NEW ZEALAND VISIT
Of the other island groups that I visited during that exquisite Norfolk Island, the wicked unknown New Hebrides - I have told elsewhere. But before the great P. & O. liner carried me away from Sydney on the well-known track across the seas to England and home, I had a journey through New Zealand that was second to nothing in the world, for pure enjoyment, but the unsurpassable Islands themselves.
New Zealand is not yet fully opened up - that was what the geography books said in my school days. The saying like most geography-book information, slipped through my mind easily, and did not create any marked impression. The marked impression came later when I went half round the world to see New Zealand, and discovered that I could not take train to just anywhere I chose. It seemed incredible, in a country as highly civilized as France or Germany, that coaches - not the ornamental tourist brand, run as an accompaniment to railways, but real Early Victorian coaches, with "no frills on them" of any sort or kind - were the only means of transit, save boats, to a great part of the famous hot lake and river district of the North Island. One could go to Rotorua, the most remarkable collection of geysers and not lakes, direct by rail from Auckland. but the lovely Wanganui River, the beautiful up-country bush, and whole duchies of hot-water and mud-volcano land, could only be "done" by coach and boat.
This made the journey more interesting, on the whole, though it was a little amazing at first to leave the railway far behind and strike out right into the early nineteenth century. One should have worn side-curls, a spencer, and a poke bonnet, instead of the ordinary tourist coat and skirt and useful straw hat, to feel quite in character with the mud-splashed coach, its six insides, two outsides, and four struggling, straining horses; the days of wind and shower, the hurried meals eaten at lonely little wayside inns, and the nights spent in strange barrack-like, barn-like places, where the stable was of more importance than the house, and every one always arose and fled like a ghost at the early dawn of day. But first, after the railway town and railway hotel were left behind, came Wanganui River, a whole day of it; nearly sixty miles of exquisite loveliness, viewed in perfect comfort from the canopied deck of a river steamer. The Wanganui has been called New Zealand's Rhine, but it no more resembles the Rhine than it resembles a garden-party or an ostrich farm. It has nothing whatever in common with Germany's great historic river but its beauty; and the beauty of the Wanganui is of an order very far indeed removed from that of the ancient castle-crowned streams of Europe, which are strewn with records of dead and decaying sons of human life. Solitude, stillness, absolute, deathly loneliness are the keynotes of Wanganui scenery. Shut in by fold on fold of great green mountain peaks scarp on scarp of fern-wreathed precipice, one can almost fancy that the swift little paddle-steamer is churning her way for the first time into solitude never seen of man. Now and then a Maori dug-out canoe, long and thin and upturned at the ends, may be sighted riding under the willows, or gliding down-stream to the swift paddle-strokes of its dusky-faced occupant. At rare intervals, too, the spell of silent loneliness is broken by the sight of some tiny river-side settlement perched on a great green height - half a dozen wooden houses, and a tin-roofed church: the whole being labelled with some extraordinarily pretentious name. One of our passengers that day got in at London, and went on to Jerusalem; another was booked from Nazareth to Athens!
All New Zealanders are not Maoris, despite the hazy ideas as to colour which exist at home. There is a little trifle of nine hundred thousand full-blooded white settlers, to compare with the few thousand native Maoris still left, in the land they once owned from sea to sea. Still, the Maori in New Zealand is an unmistakable fact, and a most picturesque fact into the bargain. To see a family taking deck passage on the boat - handsome dark-eyed women, with rosy cheeks in spite of their olive skins, and beautifully waved black hair; bright elfish little children; dogs and cats and a sack or two for luggage - in an interesting spot in the day's experience, especially when some patronising passenger accustomed to "natives" in other countries, gets one of the delightful set-downs the Maori can give so effectively. For all their shapeless clothing and heavy blankets, hatless heads and tattooed lips and chins, the New Zealand Maoris are very much "all there"; and when the patronising saloon passenger struts up to one, and remarks: "Tenakoe (good-day), Polly! You got ums nicely little fellow there, eh?" "Polly" will probably reply in excellent English: "My name happens to be Te Rangi, not Polly; and as for the child you are referring to, I believe it belongs to the lady in the yellow plaid sitting aft!"
