VIA THE RANGIRIRIS.
AN UNDOCTORED INCIDENT.
Ah! what avails the classic bent ■. And what the cultured, worn Aa'ftiaat tho undoetored incident That actually occurred? —Kipling. A railway strike may be approached from many angles, but from the point of view of the average holiday-maker it has only one, and a very acute angle at that. The Anglo-Saxon race is famous, or notorious (again according to the angle), for taciturnity in general, and particularly for its silent devotion to the sacred breaking of the fast of the previous night. But for a shattering of all barriers of custom, class, colour and creedj, even a shipwreck has, in the expressive American slang, nothing on a strike. The positions of. the " stricken " traveller and the shipwrecked mariner have indeed many points of contact, for the holiday resort becomes at once an island from which the victims of the storm scan the horizon desperately for a sail. jThere-are, however, one or two important differences. One cannot picture the romantic rescue-ship as ever broaching the sordid subject of fares; but " sails " —on land—are apt to prove decidedly expensive. And it would entirely spoil the unity of the plot if the rescue ship were itself to be wrecked on the return journey. The First Stage.
Let us return, however, to the " Island," in this case Rotorua, and its breakfast tables humming with the excitement of a perfectly new topic to supplant the usual languid mixture of baths, trout, jazz and golf. Breakfast over, the hoarder:? buzzed busily forth to spend the morning in the various motor transport offices, and reassembled. at luncheon to discsiss once more the endless questions of routes and fares. At last, however, for some of us a decision was reached. We would return !to Auckland by a service car, via Mamaku and the Bangiriris. The weather, which broke on receiving news of the strike, had now cheered up, and we were assured that the trip would be a delightful experience. It was certainly an experience. Over the first stage of the journey, Rotorua to Hamilton, the optimistic prophecy proved correct. The beauty of the Mamaku bush and of smiling Waikato pasture-lands cut bv trout stream, cold and crystal-clear, had not been overrated, and we arrived in hustling Hamilton feeling that Auckland a mere four hour's run, was already within our grasp.
Hearing the Spot. Clouds, however, were racing up from the north, and a tiny hidden seed of doubt began to germinate when, as the Hudson made a belated start at four o'clock, we ran into a regular ckrad-burst. Blinding sheets of rain enveloped the car. Water; made its way into the distributor, and the present chronicler, while disclaiming any knowledge of the internal economy of a motor-engine, can assure readers who happen to be equally ignorant that the presence of water in the distributor is not calculated to increase the speed of a car.-' - And now the Rangiriris, that name of dreadful note, began to be the sole subject of conversation or, when conversation died away, of silent apprehension. The driver was continually tapped, like a barometer, for information, but veering ' with astonishing rapidity from set fair to stormyj he assured us at one moment that he had got through in worse weather without chains, and at the next, that it, was unfair to ask a man to attempt a crossing in the dark under such conditions. ; A kind of sick longing now assailed us to know the worst, but the suspense was prolonged at the entrance to the fatal hills by half-an-hour's 'delay to adjust— 0 ominous sign!—the clanking chains. Night.
Darkness was now fast closing down and veiling, perhaps mercifully, from our sight the greasy squelching caricature of a road. Lurching and shuddering at its hideous task, the trusty Hudson, guided by a master hand, ploughed through the mud, plunged into holes, staggered against clay banks, but kept on the far from noiseless tenor of its way. But hark! What is that dull thud back there to our left? A wrong turning,J fetal alike to maids and motors, and a etude is stuck fast in a' slough of despond. yhe comradeship of the road doesi not. permit of abandoning her to her fat ®> now we settle down to an endless wait while strenuous efforts are made to extricate the helpless victim. . I think it was at this point tha J first relinquished the idea of & four hours run to Auckland. Instead of arriving at eight, it would be half-past nine or ten; indeed one gloomy soul predicted that we might even lose the last tram, but it was felt that this was carrying pessimism to an extreme. . . ' . . . The rain fell with a quiet persistent hooelessness, lightning shimmer©d on the horizon; and a creeping cold beean to invade both body and spint. Valiant efforts were made to keep cheerful, anecdotes of the Englishman, Irishman, Scotsmail type were freely exchaiiged, but somehow they felt flat, crushed by 10 weight of the gathering gloom. . At last, at ten o'clock, our driver returned to report that the derelict had with incredible difficulty been hauled out of the mire, only to discover that the gears were stripped and all the work had baen in vain. . , Once more we were in motion, and tne relief was tremendous. It did not last long. A grinding clatter announced something wrong. One chain had come loose 'and wound itself affectionately and inextricably round the wire of the wheel. Out we stumbled into the mud, while the car was jacked up and the wheel removed. As this tedious operation was in urocess, a motor approached us with the joyful news' that " some fool had got his car right across the road" and nothing could get past it. Bather than join the merry party further on we decided to stay where we were and then began the weariest part of that endless vigil. If anvone thinks that a night on the Main Trunk represents the acme of human discomfort let him sit tightly wedged among nine persons in a ;6even-seater -car from four in the afternoon till nine the next morning; if anyone objects to rushing for hurried meals at Marton or Frankton let him try going without food and drink for 21 hours. In fact it would pay the Railway Department- to organise wet-weather tours over the Rangiriris at the Government's expense. The Morning. At last the day dawned, slowly, mistily, reluctantly but the long night was over, and though there remained some extremely nasty bits to negotiate, nothing now could damp our spirit*. So, swerving and sliding, we slithered at length into Mercer, into tea and bacon and chips surely the food of the gods. Auckland' was still 40 miles away, but ' the sun was shining, the Banginrxa were crossed, our troubles" were over.
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VIA THE RANGIRIRIS., New Zealand Herald, Volume LXI, Issue 18699, 3 May 1924, Supplement
VIA THE RANGIRIRIS. New Zealand Herald, Volume LXI, Issue 18699, 3 May 1924, Supplement
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