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Our New Zealand Cousins
Chapter XIII


"The old order changed"—A fine farming country—A literary pedlar—Otago scenery—Wealth of water—The Clutha country—A colonial manse—The minister's lot a hard one—Kindly relations between pastor and people —Tree-planting—Slovenly farming—An angler's para­dise—Gore township—The Waimea Valley—A night ride.

We started from Timaru on a bright sunny day, and passed first through a magnificent farming district. Ploughing was being actively pursued, and myriads of friendly gulls were following the plough, and finding fat delicacies in the upturned furrows. My eye follows the old track, along which I have galloped "many a time and oft," astride "the old chestnut," in the golden days of my youth. At that time there were only two houses between "the head station " and the town. Now, villages, hamlets, and farms stud the country­side as thick as blackberries. The fight was just beginning then, "Sheep v. Settlers," and sheep have lost the day. Settlement here is most complete, and the evidences of rural wealth are everywhere abundant.

At Makikiki, for instance, I find a snug village. A steam threshing-machine is at work in a field close to the railway station, and as far as the eye can reach, it follows farm after farm, and takes in cottages, corn-ricks, trim plantations, hedge-rows, and busy ploughing teams in its comprehensive survey.

When I was last here, Makikiki was purely a flax swamp, with not a human habitation within miles of it; and it was only famous as being a grand shooting ground for ducks.

Waimate too! I remember when there was but the home station here, one "bush pub," and forge, and a few sawyers' huts. Now the dense bush has all been cut away. Waimate is the terminus of a branch railway, and can boast stores, hotels, and buildings equal to most country towns—verily "the former things have passed away, and lo, now all things have become new."

We cross the Waitaki, one of the snow-fed rivers, by another lengthy bridge, and I recall to my mind the old punt which used to convey passengers precariously across in the olden time. Oamaru presents the same amphitheatre of grassy knolls, but the tussocks on the heights are gone. Villas and gardens have taken their place. The town looks gay and lively, the white stone giving it quite a palatial look. What enormous stores! What mills! woollen factory! cheese factory! saw mills! &c. In fact, a repetition of Timaru. Another breakwater in the bay. All this since I was here last.

Ascending the steep incline, we emerge upon a succession of broken, tumbled slopes. Grand farms here. The farmers are lifting their potatoes and the long rows of well-filled sacks testify to the fertility of the soil. We pass the famous quarries of white stone, and looking over the surrounding country, can see numerous evidences of volcanic action in the circular mounds which stud the land­scape. Sites of extinct fumaroles and geysers these.

Away to the left the Pacific reflects the rays of the afternoon sun. Moeraki Lighthouse glistens in the warm light, and the sheen sparkles on lovely bays, and glistens along the wavy line of great curling breakers on the beach.

Yonder is Shag Point jutting out into deep water. There is a colliery at work at the extreme verge of the headland. Otago is rich in minerals, and her coalfields are important and extensive.

Palmerston is a pretty town in a hollow, sur­rounded by hills, low and undulating. The Salva­tion Army has been doing a great work here. The leaders were two lasses, and they have succeeded in enlisting a large following, and have shut up several hotels. So we are informed by a polite, though pale young gentleman, who makes himself very pleasant, gives us much unsolicited information, and winds up by wanting to sell us a few celluloid cuffs and collars.

In self-sacrificing gratitude, we pass him on to a burly farmer, who eventually, on our recommenda­tion, purchases a set, and doubtless made a very good bargain. This peripatetic peddling we find to be a feature of the railways here. The pedlar is generally employed by the leading newspapers to secure lists of passengers and odd items of news; but he will sell you books, periodicals, refresh­ments, wild ducks, and other game shot by himself, and, as in this case, celluloid collars and cuffs. I daresay the young gentleman would have insured our lives, or taken our portraits had we been so disposed ; and he possibly would have been able to arrange for our funerals in case of an accident. We live and learn. Literature, commerce, and sport, here go hand in hand.

At Puketeraki there is a small native settlement of about fifty adults, and here we pass the first native bush we have seen to-day. This is one of the very few remaining native settlements in Otago. There are only now some six or eight families. "How are the mighty fallen!" No more war dances and freebooting forays, ending with a canni­bal feast nowadays. The men farm a little now, and subsist on the keep of a few sheep.

We are now nearing Dunedin. Through the gathering gloom we can see the white gleam of curling breakers on the cliffs beneath us. We are dashing along at a breakneck pace above the moaning sea, midway up the cliffy heights. The scenery here, we are told, is very grand and awe- inspiring. We can well believe it, but alas for the veil of darkness which hides each charm from view. Soon we see the motley heights of Port Chalmers; anon, the long serried rows of lamp lights in the steep streets of the great city itself. They look like the watch-fires of a great army, bivouacking among the hills. The train rolls into the station. We are in Dunedin. Hey ! for the comforts and luxuries of the Grand Hotel ; and, as we are very tired, we hurry off to bed. Dunedin is worthy of a chapter to itself, and we will not pause now, but continue our trip to the lakes, and return to Dunedin later on.