At the end of the day comes an hotel, standing on a wooded cliff above the river, and looking down upon a long lovely stretch of winding water and high-piled forest. The night is spent here, and in the morning comes the coach, with its team of four fine satin-skinned bays, its many-coated driver, its portmanteaux on the roof, mysterious little parcels in the "boot." and confidential letters in coachman's hat, for all the world like something in Charles Dickens. There is no bugle and no guard, and the coach itself is a high long-legged, spidery thing enough, not even painted red, and though it is "Merry Christmas" time, it is a warm summer day, with some prospect of thundery rain, but not the fainted of any typical Dickenesque Christmas weather. Still, the sentiment is there, so one may as well make the most of it.
All day, muddy roads and straining horses; all day, a long pull up-hill, half the day rain in the wet lovely bush, starring and sparkling the exquisite tree ferns, those fine ladies of the forest; crystal-dropping the thick coat of ferns that tapestries the tall cliffs, shutting in our road. Beneath the wheel curve innumerable black-green gorges, deep and dark as Hades, gurgling in their mysterious depths with unseen full-throated streams and half-glimpsed waterfalls. About and above us rises the impenetrable "bush" - tall green trees, feathery, cedary, ferny, flowery, set as close together as the spires of moss on a velvet-cushioned stone, shutting out half the sky; marking off an unmistakable frontier between the territory of still unconquered Nature and the regions wrested from her wings across the valleys; the merry mournful tui flutes "piercing sweet by the river," undisturbed by our rattling wheels. There are wild creatures in plenty, further back in the bush - wild boars, wild cattle, wild cats, and "dingoes" or dogs - all originally escaped from civilisation, but now as wild as their own savage ancestors. The feathery bracken, that carpets all the banks by the wayside, was, and indeed still is, a staple food of the Maoris. Its young roots are excellent eating, being rather like asparagus, and reasonably nourishing when nothing better can be had - and often furnished a "colourable imitation" of China tea, to the benighted bush-wanderer run out of the genuine leaf. This bush about us is all Maori land. Maoris alone can find their way easily and safely through its pathless mysteries. No, thee is no avoiding the Maori, anywhere in the North Island!
Dinner, warm and grateful and unspeakably comforting, is met with at a little inn in a little settlement whose name (of course) begins with Wai. The towns in North New Zealand that do not being with Wai begin with Roto. There are a few others, but they hardly count. We are all amazingly cheerful when we issue forth warmed and fed; and the cold wind that is beginning to blow down from the icy mountain peaks just out of sight, is encountered without any British-tourist grumbling. The driver explains that the wind ought not to be so cold - never is in December (the New Zealand June); but somehow, this is "a most exceptional season," and there has been a lot of rain and cold that they don't generally have. Across twelve thousand miles of sea my mind leaps back to home; I feel the raspy air of the English spring nipping my face, and hear the familiar music of the sweet old English lie about the weather. It is a dear home-like lie, and makes me feel that New Zealand is indeed what it claims to be - the Britain of the Southern Cross.
The effect of dinner is wearing off, and the insides are saying things about the weather that make a lonely wanderer like myself long to clasp the speakers warmly by the hand - because they sound so English. Now I understand what puzzled me a good deal at first - the difference between the Americanised, Continentalised Australians and the perfectly British New Zealander. The Briton cannot retain his peculiar characteristic in a climate like that of Australia; deprived of his natural and national grumble about the changeable weather, he is like a dog without a bark - is windy and showery, given to casting autumn in the lap of spring and throwing winter into the warm, unexpecting arms of summer. So the Briton of the South, settled among his familiar weather "samples," remains like the Briton of the North; and the travelling Englishman or Englishwoman, visiting New Zealand, feels more entirely at home than in any other quarter of the globe. It is only fair to New Zealand, however, to add that the average summer, beginning in December, is at worst very much warmer and pleasanter than the English spring or winter, and at best, a season of real delight.
