Over the “Hump” to the Lake 1904 trip from Orepuki to Lake Hauroko and back

OVER THE “HUMP”
TO THE LAKE.

By VIOLET.
(For the Witness.)
(From Notes Received.)

There had been eager planning and looking forward to this trip. At last the morning on which we were to start arrived, with an accompaniment of cold winds and driving rain. Never mind! If we would see great sights we must be prepared to take storm or sunshine as it comes, seeing that no effort of ours can bring the one or dispel the other. So we start off – a merry party of four. Leaving Orepuki, we follow the road to the ferry, as it winds it way up and down, making sharp turnings to right or left, crossing creeks, past new settlements with their blackened trees fire-blasted and dead, past green fields and pleasant slopes, always, or almost always, with that grand sweep of water, Te Waewae Bay, In view on and on, till we enter the dark shadowy bush with its high-growing birch trees rising straight and stately on either side, down to

— The Fast-flowing Waiau, —

speeding its strong, swift course, heedless of the rich beauty of tangled greenery and sweet-scented lawyers, clematis, and other clinging, twiny things of beauty. Reaching the ferry, we make our way to the “Anglers’ Rest,” and made it our rest for the night. Awaking next morning, we went out to see what might be to see of Nature’s beauty, and were rewarded. The Anglers’ Rest stands on a terrace, and we looked up the river, to see steep, sloping banks, with bush: in all its beauty growing to the brink; while down the river the waters divided and rushed round two islands near the right-hand side of the river. By 8 o’clock we had breakfasted, and set off once more

— On Our Way to the Mountains, —

saying good-bye to all home comforts and all things pertaining to civilisation save ourselves. A long stretch of gravel road brought us to the cross roads from Clifden to Papatotaro, and, turning to our left, we reach in a short time the settlement of Papatotaro. Far from railroads and all other conveniences, the buildings are all necessarily after the more primitive style – some being the old-time “lean-to,” while others are built of slabs split from the bush. All honour to the pioneers who brave life in its rougher forms, as they lead the way to cultivation and progress. On this side of the river the lawyers and vines are not so plentiful as on the other, but their absence is more than compensated for by the beautiful kowhai, which hangs its yellow tassels everywhere. Driving on yet a little further, we found the road was not so good, being ungravelled; so, as we felt inclined for a walk, out we jumped, and wended our way onwards on our own feet till we came to the edge of the bush near the sea. We then got in, and drove till near Cameron’s Creek, when we again took to our feet. Reaching Cameron’s Creek, we went down on the beach, to find a high tide, which necessitated keeping to the loose shingle, on which our feet slipped and rolled, causing a good deal of merriment and a great deal of weariness. Ere long we reached the Waiau claims. Here there are high, yellow clay cliffs 100ft above the sea, and beneath them we trudge on over the rolling gravel–a broad expanse of waters on the one hand, and those bare cliffs on the other; but a little farther yet, and the bare cliffs give place to high bush-covered terrace.

Here we unyoke gladly, and prepare for lunch, being both tired and hungry. Food and rest can work wonders for the human frame, and soon we were both ready and willing to set off once more for a mile’s tramp along the beach. On reaching Breakfast Creek, we found it just about dry, all water being taken out for mining purposes. While pausing here we see a weka, that cunning, russet-hued bird, once so plentiful, now so scarce. Their weird cry is now never heard within the confines of civilisation. It is a curious and amusing bird, but we leave it to the enjoyment of the solitude we disturbed. We pursue our way on foot for a short distance; then, turning on to a hard, sandy beach, we drive on to the Llewellyn. As before, the grand old ocean to the one side, bush-covered ridges to the other: truly, a magnificent drive! The Llewellyn is

