about three feet deep. When we crossed the last stream, ive gave way to our delight by cheering three-times-three, over and over again. Although very hungry we staid not for dinner, but went on to the end of the Waitald plain about fifteen miles. I now cease to describe my journey as it is well known, being occupied by Otago settlers, all of whom most kindly welcomed me. I reached the Forburj, my father's place, on Tuesday, having been 12 days out. I could do the same journey again in eight days, if pushed —in seven. A cart might be brought from Port Cooper to this end of the Waitaki Plain. My father and mother unite in kind remembrances to Mrs. Godley and yourself. I remain, dear Sir, Your's very faithfully, W. H. Valpy" Jim. J. R. Godley, Esq., Lyttelton.
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MR. VALPY'S OVERLAND JOURNEY FROM CHRISTCHURCH TO OTAGO., Lyttelton Times, Volume II, Issue 78, 3 July 1852
MR. VALPY'S OVERLAND JOURNEY FROM CHRISTCHURCH TO OTAGO. Lyttelton Times, Volume II, Issue 78, 3 July 1852
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