Late and dark and cold is the evening when we rattle up to the accommodation house planted in a strange desert spot, where the night is to be passed. Another coach comes in and discharges its load by-and-by. The Dickensonian flavour increases, as we of the earlier coach sit round the great ingle-nook fire of blazing logs in the coffee-room, silently surveying the new comers, while they shed their many wraps and crowd about the blaze. To how many Early Victorian tales-Dickens, Bulwer Lytton, G. P. R. James - have not the lonely inn and the late arriving guest been the familiar commencement! but the three Maoris, man and two women, alighting from the coach and taking their place in the warm room break through the illusion of Victorian romance at a touch, as a passing figure breaks through a gossamer cobweb stretched across a fuzzy path. Even G. P. R. could have had no dealings with those tall bundled-up, black-eyed, self-possessed beings from the bush. He would have turned them out in despair, or turned himself out, and gone back to his mysterious, Spanish-complexioned gentlemen in furred riding-cloaks.
A nipping early morning sees us off at seven o'clock, the discontented innkeeper, with (apparently) a dark crime on his conscience, seeing us go with obvious relief. It is too evident that like rather many backwoods hotel-keepers, he regards the harmless necessary traveller in the unflattering light of "the pig that pays the rent." Ruspehu's giant cone, covered with dazzling snow, soars 3,000 feet into heaven above us. We are high up ourselves for we pass the 4,000 foot level later on, rather cold and cross, and inclined to regard the little flag of hot smoke creeping out of the crest of Ngaurhoe, a smaller volcano ahead, as the most desirable thing in nature. Brumbies (wild horses) skim the plains below us quick-moving little dots of black against the bull-colour of river valleys and flats of sand. "There's a fellow hunting those at present," volunteers the driver -" catches and breaks them, and gets thirty shillings apiece for them for youngsters to ride to school. The kids must have something, you know, and the brumbies are wiry little brutes."
No one walks on two legs in New Zealand, apparently. I recollect a picture that the coach passed only yesterday evening - a man on horseback, and two dogs, fetching home a cow and her calf from a pasture a quarter of a mile away from the homestead. In England the whole outfit of man, horse, and dogs would have been represented by one small child with a pinafore and a stick. Other countries, other manners. One o'clock, forty-two miles out, with a stop for a fresh team; and we now enter a valley where we are met by the strange sight of a puff of steam rising from a bushy dell, and a little river that glides along with smoky vapours curling up from its surface. We are in the hot -water country at last; this is Tokaanu, and from here to Rotorua, ninety miles away, the earth is dotted, every now and then, with boiling springs, erupting, geysers, hot lakes, and warm rivers. In all this country you need never light a fire to cook, unless you choose; never heat water to wash your pots and pans, or to bath yourself. The Maoris, and many of the whites, steam all their food instead of boiling or baking it; and as for hot baths, an army might enjoy them all day long. The valley is warm and pleasant; Lake Taupo lies before us thirty miles long, wide and blue and beautiful as the sea, sentinel led by tall peaks of dazzling white and purest turquoise, and all embroidered about the shores with gold braiding of splendid Planta Genisto scattered in groves and hedges of surpassing richness. Three hours in a tiny steamer brings us to the other side; and here the sights of the hot-water country fairly begin.
The Spa Hotel, at Taupo (where one passes the night and as many days as one has time for), is a museum; an exhibition, and very good joke, all in itself. One might fairly describe it as hashed hotel, served up with excellent sauce. You find bits of it lost in a wilderness of rose and rhododendron, at the end of a garden path; half a dozen bedrooms run away all along among the honeysuckles to play hide-and-seek; a drawing-room isolated like a light-house in a sea of greenery; a dining-room that was once a Maori assembly-house, and is a miracle of wildly grotesque carvings, representing the weirdest of six-foot goblin figures, eyed and toothed with pearl shell, and carved in the highest of alto relievo, all down the walls. White sand pathways run between the various fragments of the hotel; a hot stream, breathing curly vapour as it goes, meanders about the grounds, captured here and there in deep wooden ponds under rustic roofs, or hemmed in by walls and concealing trees, to make the most attractive of baths. There is sulphur and soda and free sulphuric acid in these waters; one spring; welling up all by itself, has iodine. For rheumatism, skin diseases, and many blood diseases, these constantly running pools are almost a certain cure. It seems a shocking waste of golden opportunities to let this chance go by without being healed of something; but I can only collect a cold in the head, a grazed ankle, and a cracked lip, to meet the occasion - of all which evils the baths at once relieve me, offering in their place an appetite which must seriously impair my popularity with the proprietress, though I am bound to say she hides her feelings nobly.
