ON THE ROAD TO MILFORD SOUND.
FIVE WEEKS IN THE MOUNTAINS
LOOKING FOR A PASS,
(By W. H. Homer, Gleuorchy.) Having been requested to write an account of our trip in the strange country we have been travelling over, and thinking it might be of interest to your readers, I have consented to do so. Any description of a scientific, or eveu a technical nature will bo avoided; aad whatever value it may possess will be because of its purely practical character, and as calculated to show the difficulties that have to be encountered in forcing the way iuto what has hitherto been a terra incoynitu. Arrangements having been made with Mr G Barber a few months ago to thoroughly and exhaustively examine the Earl and Darren mountains for a pass from Wakatip lako to Milford Sound, we resolved to put the. idea into execution about the new year. So, having put in the Christmas week at Glenorchy at the head of Lake Wakatipu, and having found that there was no possibility of taking a horse with us— owing to the lower portion of the Greenstone track being blocked with timber, blowu down but not removed—we were perforce compelled to mako up ouc mind to swag all we required tho wholo distance. Taking with us as little clothing as possible—viz., no coat or waistcoat, and with one light chango of uuderclolhiiiK— wi; made up our swags almost entirely of provisions, tent, tomahawk, billhook, gun, powder, and shot. Rolling up we started with a decent load o? 801b weight each. THE GTART.
Oq January 1, taking boat at Glenorohy abou 9 a.m. cm a very fine bu'i blowy morning, wo reached the Greenstone river at Mr J. M'Bride's about 11 o'clock. Having sharpened our billhook, we were kindly invited to partake of some refreshment by " Uncle John." Having done so, we shouldered our drum and set out on our journey at 12 o'clock. Wo crossed tho Caples river about 2 o'clock, and having entered on the track in the bush we continued our journey to more than half-way through the gorge (seveu miles) and camped for the night, not finding the trach so bad as represented. On the 2nd we rose early and started again, but had not proceeded far when we found out what a badly blocked track meant. The fine open valley at the head of the gorge had evidently been storing up an immense quantity of wind, which launched out at the gorge with the full intention of sweeping it clear of timber, and I must say thst it nearly succeeded. Trees are everywhere and in every position but the right one. It was a fearful job with heavy swags to pass along, and whomsoever is to blame for allowing the road to remaiu in such a disgraceful state received the full benefit of our prayers. However, we managed to struggle through, and got to the open country ahead, the three miles having occupied about live hours. We camped well up the valley that hight, with shoulders aching—weight will tell. On the 3nd we started about 8 o'clock and lunching at Lake M'Kellar, we made the top end of Lake Howden, on the West Coast fall, and camped early. THE HEAL START. As we arranged this as our real starting point, we left sufficient provisions to bring us back again from there. We started away at 11 o'clock on the 4fch, taking to the bush at once, and began the ascent of the Livingstone range. About an hour and a-half after we emerged on the open tops of this range, which offer very fair travelling for a day's journey, we obtained a very fine view of the country from this rouge, although not lofty. Our intention had been to follow the tops of this range so far as practicable, and then to drop down into the upper reaches of the Hollyford river, and crossing them, to make our w,iy souf.h to the head of the Eglinton at David's Peak, and enter r. fine open gorge in the Earl mountains with a N,W. cast, and from that point to work back in the valley, examining the country on the way. I had been provided at the last moment with a map from Queenstown, which for the vrork we had to do wa3 almost useless. While the billy was boiling I strolled to the western side of this range, for the purpose of getting a good view of the lakes below Dunn's and two smaller ones. I was at once very much struck with some APPARENT DISCREPANCIES between the actual appearances of the country below and what I had expect- d from the mapping out of the country. To the north, stretching away in the distance to the sea, lay the fine valley of the Hollyford, and to the south cf us tho valley still aa larga but more open. Fine open flats seemed to take the place of the bush in the bohtom of the valley; and although the two valleys north and south of me, and below also, seemed to be one, yet ia some way I could cot reconcile the fact. The height upon which we were standing seemed to sink the couutry away to the south, so that it required a largo stock of imagination to picture the water there as running iv a northerly direction. However, the map said it did, and who dare be bold enough to impugn the accuracy of the map makers ? We now fell back upon the billy, under the impression that we had bsen suffering from an optical delusion. Feeliug revived, wo again made fast to our swags) and feeliug the mountain breezes in our face, we made graud way. After travelling for about two hours or so we s.