— A Smooth-bottomed, Clear-watered River, —

about 12ft 6in deep, but up it the tide backs when full, so we had to wait for a short time in order to get across, as we caught it at the full. Shortly after passing this river we saw that the bush grew close down upon the beach–so close that the gravel and driftwood were washed right in amongst the scrub and trees. And now welcome to a stretch of boulders which make driving dangerous, so that we must out once more and walk on to the Waikawau. This river is not so large as the Llewellyn, and has a rough, boulder bottom. It cannot be crossed at the mouth on account of rocks, so we follow up, and ford a small point, then make our way to the beach again, and here get our first view of “the hut.” A further drive takes us to Bluecliff. The point can only be driven round at very low tide; so, leaving the cart, we pack the horse, and carry all luggage through half a mile of bush tracks, knee-deep in mud. Thus we reach the Government hut, and take a look at

— The Camping Ground. —

There is a clearing round about. Over stones at the back runs the Fraser Burn–cool, clear water. From the front we look over beautiful Te Waewae Bay and across to Orepuki and Pahia; while behind us rises the “Hump” mountain. The hut is the first stage of the track to Preservation from Orepuki. It is built of split wood, with fern inside, and from it there is a magnificent view–sea and mountain, bush and plain, and far township. The bedstead is of tree-fern levelled over a little. It is not easy to get enough dry wood to make a fire; but we manage to boil the billy, and have tea, for which we were quite ready, in the open air. Two of our number go to make the horses secure. This was easily done, as there are only two places by which they might escape. These are soon put right with wire; for the rest a high bank makes sufficient fence. Two stayed at home to make hut as comfortable as might be. Inside it the tent was hung, with fly all round the wall, the blankets spread over ferns which we gathered, then the fire was made for the night; and when all were gathered in the door was blocked with an oilskin and board. Then, tired, yet well satisfied with all we had seen thus far, we lay down on our rude beds, and were soon far away in dreamland.

Early morning of the third day found us all astir. As we stood without the hut, we saw something tearing along on the beach at a great speed. There were various surmises as to what it might be. Some thought cattle, some horses, from the speed at which they were going. There was a run for glasses, and it was worth while, for a look proved them to be

— Deer, Bounding Along as though Pursued by Fire. —

Bluecliff is so named because of the high wall of blue clay presented to view. This is perpetually falling in large lumps to the beach below. These, by the action of the water, are gradually converted into rocks. This process of hardening is shown in all stages;–first in cliff, second in lumps fallen away, third in those beginning to wear smooth like boulders, and in those pieces increasing in degree of hardness till they are even as rock, over which it is almost impossible to walk on account of their extreme slipperiness. After our look round we make preparations for another stage of the journey, rolling into swags those things really necessary and hanging all that can be done without, to the ridge-pole of the hut. About 10 o’clock we hoist “bluey,” have a good look all round, then set off in high spirits. Starting on the track along which we had come the night before, we soon branch off on to the old sheep track, which proves fairly good. Now the ground rises, anon dips, after the manner of bush tracks. Cattle tracks are plentiful, some quite fresh, and we come across several places where the cattle had camped but the night before. The track runs with the hill till it reaches a leading spur; from there it is a pretty stiff climb. The bush is for the most part birch. Tree-fern rise in their grace and beauty, and there are plenty of small ferns, but not the pretty shade-loving kinds generally found in dense bush. That which called forth the fullest meed of admiration was the lovely moss–the moss-banks, I should say,–with their varied hues and shades, all deep and dark, tender and bright, marking every here and there a glow of richest colouring; and a certain small fern made beautiful trees which might otherwise have been unsightly. There was many a “spell” taken, but we meant to push or climb bravely on until the hut was reached ere opening our swags, but just as we thought it at hand, lo! a large nob–a veritable “stey brae”–had still to be surmounted; so the cry rings out, “Spell ho!” The swags are opened, and a much-appreciated lunch partaken of. Soon refreshed and invigorated, we set off again, and ere long stand on the top of the rise that had struck such dismay to our hearts. It is clear ground. From it we have a good look round, then make for the hut. From the top of the nob our way is downhill for a short distance and partly through thin bush. Here the bush is very stunted in growth, the trees having but little trunk, and branches all gnarled and knotted and twisted like “Willie Webster’s wife.” The hut at last, and the billy is boiled. We get the water from a well, but it is not nice. Having supplied our wants we decide to start for Lake Hauroto. Leaving the hut we make our way down a slope for about a couple of chains, then begin again the upward climb. It is clear ground, save where the track runs up a hollow. There was