There is a celebrated "porridge pot," or mud volcano, near this hotel. I have not time to see it; therefore I leave it with gentle reproaches ringing in my ears, and hints to the effect that I shall be haunted on my death-bed by unavailing regret. But I meet the Waikato River directly after, and at once forget everything else. Never anywhere on this earth, except in the hues of a peacock's breast shining in the sun, have I seen such a marvellous blue-green colour as that of this deep, germ-like, splendid stream. And the golden broom on its banks, the golden broom on the heights, the golden broom everywhere - bushes eight and ten feet high, all one molten flame of burning colour, with never a leaf to be seen under the conflagration of riotous blossom - what is the English broom, or the English gorse, compared to this?
All the six miles to Wairakei, we follow the Waikato River: watch it sink into a deep green gorge; break into splendid foam and spray down a magnificent fall, that alone might make the fortune of any hotel in a less richly dowered country; wind underneath colossal tree-clad cliffs, in coils and streaks of the strange emerald blue that is the glory of the river, and finally bend away towards the Arateatea Rapids. Another hotel built after the charming fashion of the Taupo hostelry, receives the coach occupants. The style of architecture sets one thinking. Where, twenty years ago, did out-of-the-way New Zealand light upon the "pavilion" system, that is the very latest fancy of all modern-built sanatoria? Has the liability of occasional small earthquake tremors anything to do with it? Whatever the cause may be, the result is that the fresh-air system is in full swing in nearly all the New Zealand thermal resorts; that doors and windows are always open, paths take the place of passages, and everybody acquires the complexion of a milkmaid and the appetite of a second-mate.
The hot outdoor swimming bath is a toy with which one really cannot stop playing. It is something so new and so amusing to dive into a bath 90 feet long and 102 degrees Fahrenheit as to heat; swim about like marigolds in broth in a temperature that would cook an egg in a few minutes and all the time see the exquisite weeping willows wave overhead, the tall grasses stand on the bank, the wild clematis tremble in the trees above the pool. After the hot dip, one steps over a partition into another bathful of cool spring water only 68 degree F. in heat, to cool down; and then comes dressing in a little bath-box (shut off from the grounds, like all the bath, by a high board fence), followed by a two minutes' walk back to the house. But again when night comes on, and the moon silvers the weeping willows to the semblance of pale frost-foliage on an icy pane, and the dim wraith-like vapours of the pool float up in ghostly shapes and shadows about the darkness of the inner boughs, one is tempted to come down once more, gliding hurriedly through the chill night air to the pool, locking the door, and floating for an hour or more in the dim, warm, drowsy waters. Cold? No one ever gets cold from the thermal waters, even if the cool dip is left out. That is one of their chiefest charms.
With the morning, I am informed that life will not be worth living to me any more, if I do not see the Geyser Canon. Some one declared that it is the most beautiful sight in New Zealand; some one else says that is frightens you most delightfully, in the safest possible way; and "one low churl, compact of thankless earth," says that it is extremely instructive. That last calumny I must at once deny. Interesting to the deepest degree, the Wairakei Geysers are; suggestive also beyond any other geological phenomena in New Zealand; but instructive, after the tedious scientific-evenings fashion of our childhood, they are not. They are too beautiful for that, and too fascinating. One ought, no doubt, to absorb a great deal of geological information during the tour of the valley, but one is so busy having a good time that one doesn't. Which is exactly as it should be. Coming round the corner of the path that leads to the geysers, one sees a column of white steam rising over the shoulder of the hill, among the greenery of tea-tree and willow, exactly like the flowing-off steam of some railway engine, waiting at a station. It is indeed an engine that is blowing off steam; but the engine is rather a big one - nothing less; indeed, than that admirable piece of work, Mother Earth herself. Ingle, the guide, now comes out of a tin-roofed cottage at the entrance to the valley, and starts to show us the wonders of the place.
