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Traveller, Southern Cross, Volume 15, Issue 23, 28 September 1907
tA TRIP IN THE NORTH ISLAND
FROM GISBORNE TO OPOTIKI. (By S. A. Helm). Leaving the flourishing little town of Gisborne one line morning, the writer and three friends took the train to Te Karaka, a distance of some twenty miles.. The line runs through some fertile flats, especially about Ormond. Rairying is the chief industry, but cropping is also carried on on a large scale. Splendid crops of maize, pumpkins, and kuineras (jsweet potatoes) may be seen from the train —unusual sights for a Southlander. The township of Te Karaka was formerly the terminus of the line, but the train now runs to Puha, about three miloe further on, .while several gangs of men are employed pushing the railway still further. It is intended to extend the line through to Rotorua, ’and it is understood that the Government will push this line with all possible speed when the Main Trunk Line is completed. The railway is eagerly looked forward to by the back-blocks settlers, and will prove a great boon to them. Te Karaka is a small township boasting, three stores, hotel, blacksmith’s shop, etc. The hotel has lately changed hands, and is now under the capable management of Mr Petty, formerly of Christchurch.
Leaving- Te Karaka about 11 a.m. we mounted our steeds for a thirty mile r-ide to llakauroa, where we intended to make a stay for a few days. The first few miles' were fairly good going. Then there were several deep rivers to ford. The road finally branched off to a bridle track, which were followed for some miles tmtil we struck the main road from Gisborne. This road winds in and out along the side of steep hills, and in the winter is one of the worst roads the writer has ever had the misfortune to travel on.. There has been no wheeled traffic for months'—the settlers use pack horses in the winter. It would considerably astonish some of the Southland settlers who are always complaining of bad roads to see some of the roads the backblocks settlers in the North Island have to travel on.. About six
o’clock the Kakauroa store*, kept by Mr Alex. Halkett, hove in sight. Mr Halkett does a large business with the. neighbouring bushmen, and also keeps the post office. A; ride of about two miles further on brought us to our destination, both men and horses glad to escape from the muddy road. A few days to spell the horses and we were again on the muddy road, our destination the Motu township, about 16 miles distant. On the road about six miles from Rakauroa wc passed tide Matawa store, kept by Mr Neil, also largely patronised by "bush-whackers.” After leaving Matawa the road runs through Some valuable bush which has been reserved for sawmilling. The rai I way to Rotorua will run through Rakauroa to the Motu, and will make a big difference to the settlers along the route. In the summer time a mail coach runs twice weekly from To Karaka to Motu, but in the winter the mail is carried by pack horses. The Motu township consists of an hotel,, store, blacksmith’s shop and several dwellings built in a clearing in the bush. The hotel is kept by Mr Bright, who is deservedly popular .with the travelling public.
We stayed at the Motu that night, and rose at four o’clock next morning, and left at the first streak of dawn for Opotiki. Fully fifty miles was bush country, an occasional clearing here and there. The road winds in and out among the hills, and there is a good grade all the way. In one place the road is on the summit of a high ridge, and a view of fully fifty miles can be obtained in any direction, and as far as the eye can see there is nothing but bush. In years to come this land will be all cleared and grassed, and form the homo of many a thriving settler. About twelve o’clock we .dismounted, fed our horses, boiled the billy, and had an hour’s rest. After dinner we struck int o . rougher country—the road was only a small track blasted out of the solid rock. In places we could see down a sheer drop for hundreds of feet, while overhead immense tawa and other trees grew. The ■writer could not help thinking of the result of a horse slipping or making a false step» in such a place one shudders to think of it. Further on the scenery is real fine —immense fern trees, nikau palms, rocks, charming creeks and waterfalls. After leaving the bush the road runs through about four miles of Maori country, mostly I fern ridges with an occasional small I cultivation, for the average Maori is no lover ot hard work. The remaining six milds is along the sea-beach, a splendid ride. About thirty miles out in the Bay of Plenty White Island can be seen. The island has an active volcano, the smoke of which is plainly visible from the mainland. The island is composed almost solely of sulphur. About seven in the evening we rode into Opotiki, the horses dead beat after their long journey. It was impossible to find accommodation, as there were hundreds of visitors in for a large land ballot on the following day, so we had to miake ourselves comfortable in a stable loft for the night. Opotiki is going ahead by leaps and bounds. There are three hotels, bank, large Courthouse, and public hall, besides the business part of the town. The land ballot was held in the public hall, which was crowded to suffocation, some of the applicants coming from the South Island. The sections were all bush land, and as many as 392 applicants were in for one section alone. Before the ballot opened a town section of one acre was pul up by auction. The upset price was £35, and it was eventually run up to £92 after spirited competition. There is some splendid agricultural land around Opotiki, and it is specially noted for its butter and cheese. In years to come, when the back country is all settled Opotiki should become a large town.
Traveller, Southern Cross, Volume 15, Issue 23, 28 September 1907
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