\ t down for a sp:)l!, as the country h\id been rising rather steeper than usual; and shaking off our sw.-'.gs, wo went again to the western sida of the mountain for a look below. "How is this, Georye ? Lake Guun must be a terror, it seems to bo travelling with us !" was the exclamation. Sura enough there it soemsd to be right below us, just as it was two hours before, and we could not make out the south end of it then. This was not bad for a lake four miles long. I recognised the symptoms at once as I felt myself scratching the back part of my right ear. There is something wrong. Descending a spur close to us to obtain a b^ck view of the valley below, we, opened out a lake that we had passed and then another. "Straight sailing now, George; we have got a stranger—one that the map makers have forgotten." Having satisfied ourselves that there was something crooked either in the country itself or as it appeared on paper, we made an attempt to descend to the timber line. Not finding it so easy as it looked, and seeing a good spur a few miles ahead leading down to the valley below or 6outh of this lake, we made a push for it; bu thad to make a detour to the eastward, leading ua into a long, open gully very wet and mossy. We descended this, and reaching tho timber where the creek takes a westerly turn we pitched camp for the night—B pm. Rising early on the morning of the sth we liaßtily made up the swag as the weather looked threatening, and taking some breakfast we struck down the creek upon an open, mossy carpet which soon carried us into the bush again. On this creek, which has no existence on the map, we came upon some most remarkable coloured cliffs (slips)— ALL THE COLOUKS OF THE IiAINBOW showing, and having descended to them and obtained specimens of the stuff, found it to consist principally of various forms of limestone, impregnated with iron. We called this Rainbow Creek. I may here state that the whole of this range is of limestone formation with a backbone of granite, terminating at its northern apex iv dove coloured marble, a peculiar form of quartz reefs occurring at intervals and bands of granite showing not far off on either side. I have brought back specimens with me, and will get them tested. We reached the open country at the bottom at about 11 o'clock, and tha rain coming down now, we made haste to camp, which we did at 12 o'clock, well down towards the main river. The country hero has a fino open, park-like appearance, the timber, all birch, not extending far from the foot of the range, except in spur-like patches or islauds, giving the country a picturesque appearance. However, there was no tussock growing in the open, but a light, thin moss, covering shingle beds and flats. Getting the fire lighted and some bedding in the tent (birch boughs), we got inside and prepared to weather it out. The 6th wa3 still wet, but it cleared towards erening, and w<j went eel fishing and rabbit catchiug with gieat success; baiting the hook with rabbit, in broad daylight the eels would swim straight for the baii, and without au instant's hesitation accept it. On the 7th it ■was rainiog hard, and we wore obliged to keep to the tent all day. The Btn was a flue clear morning after 10 o'clock. Considering now the distance we already were from anything like; a • direct line to Wakatipu, and the break in the Earl mountains being several miles distant to the South, we decided to leave them as being too far to be of any service, and to HETKACE OUiJ STEPS to the Hollyford Valley by the line of lakes we had seen from above. We had already fouud out that wo were camped on the Eglinton river, although the maps said it was Hollyford. We packed up and by 11 o'clock we were again on the warpath, with our faces to the north. Before leaving we blazed a large birch tree near our camp, a few hundred yards from the south end of the Urge lake wo had seen, and on it marked this inscription—" This lake was seen and named on January <Hh, 1889,' Lake Fergus ' by W. H. Homer and G. Barber." '' We had drank tho health of the Hon. Thos. Fergus, in or from a bottle of painkiller, and ■we set our faces to its eastern bank, throich a large flat (birch), cutting off all tbe lower portion of the lake by our striking a bee line as we approached the slopes of the hill bordering on the lake. We were astonished at the beauty