Now be it known that Mr. Ingle is a very remarkable character and second only to the geysers themselves, as a phenomenon of singular interest. He is one of the very few men in the world who know all about geysers, and quite the only one who can literally handle and work them. Ingle known how to doctor a sick geyser as well as any stableman can doctor a horse; he can induce it to erupt, keep it from doing so, or make it erupt after his fashion, and not alter its own. He is the author or at least two scientific discoveries of some importance, combining he effects of steam pressure on rocks and the incidence of volcanoes along certain thermal lines. In fact, what Ingle does not know about the interior of the earth, and the doings down there, is not worth knowing; and he tells us much of it as he takes us over the canon. Instructive? Certainly not. It is all gossip about volcanoes and geysers - personal, interesting, slightly scandalous gossip (because the behaviour of some of them, at times, and the tempers they exhibit, are simply scandalous); but not "instructive", assuredly not.
The average tourist likes to have every sight named - romantically or comically named, if possible - and his tastes have been fully considered in the Geyser Canon. I am not going to quote the guide-book titles of the dozen or two thermal wonders exhibited by Ingle. Staircases of pink silica, with hot water running down them; boiling pools of white fuller's earth, with miniature volcanoes and geysers pock-marked all over them; sapphire-coloured ponds, where one can see fifty feet of scalding depths; the great Wairakei Geyser, casting up huge fountains of boiling steam and spray every seven minutes; twin geysers living in one pool of exquisite creamy stalactites, and erupting every four minutes with the punctuality of a watch; geysers that throb exactly like the paddles of a steamer, or beat like the pulse of an engine; geysers that throw up great white balls of steam through crystal funnels of hot water; geysers that cast themselves bodily out of their beds at regular intervals, leaving you with exactly nine minutes in which to scrabble down the hot wet rock of the funnel, stagger through the blinding steam that rises from the rents and fissures at the bottom, and climb up the other side again, into coolness and safety, to wait and watch the roaring water burst up through the rock once more; geysers that make blue-green pools on the tip of milky and ruddy terrace of carven silica; that explode like watery cannon, in definite news one after another; that build themselves nests like birds, send boiling streams under rustic bridges, scatter hot spray and steam over richly drooping ferns, and plant rainbow haloes on a scalding cloud of mist, high above the clustering trees of the valley - these are the sights of the canon, and they need o childish names to make them interesting. When a visitor gets into the Geyser Canon he is like a fly in a spider's web. He cannot et away from this colossal variety entertainment. He runs from a nine-minute geyser to see a four-minute geyser do its little "turn," and by this time the number is up for the seven-minute performance of the great star, so he hurries there; and after that he must just go back and see the twin geysers do another four-minute trick, and then there is quite another, which will do a splendid "turn" in twenty-seven minutes' time, if he only waits - and so half a day is gone, without any one noticing the flight of time, until the sudden occurrence of a "passionate vacancy," not at all connected with the geysers or their beds, informs the traveller that another meal-time had unperceived, come round.
The Arateatea Rapids fill in the afternoon. From the high road where the open coach stands waiting, down through a pretty woodland of greenery and shadow and thick soundless moss, one follows a narrow pathway towards an ever-increasing sound of rushing, tumbling, and thundering, out, at last, on to a projecting point where one stands right over a rocky canon filled almost to the brim with a smother of white rolling foam, woven through with surprising lights of clear jade green and trembling gold. And here, on the brink of this half-mile of rapids, over the roaring water, I give it up. I do not attempt to describe it. When you take a great river, exceptionally deep and swift, and throw it over half a mile of sloping cliff, things are bound to happen that are somewhat beyond the power of pen and ink to render. Who has ever read a description of a waterfall, anywhere, written by any one that conveyed an impression worth a rotten nut? Every one who goes to see Arateatea must manufacture his own sensations on the spot. Sheer fright will certainly be one of them; not at anything the innocent rapids are doing to the beholder, but at the bare notion of what they might do, one foot nearer - one step lower down - one -- Let me have a couple of trees to hold on to, please. Thank you, that is better.
Many years ago, a party of twenty Maoris had a narrow escape from the cruel embraces of snow-white Arateatea. They were canoeing on the upper river; and, partly because the trout in the Waikato are the biggest trout in the world, partly because some of the rowers had had too much fun at a "tangi," or wailing party, the night before, and were not very clear-headed, they forgot to think of the current until it had them fairly in its clutch, whirling them along only a mile or two above the terrible rapids. They could not reach the shore, and they dared not swim. One would have supposed that nothing could save them from being beaten to pieces against the cruel rocks in the rapids - yet they escaped that fate. They went over the Huka Falls, which come a mile or two above the rapids (the Maoris had forgotten all about that) and were decently drowned instead.