— Snow on the Track —

much of the way, in drifts in places; these we dodged pretty well, but had sometimes to wade through them, when the snow soaked through boots and clothing as only snow can. But stumbling, plunging, struggling on, at last we reach the top, breathless and weary. There is some stunted, weather-beaten flax growing. There is no level ground on the “Hump” at all. It slopes down both sides, leaving the top like a great ridge. And now, just when this height was reached, just when we were feeling that we had done well and were further on our way by an hour’s hard climbing through slush and snow, a heavy snowstorm came on. Fog began to drift from the “Hump” from the Princess, and we deemed it safer to turn back and seek the shelter of the hut; but not as we came. We take to the sheltered side to escape the fierce brunt of the storm. The sides are covered with tussock, very slippery, as the snow-drifts slide down, causing the tussock to lie over downwards. The slope is so steep that as we go along we find it necessary to stick our feet into the side as best we can and cling to the tussock with our hands “with all our might and main,” as the children say. As we cling we can look away down the steep tussock-covered sides into the gullies beneath, and the sight is apt to send through every fibre a nervous thrill. Again begins the upward climb, and there, near the top, safe sheltered from the storms, we find

— The Beautiful Mountain Lily —

growing, a gleam of loveliness, amid rugged surroundings–a whisper even in the mountain heights, “Consider the lilies.” We manage to chop out with a tomahawk and secure some of the roots to bear with us in memory of our wild ramble. It is hard travelling now, the snow is frozen on the surface, but occasionally it crunches through and we plunge to the knees with a catching of the breath that means much. By the time we retrace our steps to the hut, the “Hump” is enveloped in fog. We are pretty wet, but light a fire and prepare our tea, glad of the warmth and refreshment. It is an old shepherd’s hut, made of slabs, with an opening in the wall for a door, another in the roof designed as exit for smoke. It, however, preferred to remain in the hut, and I assure you it wrung tears from the eyes of every one of us, and nearly strangled us into the bargain. The wood was wet and green, and consequently the fire bad. The wind was blowing strong through every opening, so we fetch the tent inside over the bed, which, is raised off the ground, occupies nearly all the room in the hut, and has a few strands of tussock scattered over its slabs. It seems cosy, however, after the day’s tramping, slipping, plunging, and we are all soon asleep. Next morning the weather is too utterly wet and boisterous to admit of a start being made, so the night finds us where the morning did, we having put in the day as best we might, stifled in smoke, cramped for room, with the monotone unbroken save by the visits of an occasional bold young weka, who came prying round to discover what strange beings had thus obtruded on his solitude. The next morning there seemed so little improvement in the weather that we almost make up our minds to return to Bluecliff, but after breakfast we see a gradual lifting of the fog in the gullies. This gradually rises till the tops of the hills are left clear, and the sun shines out once more, giving promise of a better day. So “bluey” is once more rolled up in high spirits, and we are soon on our way. Again we dodge the snow-drifts, which seem to have melted a little with the rain, and soon we stand on the height we had to abandon the day before. Being a finer day we get

