SCENIC RIVER TRIP.
BEAUTIES OF THE WAIKATO.
CHANGING TYPES OF COUNTRY. OVER A HUNDRED MILES. [BY TELEGRAPH.—OWN CORBESTONT»ENT. ] HAMILTON. Wednesday. On#, of the finest scenic trips in the North Island is provided by the magnificent waterway, ths Waikato River, which is navigable/for light draught vessels for a distance of over 100 miles from its mouth. From the .Narrows, a short distance above Cambridge, to Port Waikato at the river mouth, is a journey that is occasionally made by passenger vessel, and it is one which is well worth taking. The trip down the river occupies some 12 to 14 hours, while the return journey takes a few hours longer. In spite of its length the trip does not become monotonous, as the changing types of country through which the river winds hold the interest and attention of tlio spectator, while the appearance of the river's surface from short narrow reaches, broken here and there by snags and shallows, to the broad island-dotted reaches near the mouth, is ever changing and presenting some new aspect to delight the sense of sight. From Cambridge to Ham ilton the river runs between high banks either covered with native shrubs and willows or steep, bracken-covered slopes, while yet again there are cliffs rising sheer from the water's edge to heights of 80 to 100 ft., to which hanging ferns and mosses cling in great profusion. After leaving Hamilton, the river begins to broaden out, though it is a few miles before any appreciable difference is noticed in the distance between the banks. Until Ngaruawahia is reached the river is bounded on either side by level to undulating pasture-land with the unending fringe of weeping willows, while at- intervals a launch or dug-ont canoe moored to the roots of these trees shows that human habitation is near, although few houses are visible from the water level. Just below the railway bridge at Ngaruawahia, the Waipa River joins its waters with those of the Waikato. It is from this fact that Ngaruawahia derives its name, for a translation of the Maori word is, the junction of the two rivers. Beyond this point the river is hemmed in from the left-hand bank by a towering range of mountains, which coaiifiue until Taupiri is passed, the river flowing through a gap in the range round the base of Taupiri mountain. This hill, which rises conically to a height of about 800 ft., is the subject of a great deal of legend and superstition of the Maori tribes of the Waikato. It is the burial place of numbers of many great chiefs, whose names are as famous in Maori legend as are those of the kings and queens of England in British history. Keeping OS Sand-banks. After passing Taupiri the hills recede on either side until one is again travelling between low banks, while the river spreads considerably. Up to this point the channel is well defined and quite deep, but in the vicinity of Ohinewai the river broadens out and is dotted with small islands and sand-banks, and in many places the bottom is easily discernible by passengers on the boats. Here the greatest care has to be exercised to keep the vessel off the sand-banks, and a zigr-zag course is pursued to keep her moving. The bell of the engine telegraph is almost constantly ringing as the master "feels" his way through the uneven bed. Mercer is reached some six hoars after leaving Hamilton, the trip usually being timed so as to reach that town in the evening, the vessel mooring there for the night. Mercer possesses a unique war memorial in the shape of the turret from the war vessel. H.M.S. Pioneer, which was engaged during the Maori war on the Waikato River. The turret is circular and loop-holed, while it bears the mark of certain hostile bullets on its surface. It is mounted on a pedestal and surmounted b.v a life-sized figure of a New Zealand soldier made of concrete. The whole edifice gives an impression of perfect harmony of outline. Journey to the Heads. The journey is resumed early the following morning, and from Mercer to the Heads is the next stage. The river now flows steadily westward, ahd is very broad, with large islands, many of which must be 100 acres or more in extent, scattered over it, but few of which are high eifough above the water-level to be of any practical value. A considerable quantity of kahikatea and other native trees is to be seen a short distance inland, and it appears surprising that this timber has not been "worked" when such transport facilities are available. The channel ! through this part of the river zig-zags from side to side between the numerous islands, and the boat, is sometimes close in to one bank, and almost immediately afterwards is brushing anions the willows of the opposite side of the stream. After passing Tuakau the river is affected considerably by the tide, and great. care has to be taken m choosing the right passage through the islands. As the mouth of the river is approached evidences of the work of the Waikato River Board are to bo seen in the saape of a series of groynes, which were built with a view to deflecting, the currents into one permanent channel. Although thev carry out this work to a certain extent, they have not proved the success that was anticipated owing, it is said, to several of them having been put 'in in the wrong places. The channel, however, is fairly well defined by these ■irovnes, and a fairly steady course may bo maintained by the vessels using it,. * To the rigfot of the vessel as she enters the estuary the passenger notices a lowlying range of.hills, which present an appearance reminiscent of the banks of the Suez Canal. It is a range which has been buried in sand shifting inland. At present this desert extends inland lor 'everal miles, but it is thought that its progress has been successfully checked bv planting a variety of lupin, which prevents the sand spreading. The movement of the sand, however, is extremely slow, it having covered about two miles in 30 years, and it will necessarily be some years before it is definitely known whether it has been effectually stopped. At Port Waikato. Port Waikato is very little more than a trading station, at which the coastal boat from Onehunga transfers its cargo to the river vessels. There is a splendid ocean beach just outside the heads, where surf-bathing is indulged in by the campers and others who spend the summer holidavs at the port. Vessels from Onehunga arc faced with tbe usual difficult v <!? entering a west coast harbour, that of crossing the bar, which is frequently shifting. Once, inside the heads, however, there is an excellent channel of good depth right to the wharf, while there is also good anchorage in the stream. There is good sea-fishing at the heads, while inland some mile and a-half from the wharf among the hills are two waterfalls of singular beauty. The larger one falls over a sheer limestone ledge some 100 ft. high in a thin unbroken thread of silver, while the lesser one is about 60ft. in height and spreads out like a fan over a steeply sloping ledge of limestone. - Both falls are buried in the native bush and are rather difficult to find, but are well worth the trouble of reaching them. Port. Waikato is not as isolated as might be imagined, for there is a good metal road following the left bank of the river to Tuakau. The trip is one which would become extremely popular if it were more generally known to the public; but at the present time it is .not well patronised, and the shipping company running the excursion usually limits its trips to two or three annually. It- is probably, however. that with more public support, a regular passenger service might be commenced over what may justly be called one of the most interesting scenic trips in the Dominion.
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SCENIC RIVER TRIP., New Zealand Herald, Volume LXII, Issue 18947, 19 February 1925
SCENIC RIVER TRIP. New Zealand Herald, Volume LXII, Issue 18947, 19 February 1925
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