and extent of this magnificent sheet of water; its length we estimate at from seven to eight miles, by IJ,- in width; it is apparently of g rea t depth and of wonderful purity, and we hope that when the mapping out of the country is rectified, as Lake Fergus it will b'j known to posterity. Finding travelling not so bad, considering all things, we reached the head ot Lake Fergus at 8 p.m. arid camped for the night, just off a shingly beach. On the 9t.a we saw plenty of teal duck on the lake, but could get none. We blazed a large tree and marked it, and after breakfast packed up and left at 9 o'clock. We pa"s«l through about 800 yds of thick bush and followed the stream until we struck the southern end of Lake Gunn. Here a difficulty arose as to the choice of sides to travel, and we both came to the conclusion to keep to the eastern. Mistakes will occur, and that was a big one. The day was very hot, and the swags correspondingly heavy, as with billhook in hand we fought every step of the way. It was terrible work, and we had the satisac-
tion o£ knowing that if we had taken the < western side it would not have been nearly i so bad. However, there is an end to everything, I and we got to the head of Lake Gunn at laat, 1 and were glad to camp at 8 p.m., having been 11 i hours on tha journey from Lake Fergus to the < head of Lake Gunn. This lake also we have proved to be of the Eglintou persuasion. Although it took us a long time to travel over the ground, it would not prevent a grand road being made there; the tangled scrub waa our trouble. The 10th was a cloudy morning. We passed Guuu's and a smaller lake runuing into Lake Gunn, with the head waters from the divide running into it. There is now a complete change in the character of the vegetation— ribbonwood and fern being the order of the day, which is, when dry, not bad travelling. We were not long in approaching THE DIVIDE, which rises by a very gentle slope to a point due west of the Greenstone- saddle divide, between Lakes M'KQllar and Howdeu. As to the Hollyford river being in this direction, savo in maps of the country, it is a pure myth. Passing the divide almost without knowing it, the country begins to fall away more rapidly to the west, and the bush gettiug thicker and more difficult to pass through, we took to the western side oc the valley, and travelled ou the hill .side until descending later on into a large flat, which led us cm until we struck the true Hollyford river, heading south-west to left hand branch of the upper river, which here turns sharply around and enters the Darrea mountains; winding around the southern point of Mount Christina and the extreme end of the Darren range, and so passing iuto and fairly between them, through an enormous break runuing lengthwise with the range. We camped beside the river ou a fine flat at 6 o'clock p.m. The journey which we made has
proved beyond a doubt that the Holljford Valley and the Eglinton are one, and that the highest point in the whole line between the sea at Martin's Bay and the Lake Te Anau is the Lake Guun divide. The height above sea level of Lake Gunn being so insignificant—perhaps 400 ft or 500ft—it is quite possiblo that in tha future a train may run there, as auy kind of road is practicable. On the 11th we left camp nt 9 o'clock, aud followed up the river, by rough river beaches and river bush flats, with occasional spurs thrown down to the river, until we reached the left hand branch. Having partaken of lunch at 2 o'clock, we commenced to rise the hill through the bush, with the object of inveutifjatiug two lino-looking saddles showing just abovo tho bush line. We were compelled to keep to the timber until wo got to the top of it, though far abova the saddle below us, and emerging into the open we sat dorm. Hearing a big gun fired toward Mount Christina, which here presents a very perpendicular face, we turned quickly and saw an euonnousmass of rocks had become detached, and in falliug had struck and bounded out into space, split into many pieces, some of which must have been as large as a good sized house. Down they go for fully 3000 ft before they strike again, aud when they did there were such clouds of dust raised that I fairly believed that was all that remained. It was a wonderful sight. W c camped afc 8 o'clock on tho top of the timber line. O:i the 12fcli, on rising from our elevated couch, wo were not long before we made tracks for tho left hand opening. We reached the summit of the saddle about 2 o'clock, and passed through a pass bearing N. by S., afterwards taking au easterly cast —followed on the chance of a side opening to the W. or N.W. This valley led us b3ck to an opening into Lake Fergus— about the centre of the lake—so we turned, and retraeiug our steps, camped in the valley we