Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 1, Issue 3, November 1983
Some Early Journeys to the Wairau (Continued)
Some Early Journeys to the Wairau (Continued)
In the last Journal some extracts from diaries of overland travellers to the Wairau were given. Lack of space forced us to hold over the accounts of two sea voyages. Before roads were made or rivers bridged the usual mode of travel was by sea or river boat– it is rather a shock to realise that even to go from Nelson to Richmond a journey by boat up the Waimea estuary was often considered preferable to the road one. It will be remembered that Cotterell returned from the Awatere by whale boat, and glad he was to do so. By boat was the only practicable way to transport goods; but sea voyages were not always enjoyable and could be hazardous. The Adams family journeyed from Nelson to the Redwood Run on the Avon River in the Wairau (Martha Adams had refused to remain in Nelson while her husband lived at the ranch). The year was 1852 and they travelled with their goods and two small sons by sea to the Wairau River and up the river to what is now Blenheim. Martha or Patty as she was usually called was a good horsewoman and would have preferred to ride through the Tophouse Pass. In her diary she has left a lively account of their experiences on the sea voyage.
February 1852 Saturday (20th) The children and I go on board (the schooner Mary) by 1 o'clock, and the vessel went out beyond the bar with the tide; the Captain and William remained until evening to finish their business, then they came on board and we sailed with the night tide and breeze. (It was not long before they were all seasick and the next day passed in misery). About night the skipper said we would soon be at our destination, when the wind changed and blew hard, so that our little vessel was driven back, and we were obliged to take shelter in Port Underwood, a little cove between two hills. Here we anchored and by daybreak Monday got on shore. This was an old whaling station and the strand was scattered thick with bleached whalebones: huge things too large to move. As the boat grated on the sand we saw a hut a short way off, where the sailors assured us we would be hospitably entertained and cleanly fed. How glad we poor sick things were to tread on land, though so weak we could hardly walk over the bones to the cottage close to a wood, out of which we saw a herd of many coloured goats peering and scampering about. A Maori woman in a green and scarlet print dress, made in the fashion of a nightgown, with a nice clean baby, sat on the door sill, and, after a word or two with Mr Taylor the captain, bustled herself about, and, with a great show of pleasure commenced preparing a very early breakfast. A stout boy milked the goats: a little girl neatly dressed after the Englìsh fashion amused baby on the clean boarded floor, whìle her mother lay a white tablecloth, basins, plates, knives and forks: Damper (or bread baked without any barm) a huge jug of delicious goat milk, butter from the same source and tea proved to us the most grateful repast!
When over, as the wind was contrary, it was arranged to bring out a leg of mutton on shore, some flour and some apples, and to have a dinner in "Betty's" cottage. Her husband has a small vessel of his own and was gone to trade in Sydney. To while away the morning as we were too weak to walk much, our hostess spread out for us a great heap of "Illustrated News". Fancy, Oh! English reading, fancy this in a Maori hut!…
I compounded the apple dumplings while Betty watched, and she dressed the rest of the dinner most excellently, adding to what we provided a piece of bacon from the scores of pieces pendant from the thatched roof. Her potatoes she scraped with a shell and baked beneath the meat, and apologised for peas, saying that her first crop was over and the second one not ready. Though she understood nearly all we said, she could not say much to us save through Mr taylor, the captain, as interpreter…page 32
Teatime came and yet no chance of a fair wind, so we spread our mattresses on the floor and slept soundly till one of the sailors in the early dawn, rattled at the cottage door and informed us the vessel was getting under way. He also brought a couple of fowls from my poultry coop on deck as a present for Betty, together with a large plain plum cake and some loaves of baker's bread, all of which were luxuries unobtainable here, and more acceptable to our Maori hostess than money: for which she had no use as her husband made more than sufficient to pay for her grocery and wearing apparel, by his ship: and everything else she had at home.
(From there they continued on then up the Wairau River till they were met by their friend with a wagon for the goods and the boys and a horse for Patty to ride, The men walked by the wagon and after spending a night in a mud hut on the way they reached their primitive home on the Avon (a tributary of the Waihopai).
–From MS, Adams, Martha, Journal, 1850–52, Alexander Turnbull Library.
Another sea voyage is described in an extract from John A.
Moore's Diary. This was in 1872 not so long before the Wangamoa Route was opened.
Extracts from the Diary of John A. Moore, sent to us by Anne King.
6th. Jan 1872. Went on board the Lyttelton (Captain Scott, master) and left Nelson at quarter to seven p.m. A good many people to see us off. Ran into a boat but got off alright. Had tea. Got stuck in French Pass about 1 o'clock this morning for a while, otherwise had a pleasant passage to Picton and arrived at 7 a.m. Passengers on the Lyttelton were Mr & Mrs Watts, Charlie and Alice Williams, Mrs Moffitt, young Hounsell, Hammond Landon and Bill Adams, 2 other women and 3 boys. Also on board were a lot of rams belonging to old Taylor Green.
Sunday, 7th. Jan. Writing on board at 7 a.m. Yesterday Philip McRae, Mr and Mrs David Scott left on horseback for Blairich. Dr Renwick was married to Annie Smith and old Sigley, the lamplighter to Mrs Akersten's mother. Noon. Can see the trees where we have to cross the bar. They say we shall be in Blenheim by 3 p.m.. We touched but got over the bar at 1 p.m.. There is a boulder bank at entrance just like Nelson. We saw Shags, Hawks, Seagulls, Paradise Duck, Grey Ducks, Bittern, Divers, young Duck, Hawks, Larks, Sandpipers, and Pokekas when going up the river (Wairau). Got to Junction at 4 p.m. (junction of Opawa and Wairau Rivers). I went to Ewart's Hotel where I am to stay until the cart comes down from Blairich, Philip McRae's place, where I am going at £40 per year and found, to help on his sheep run.
Monday 8th. Jan. 1872. After breakfast got my green box from Lyttelton which is still at the junction on the bank near where she is trying to come up with ropes etc. (but no go as yet, 4 p.m.). The Osprey, C. Redwood's tug is now taking the flax dressed at the wharf. Went to the Court House today (Dr Muller sitting) and heard case of Joe Redwood and a boy about wages. Joe had to pay him £8. The boy left before his time. They speak a lot of the high rivers they have here. They have a fire bell not quite as high as the one in Nelson. Dodson and Fell Store has a frontage to a large bridge. There is soon to be a railway started from Blenheim to Picton and there is talk of the Governor coming over in a fortnight's time to turn the first sod. After tea saw the Blenheim Volunteer Fire Brigade at practice opposite the Government page 33Buildings. (Their only uniform was) Caps with red braid and the letters B.V.F.B. on them. Not a very strong stream of water which they got from a well in the middle of the road. The Lyttelton finally got up to the wharf. She goes shipping wool to Port Underwood.
Tuesday 9th. Jan. P. McRae arrived. I bought water-tight boots at Dodsons & Fells for 22/- and helped Harry load the wagon.
Wed. 10th. Jan. About quarter to eight for Blairich. Tom Jones (cook) and Harry the driver. Had a good load but 5 horses. Rough road up the saddle and over the River crossing. Called at Templetons– 4 miles from Blairich– for mail. Got to Blairich which is situated on the Awatere River, about 8 p.m.
(from extracts from the diary of John A. Moore).