— A Splendid View. —

Facing homewards we look down upon the sea and across Te Waewae Bay to Orepuki and Pahia, the Longwood, and other smaller hills. Looking out seawards we see the Solanders, Centre and Dog Islands,–the Bluff hill looking exactly like another island. Then across Foveaux Strait to Stewart Island. Owing to the mist, no houses can be seen at Orepuki. To our right the mountains continue to the sea. A magnificent view; truly one well worth much fatigue and “roughing it” to obtain. From Bluecliff to Waiau an immense forest runs inland. Then away to our left we discern the clearing at Clifden. Facing round we look into the great gully running between the mountains; then up at the grand old Princess Range. The deep, solemn might and grandeur of it all can be felt, never told–felt in the very depths of the soul and remembered through all life. The chief peaks are (highest) Caroline, Beatrice, Albert and Edward, the last two side by side and almost exactly alike. Caroline is formed of a lot of small peaks. The Princess Ranges are very much higher than the “Hump,” and consequently are snow-clad nearly all summer. The Billow Mountains continue on from these, then rise the Takitimos in all their glory. Every where snow gleams white upon them. In the distance, a little to the left, we see Lake Pateritory, in the Princess. This beautiful lake is 18 miles in length and quite near. Slightly to our right we look down into

— Lake Hauroto, —

21 miles in length, the largest of the little islands in it Mary island. The lake is four miles at its widest place. A river runs out of the lake, and we catch glimpses of it through the trees as it winds its way along. In most places the hills run steeply to the sea, the climb to the top of the highest peak being fairly trying. The trig station is planted on top. We set off again, and before long get into the leading ridge, which runs nearly to the lake. Then we enter a bush ridge, about as wide as an ordinary railway embankment, sloping steeply away on both sides, and in some places a network of roots, at times almost perpendicular–too steep to walk down, so we might make the descent by a species of jerks, with occasional pauses to steady ourselves in addition to the real “Spell ho!”. At last we reach the bottom of the spur, and begin with what bushmen call “flat”— all up hill and down dale. Had a good clear track on the edge, but the flat was all overgrown with fern, and in many places we were forced to clamber over fallen trees, which stretched their cumbrous length across the track. We wade over the river, or rather step from stone to stone as in crossing a Scottish burn, and so at last reach the edge of the Wairaurahire. In another minute or two we stand on the shore of the lake.

Here there had been an old camp, and two sheets of roof-iron were built up alongside a large tree to cover the fireplace. The frame of a tent still stood. What had once been a good boat was hauled up out of reach of the water. The lake was too rough for a row, but we put the boat in the water that the timbers might swell, and thus stop leakages. By this time we were thoroughly ready for dinner, and, after partaking of it, we proceed to gather a lot of dry birch tops, which make an excellent fire. We hook up the tent just in time, for the rain comes down. The camp is just where the Wairaurahire leaves the lake, and here it was that the wire bridge was built, over which Kelly crossed when coming from Preservation. Night descended on all the grand, deep beauty and on us puny mortals, and we slept the sleep that tired ones know.

The next morning the first riser brings the rest out of the tent “holus bolus” with the cry, “The lake is as calm as a millpond.” Ramming some old rags into the worst cracks of the boat, all are soon seated in it, with the exception of one, who stays behind to boil the billy. The boat is pushed off, and we are away for a row in

— The Morning’s First Flush of Beauty. —

In our excitement we forget to take with us a gaff, but make one out of some old wire lying round, which, however, is not strong enough. We see three eels, but owing to the want of the gaff they are still there. We saw three blue mountain ducks, some divers, and a few grey ducks. We have a delightful row along the edge of the lake, then right, and back to the camp. The tent is taken down after breakfast, the swags rolled up, but before a start can be made large drops of rain fall, accompanied by distant peals of thunder. All the sky looks as if charged with a fortnight’s rain, so