were in at 7 o'clock p.m. On the 13th we left the camp at 8 o'clock and recrossed the saddle to the timber line. We had a magnificent view from here. The Forbes and tho Kicuardsou mountains lay spread out before us, presenting the appearance of an undulating but frozen sea, except at intervals, where some more lofcy peaks seemed to frown down upon the frozen masses below, and amidst them all Mount Aspiring towering grandly, like some old but hoary monarch, ruling with undisputed sway over peaks and sea. Instead of making our way ) down to the valley below through the"bush, wo resolved to pass above the timber lino to ANOTHER SADDLE a mile or two to the westward, but opening from tho same branch. This saddle appeared to be more promising so far as direction was concerned, aud we hurried as much as we could to reach it. The nature of the country, however, over which we had to travel compelled us to keep rising, aud after passing over some very vasty ledges of granite wo found ourselves hanging on by toes aud grass roots until with the aid of birch saplings we had brought with us we climbed an almost precipitous face. Wo then thought that we were right, but we were worse off than ever. However, there was no getting back that way, so wo kept the little g.^.me going. The swags began to hang like lead, aud occasional puffs of fog and mist, soon thickeuing, gave us warning to reach a place of safety if we could. But we could not, aud things did not look very rosy just then : no going back, and very broken aud steep, snow ahead. However, during a clear interval we plainly saw that there was no possibility of descending. By this time we were completely enveloped in j fog, but by dint of scrambling on and always I upwards, we trusted to gain a place of safety, i A breeze setting in soon drove the fog away, and, to our amazement, the sun shone on us once J mom, raid well it waa so for us. We were I immediately above the crown of the saddle, with no escape on either hand. Down we went to it, aud passed at once into a fine long valley, but from the crow" of the saddle down full of snow, smooth and unbroken, for over a mile in length. Tho birch saplings were or great use here, and tho snotv proved good walking. Afcer travelling a mile or two we saw that this valley also trended away to the S.E., but finding a gap in tho western side with a northerly trend, we camped at the foot of it at 7 o'clock, intending to look at it nest morning. On the 14th left camp at 9 o'clock without swags, and ascended; arrived at the summit at half-past 11 o'clock. The other fall bears S.S.W. to tho Te Anau lake, the basin of which was plainly visible. The flow of water from our saddle was cfirtainly into the Clinton river, but the pass was not a practical one. We had not? passed entirely through the Earl range, and we were forced to the conclusion that no good could come from them. After some consideration we decided to come back and pass entirely through this valley into the Eglinton again, and make for our old camp and the eel ground as our tucker had given out. We reached the Egliuton below David's Peak, aud camped at 8 o'clock. This was the pass that I had thought too far away. On the 15th, left camp at 9 o'clock, and passing through the bush several miles long, we arrived at our old camp. We camped, and caught plenty of eels and rabbits, which we spread-eagled—that is, toasted on sticks in front of tho fire. In this way they are good for carrying
On the lGfch the weather was showery, and wo ciecided to remain. We had rabbits for bread and eels for meat. On the 17th the weather was doubtful, but wishing to reach the Greenstone saddle we started at 11 a.m., rising the Livingstone range by a leading spur. On the top of the timber we boiled the billy in a fog, and were compelled to find our way by compass for a long distance, there being do leading ridge. The weather cleared, and we reached camp on the Greenstone saddle at 8 p.m. The 18th was wet aud we kept in camp. On the 19th the weather cleared, but I was not well. I went with George to Oaples saddle in the Ailsa range, which he crossed for the purpose of getting provisions, aud to avoid the blocked road iv the Greenstone. _ We saw young trout in Lake Howden from 2in, 4in, to 7in long, and picked up one iv M'Kellar wounded by a bird. Oa the 20th we cut a track through the bush to Caples saddle and waited for George till pretty lute. I then gave him up and returned to the camp, but he turned up about !) p.m. with 201b of flout1 aud some sugar, having left Frazer's in the Caples about li a.m. On the 21st it u-as wet aud the weather dirty. Oa the 22nd we left the camp at 9 o'clock. The weather was not good. Wo proceeded down tho Pass creek track, leaving it at the foot of tho crossing, and following