* * * * * * *

Leaving the straggling station, the city opens out towards the sea, at Ocean Beach. A great flat of reclaimed land is here being rapidly built upon, and at Cavcrsham there are many good shops, and nice houses.

Forbury Fort, one of the new defences, is rapidly approaching completion, and will protect the city from any bombardment by a hostile cruiser seaward. Above the fort the most prominent landmark is the stately mansion of Mr. E. B. Cargill, whose father was one of the pioneers of Otago, and founders of Dunedin. A monument to his memory graces the great space in the centre of the city. We dash rapidly, with a shrill scream from the engine, through a long tunnel, and on the farther side come in view of the numerous buildings of the New Zealand Drug and Chemical Works. The country around con­sists of open grassy downs, and at the foot of a high conical wooded hill nestles the neat little village of Burnside. It is a typical Otago village. There is a very pretty church, a large tannery, a fellmongery, a wool mill, with its long flume or water-race on high trestles, carrying water to the noisy, sparkling wheel. All the valleys and slopes around are dotted with bright houses. A sluggish creek meanders through the marshy reaches of the lower valley, broadening as it goes, till near the beach it widens into a lake, which gleams like silver in the morning rays.

Another long tunnel leads us now into a richly cultivated valley with numerous farms, the thin scraping of snow on the low-lying hills betokening that winter is at hand.

In this valley lies Mossgiel. Its tweed factory is favourably known all over Australasia, and the products of its looms have achieved a reputation for excellence, equal in its way to those of the famous West of England fabrics. Beyond the tidy trim-looking village rise bold hills, white with their winter vestments. The whole scene, with its snug farms, peaceful herds, clean-cut stubble, trim hedge-rows, and smiling village in the plain, and the white solitary grandeur of the lone silent mountains beyond, affords one of those sharp en­joyable contrasts which are so characteristic of New Zealand scenery.

As we move still further south, evidences of the abnormal rigour of an exceptionally early and severe snowstorm are everywhere apparent. The valleys are all flooded. Shattered trees with broken branches cumbering the ground, give the orchards a mournful look. The very flax and raupo clumps have been broken and flattened, and in many straths the stooks are rotting in the sodden fields. And this is only the early part of May.

Now we skirt Lake Waihola, generally a ckar shallow bed of water, averaging a depth of about twelve feet. It is now muddy and turbid, and swollen with the floods from a branch of the Taieri River, which flows into it. A piercing wind comes whistling over the Taieri plains, and lashes the lake into mimic mountains.

Oh, could I but transport this wealth of water to poor drought-smitten Australia. "Water, water, everywhere" here. Lakes, streams, standing pools. Great shallow meres, with crowds of wild ducks, stooks standing in water in many of the fields. The bare brown hills, and cheerless stubbles, all dank and sodden with the plashing rain. All the noses in the carriages are blue. Our feet feel like lead, and it is very hard, indeed, to resist the de­pressing influence of the cold.

At and about Stirling there is a lakelet in'every hollow, and the snow is lying very low down on the hills. Near by, at Kaitangata, there are some rather famous coal-mines, which are being vigor­ously opened out and worked.

We are now in the Clutha district. All the settlers are Scotch here, with but a few excep­tions. They are deep-chested, big-headed, ruddy- faced people. Kindly hearted and keenly intelli­gent, they are the right stamp of men to found a noble nation.

The Clutha country is prettily diversified and more wooded than the long ranges of dun hills and undulating slopes we have been passing hitherto. The Clutha River is a broad stream, swift and brown with flood. The town of Bal- clutha is unhappily situated on a flat, which is liable to inundations from the river. Four years ago the bridge was washed away. The churches are very ornamental, and form a noticeable fea­ture here, as indeed they do in every settlement in Otago. The early fathers evidently did "not forsake the assembling of themselves together as the manner of some is."

A few more miles, and we alight at a quiet little wayside station, where we are hospitably met by the minister of the parish, a younger brother, whom I have not seen for several years. We are soon snugly ensconced in the cosy little country manse, and the evening is devoted to asking and answering such questions as the reader can well imagine embrace a wide range of subjects.

I spent the greater part of a pleasant week with the good young minister and his comely, buxom wife and bonny black-eyed bairnie. The quiet, homely atmosphere of the manse, the hearty greetings of the kindly, simple country folks; the peace and quiet of the secluded "pairish" were inexpressively grateful, after the hurry and bustle of city life ; and yet a little of such life would go a long way with me. A country pastor's life is no bed of roses in the colonies. The roads in winter are shockingly bad. The parish generally is of great extent, and the mere physical labour in­volved, in faithfully discharging pastoral duties, such as ministering to the sick and sorrowing, would tax severely the energies of a strong, robust man. He has to preach three times on Sundays, in three different centres, and must keep up his studies if he is to -be a faithful and successful minister. He is often called upon to undertake duties outside his own parish, and the cares of schools, church organizations, presbytery and synod meetings, are exacting and incessant. He must take an active part in all social movements in his neighbourhood, and beside his own imme­diate daily troubles, must have a ready ear and sympathizing heart for every tale of sorrow or distress that may be brought to him. With the education and tastes of a gentleman, he must be ever among the people—of the people—a minis­tering, comforting source of strength and enlighten­ment to his people, reflecting the temper and character of the Master whose servant he is. And, alas! how often is he fated to have his motives misinterpreted; his best and purest in­tentions misrepresented; his brightest and holiest aspirations sneered at and maligned. The wonder is that so many highly cultured, sensitive men are found for the office of the ministry, when worldly callings offer so much more tempting and tangible inducements.