— We Make a Start Homewards, —

deeming it useless to wait for better weather. The ferns are drenched, and kindly part with the weight of water. We find fern of a rarer sort–the only one seen in the bush. Climbing now begins in earnest, so steep in places that it is hard to resist the inclination to fall backwards, hard to maintain the rigid hold necessary to prevent it. An occasional backward and downward look shows the lake farther below us. After much toiling and scrambling we begin to recognise objects and places seen on the way down, and with reviving spirits ere long we emerge from the bush, to find a gale blowing, as usual. We keep round the back of the highest peak, and so save much climbing. The gale blows with such force that it is hardly possible to stand against it. Then for a few seconds comes a sudden lull–a perfect drop–permitting only of a few steps, before it dashes round us once more in all its wrath. Then comes a hailstorm–fine, stinging hail, driven with such fury against our faces that it might almost be holly or gorse, so far as the sensation it gives is concerned. Again safe sheltered from the wind and hail, from all the fury of the elements, we find more pure white mountain lilies. They have found “a covert from the tempest.” There are also a few other mountain plants, and we secure some of each as memorials. Soon we begin to come down the lee side of the mountain, and thus find a little shelter; but here the snow is softer, and with many a sudden plunge to the knee, soaking wet, and thoroughly tired, we reach again the “hut,” boil the billy, and have some lunch before

— Setting out for Bluecliff. —

Uphill for a little, then down through a track which is for the most part rain-laden moss, in which each step taken is ankle-deep, while it presses the oozing water afresh. The only variation is mud. Truly, circumstances alter cases. The much-admired moss is a source of extreme discomfort. There is nothing of variety till we near the foot of the hill, when we find plenty of cattle tracks, some quite fresh, and our dog getting upon one, it rushes across the track about a chain ahead–a blue and white one, perhaps a two-year-old, by the size. As we near the hut we find our horse’s footmarks, and are in some doubt as to finding the animal itself where it was left. The mud deepens as we draw nearer, being now quite horrible, owing to horse and cattle tracks; but there is no escaping it. Covered with mud, soaked with rain, we reach the hut two hours and a-half after leaving the top of the mount. After some hunting round, the horse is found in the bush. A good fire is soon set going, and our spirits are revived and bodies strengthened by a substantial tea; and a good night’s sleep leaves us as fresh and “fit” as when we left Bluecliff four days before. After breakfast we pack our belongings, put them on the horse, keeping back the smaller things for personal carrying, take a last look round, say farewell to hut, sandflies, etc., and about 11 o’clock make another start, this time direct for

— “Home, Sweet Home.” —

Arriving at the beach, it takes but a short time to make of our pack horse a harness horse. The tide is well out, so we all take our seats, and off we go–or, rather, try to. The horse appears to think that as we have had our fun he is entitled to a little also, so he dances for a while on his hind legs, scorning to use his front ones. Finally, he comes to the conclusion that four leg are better after all than two, and, much to the delight of all, consents to put all to the ground. To the credit of the ladies be it said, no one screamed, and soon we reach the Waikawau, where we gather mussels and put them on our fire to boil. They are not good, so abandon thoughts of taking any home. We sit talking, till a glance at our watches tells us it is 2 o’clock. Then there is a hurry off. The tide being again favourable, we make good progress. Just as we reach the river the rain comes down again. After passing Cameron’s Creek we have to take to the shingle again, and walk till past the schoolhouse at Papatotara, when we re-enter the trap, soon tuning down straight to the ferry. We are again soaked through, for the rain is falling steadily, while a wind, bitterly cold, almost freezes us through and through; but all the cold, the wet, the mud, and the fatigue is soon forgotten in the warmth and light and comfort of home.

But the beauty and grandeur of mountain and lake, of river and gully and sea,

Of the deep, dark bush, with its twining flowers, of the goais waving free;

The sweet bright, amid all things stern, of the mountain lilies pure–

These shall remain in our memories still, with a charm that shall aye endure.

Source: National Library of New Zealand – Otago Witness , Issue 2649, 21 December 1904, Page 79. Accessed: 31 July, 2014

Note a few small spelling differences which are either changes or inaccuracies of the time:

  • Lake Hauroto – Lake Hauroko
  • Lake Pateritory – Lake Poteriteri
  • Wairaurahire River – Wairaurahiri River

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