river, taking it to its great turn round the Darrens. This was a much longer day's walk than anticipated, and tho travelling was very rough. On the 23rd wo left camp at 8 o'clock and proceeded to the loft baud brauch and camped at 6 o'clock. A very hot day, with plenty of billhook work to boot. On the 2'Jth we left the camp at G o'clock,and cutting up the river r.!l day we crossed the creek iv tho morning all right. The river here froni the left hand branch btars W. and E. for six or seven miles to a kind of a low saddle ahead. The undergrowth was very thick, but there w«3 good sound country. On the 25th the tent was soaking wet with a dense fog or mist iv the valley, which did not clear till 10 o'clock. We left the scrub, then very dense, aud took to the sidelines above the soiub. We arrived at the saddle-like place we saw tho previous d,iy at 2 o'clock. Here the country opens very much, with gorges or saddles leading in every direction, N.W. aud S. We are now at the far end of Mouut Christina. The Hollyford river entirely surrounding it, excepting through a gap seen by Mr Wilmot a year or two ago. That' opening is not passably from the side we fire on. If it were it would have left the HollyforJ river in the lower Hollyford Valley, aud have passed into it again, where we are camped at 0' p.m. On the 26rh left George at the camp baking , anc went up the valley, the weather having unexpectedly cleared. I passed one large opening bearing N., but it rose rapidly, and soon became impracticable. Passing three or four miles ahead of tho starting point, a kind of lake formation now closed to a very small lako of irregular shape, perhaps half a mile long, we come m a mile or two more to two enormous gap.i in the mountains, tho right hand one impassible to tho N. The one on tho left bears W.b.W., the top of the saddle being about 200 ft or bo above the timber level • the bush very stunted. The top of tho saddle is"apparently from a mile to a mile and a-half distant The river here nnd ko iar as I weut bears N w' Grand snowfields were visible from here to the right. I returned to camp by 5 p.m. The opening at back of the camp is not practicable! The country is mostly covered with very thick scrub, with occasional patches of birch growing to the river's edge. On the 27th we left camp at 6 o'clock with swags, and reached the turn to tho saddlo at 11
o'clock. The ascent was medium easy, and could be made good. The descent to the valley below, which was entirely free from snow, could be easily graded to where the bush lost itself around a bend, a mile or more distant. The direction of the valley after passing the saddle was, we found, W., turning to the N.W. a mdc or so further down. I have not the slightest doubt that this is
A GOOD PASS TO MILFOUD, and, if it is where we take it to be, not above six or seveu miles in a direct line from it. Having made our way down on the right hand side to within 150 ft of the valley below, we fouud we could get no further. Trying further round to the centre of the saddle, which is a true razorback here, we fancied that if we could have got over the first 20ft or so it might have been done. But we found a rope would be necessary, so we had most reluctantly to make up our mind to go back, and on the eve of success, too. The mist now began to make itself felt, obscuring everything at times. At 4 o'clock we most reluctantly shouldered the swag again, and retired to the foot of the hill. Arrived at the river valley we called a halt, and suggested hot tea. Having warmed up a tit we decided to push back to the camp we had left in the morning. It was G o'clock when we started for it. Soon the raiu began to come down, and by the time we had reached our camp (9 o'clock) we were completely drenched, and we had crossed the river twice to shorten the journey. There was nothing for it but to up tent on a wet bed and turn in supperless. On the 28th and 29th the rain came down without a moment's intermission. " L:iy close and keep still " is Lho rule, with nothing to eat or drink and little desire for any. As a fact, George and I did not desire or have a drink for the period of 54 hours This was t a granri but
awful sight. These river manufactories are pouring down thousands of streams from the mountain side. The very snowfields seem to bo giving forth double their usual quantities of water. Tha noise of the rushing waters were deafening—until joining in one mighty stream, the boulders came rolling over and over each other with a horrible din, impelled onwards by the mighty force of the irresistible waters behind, all combining to form a discord, which with a hundred other noises, and with avalanches slipping, created an effect which will remain fixed iv the memory for years to come. For 60 hours it rained without ceasing.