It was peculiarly gratifying to me to see the cordial relations that existed between my good young brother and his flock. The stipend of an Otago clergyman is but 220/. a year, no more than the salary of a good clerk; but this sordid view of their position does not present itself to the young fellows I was privileged to meet, and the kindly regard and affectionate esteem of the farmers and their young folks are immeasurably above all money value. The relations subsisting between people and pastor were much more like the old home life than anything I had yet seen in the Australian colonies.

A great spiritual work is being done in these remote little country places. A really pretty new church had been built in the south half of this parish, and opened free of debt. The young people especially had been wakened up to a lively interest in the higher life, and both by precept and example the young ministers I met in this part of New Zealand were approving themselves "good workmen, needing not to be ashamed." They take an active, intelligent part in secular matters, as well as sacred, and are a credit to the good old true blue Presbyterian stock.

A good impulse, for instance, had been given to tree-planting in the parish, the minister having set the example by adorning the bare spaces round the manse and church; but many other good impulses were working far beneath the surface, and producing good fruits of unselfish acts and purer lives.

Amid all the crudities and falsities of modern infidelity, the sneerings and scoffings of indifferentists, and contemptuous isolation of Pharisaic sectarians, it was positively refreshing to get into this warm atmosphere of Christian-loving regard for each other between pastor and flock, and I can never forget the heartiness of the welcome I received from these shrewd yet simple far­mers, just because I was the brother of their minister.

The roads were awful, as I have said, but equestrianism is the favourite mode of progres­sion here. Every youngster has his horse, and is usually followed by a motley retinue of dogs, who wage incessant vendetta against the ubiqui­tous rabbits. Ploughing was general over all the downs. Potatoes were being dug up, and stored in winter pits. Occasionally the smoke from a peripatetic threshing-machine would darken the air round some busy farm, and at times can be noticed another less pleasing smoke, as some slovenly farmer adopts the wasteful agency of fire to get rid of his surplus straw. Frequent cropping of the same cereal, either oats or wheat without rotation, has produced its inevitable result in some places here, as it will elsewhere ; but why farmers anywhere will disregard the plain teachings of experience and common sense, goes beyond my comprehension. The straw which is so foolishly burnt might be used in an open courtyard to give comfort and warmth to the farm animals in winter. It could be cut up into chaff and mixed with chopped roots and a little salt, and in this way form a valuable fodder. Mixed with lime and earth, and allowed to rot, it forms a valuable fertilizer. But to burn it is a sin­ful waste, and I was surprised that douce, steady, thrifty Scotchmen should adopt such an insane method with so valuable a material.

The University of Otago has recently taken a new departure in a most sensible and practical direction, in sending travelling professors to lecture to the mining population on the chemistry and technology of rocks, ores, &c. They might well enlarge their field, and give lectures to farmers on chemistry of soils, rotation of crops, adaptations of mechanics to farming processes, and on other subjects of practical importance to farmers.

But of this more anon.

We left the peaceful manse of Warepa with many regrets, and passing through a bare pastoral and agricultural country, with little of interest in the scenery, reached Gore, the bustling little town where the Waimea cross-roads railway branches off through the fertile but bare Waimea plains, to join the Lakes line at Lumsden.

All the burns and streams in this part of the country are well stocked with trout, and in the season this is quite an angler's paradise. The Mataura River, a stream of some magnitude, tra­verses the Waimea plains, and runs past Gore. It is full of trout. The price of a fishing licence is twenty shillings for the season.

Gore, eighteen years ago, had not even a house to boast of. It was only a police camp, and a few canvas tents constituted the township. It is now the busy centre of a fine farming district. It has a great saw-mill, a flour-mill or two, and some capital stores, hotels, banks, and other buildings lining its well-laid-out streets.

It lies at the mouth of the wide Waimea Valley.

On both sides we see stretching away to the far horizon, like gleaming barriers of marble, tier on tier, terrace on terrace, peak on pinnacle, and pinnacle on peak, of the cold, glittering, alpine Cordilleras, every point being glorified by the slanting rays of a declining sun, glinting down from between bars of gold and amber and purple, until at length he sinks suddenly behind a Sierra, and the valley is rapidly enswathed in the sombre veil of a wintry night.

Intensely cold, and very hungry and weary, we bowl along through the darkness; and at length, about ten o'clock, are rejoiced to see the red lights of the Mountaineer gleaming on the waters of Lake Wakatipu as she floats alongside the wooden wharf at Kingston.


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