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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 3 (June 1, 1937)

The Foods of the Wilds

The Foods of the Wilds.

In last month's article on this page I gave some account of the rugged Maruia country, between the Buller Valley and the eastern side of the Alpine ranges in the South Island. The olden Maori route between west and east traversed the wild valley called the Kopi o Kai-Tangata, or “Cannibal Gorge.” Continuing the narrative, I take from my notes of many years ago on the West Coast some details of primitive life and travel in the back country in ancient times. The very few surviving old Maoris at Arahura described the manner in which the travellers through that savage territory contrived to obtain food. Their principal items of food were weka (woodhens) and eels. They snared the weka—an easy task, because of its inquisitive habits—and also used dogs to catch them. These woodhens were in abundance, in the valleys and small natural clearings, in the great bush. The Maoris carried eel-baskets (hinaki) for the capture of the tuna, and early European explorers passing through the Maruia country found remains of those baskets in numerous places. Besides those staples there was fern-root; indeed this should be considered as the main item of food in some places. In the mountain-beech country, there was little bird life, because of the absence of berries, but in the lower parts where the miro and tawa and white-pine and other berry-bearing trees and shrubs grew, there were plenty of pigeon, tui and kaka parrots, and the kokako or blue crow, which were snared or speared. In some parts, including Maruia, the kakapo, the flightless ground parrot, was caught with the aid of dogs, which the Maoris trained to hunt silently

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