On the 30th it cleared in the morning, so we lit a fire to dry our clothes, and started for rabbits, which are in full possession here.
On the 31st we travelled down the river to the left hand branch, but could not cross, so camped.
On February 1 we scaled the mountains on the upper side of the creek, and struck open country at 3 p.m., having started at 7 a.m. We did not have a pound of flour between us for the last four days. We descended to the Eglinton divide and camped.
On the 2nd, rising at 5 o'clock, we commenced the ascent of the Livingstone range. We reached the camp at Qucenstoue at 12 o'clock, and made au attack on the reserve. At 2 o'clock we left again for the Caples saddle, passing which we camped for the night. We met I two men going to the cuait, aud got a smoke. On the 3rd, after a slow and painful journey, we reached Blr Frazer's homestead at 4 o'clock, where we were most hospitably entertained by Bliss Frazer and her brother. It must have been a sight to hare seen us feeding—the first square meal for a month. The next day, the 4th, we reached Lake Wakatipu, and the steamer, owing to the courtesy of the man in command, passing on, we walked up part of the way to the head, receiving a lift from Mr H. M'Bride for the remainder of the distance. homer's pass. Should this pass — which I have called Homer'a Pass —prove to be a good one, and I do not doubt it, it will be of immense importance to the country, and the lake district particularly. The line of country to be passed over is very good for road making, considering its mountainous character; and there are no engineering difficulties to be encountered. There are no large rivsrs to be crossed aud otly one creek of any size, which can easily be bridged. The whole of the Greenstone track will be available to the descent of Pass creek. From the highest point of Greenstone saddle track a track can be made with a gradual full to the junction of the creek from the Eglinton divide with main river. This will give an easy grade, meeting the fall of the valley above, and, being over good souud country, should be capable of any kind of road being made over it. This is the only part worth consideration ; all the remainder to the saddle itself being practically level. Should the saddle be fouud to be of practical use, it can soon be divested of its difficulties—for, bsing so narrow in the centre, it can readily be pierced by a short tunnel of 100 ft or so—aud the steepness will disappear. The rest is easy. Ido not anticipate much difficulty on the Milford side, as the valley can be seen with the bush on each side its the distance. We propose to go again in a short time, and suggest that we start from Milford next time, and work back. If we could obtain a stock of. necessaries, aud have them placed on the Queenstone saddle, it would perhaps be as well to start there. All the hard work of exploration is over, a.id there i 3 most certaiuly no other possible route by which the sound can be reached. We have tried every break in the ranges, and in these directions no one can go further. We have headed th Holly ford river, and io is "this saddle or none." The scenery on the route is gr:uid and in places awe-inspiring, and the distance is about the shortest possible. We have been to a good deal of trouble and expense now, and wo are about to ask the Government for their assistance in settling the question at onw and for good.
Above all things tho track on the Greenstone should be opened, by those responsible, as 25 miles of horso track are rendered useless in consequence of the block.
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ON THE ROAD TO MILFORD SOUND., Otago Daily Times, Issue 8419, 16 February 1889, Supplement
ON THE ROAD TO MILFORD SOUND. Otago Daily Times, Issue 8419, 16 February 1889, Supplement
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