I am sorry that the above is not a better story; but the fact is, that tourists are not very plentiful about Wairakei, and the natives have not yet learned to invest the proper tourist tale. That is about the best they can do as yet. It will hardly be credited, but there is not even a Lover's Leap in the whole valley; not a story of an obstinate father who got opportunity boiled in a geyser, while his daughter eloped down a scalding river in a motor-boat worked by the steam from the surface - nor a tale of a flying criminal pursued by executioners, who leaped from side to side of a gorge some thirty feet across and got away. This is certainly remiss of the authorities; but I have no doubt the government Tourist Department would take the matter up, and supply the necessary fiction, if suitably approached. In the meantime travellers must be satisfied with the rather bald and uninteresting tale of a Maori maiden named Karapiti, who jumped into the steam blow-hole bearing her name, because her fiance did not meet her there on Sunday afternoon as arranged to take her to afternoon tea at the Wairakei Hotel. At least that is one version of the tale, and it is quite enough for the Smith family from London, and other representative tourists.
"You should have given yourself more time." - "Whatever you are going to do later on, this place really requires at least a week.: "You cannot possibly miss so-and-so, or this and that!" Such are the reproaches that haunt the hasty traveller through the Hot-Water Country - reproaches fully deserved in nearly every case, for very few tourists who journey to New Zealand realise the amount of time that should be spent in seeing the miracles of the volcanic zone, if nothing really good is to be omitted. It results in an unsatisfactory compromise as a rule - some "sights" being seen; many passed over. There is always something fascinating just ahead, calling the traveller on, and something wonderful close at hand, which demands the sacrifice of yet another day, before moving. Such a superfluity of beautiful and wonderful sights can assuredly be found nowhere else on earth. Iceland is far inferior; the famous Yellowstone Park of America has only a stepmother's helping of what might be New Zealand's "left-overs," The lovely, lamented ink and White Terraces are by many supposed to have been the only great thermal wonder of the country. This is so far from being the truth that only a good-sized volume could fairly state the other side of the question. I have never met any traveller through the thermal districts who had succeeded in seeing everything of interest. All whom I saw were as hard at work as the very coach-horses themselves - walking, driving, climbing, scrambling each hour of every day, and often thoroughly overdoing themselves, in the ;lucky attempt to carry away as much as possible from this over-richly spread banquet of Nature's wonders.
I squeezed out an afternoon for Karapati (the "Devil's Trumpet") and the Valley of the Coloured Lakes. By this time I was a little jaded with sight-seeing, disposed to talk to a hold-cheap tone of anything that was not absolutely amazing, and to taste all these weirdly impressive marvels with a very discriminating palate Karapati, however, is cayenne to any jaded taste. It is known as the "Safety-Valve of New Zealand," and the term is peculiarly sitting. The whole of the Hot-Water Country is only one plank removed from the infernal regions; it almost floats upon the scalding brow of molten rock, liquid mineral, and vaporised water, that composes the earth interior immediately below. That it is perfectly safe to live in (a constant wonder to outsiders) is very largely due to just those steam blow-holes and geysers which excite the fears of the nervous-minded --and the colossal dragon throat of Karapati is the most important safety-valve of all.
Walking up the hill to the blow-hole, many hundred yards off, one hears its loud unvarying roar like the steam-thunder that comes from an ocean liner's huge funnel, when the ship is ready to cast loose from shore. The ground as one gets nearer is jutted and uneven, and perceptibly warm in certain spots. Rounding a corner, one comes suddenly upon the Devil's Trumpet, a funnel-shaped opening, ten feet across at the lip, in the bottom of a cup-shaped hollow. A fierce jet of steam rushes out from the Trumpet, thick and white as a great marble column, and roaring horribly as it comes forth. The pressure is no less than 180 lb. To one square inch, and the rush of this gigantic waste-pipe never slackens or ceases, night or day; nor has it done so within the memory of man. "If it did, I'd look for another situation pretty sharp, for it wouldn't be 'ealthy to stay around Wairakei no more," observes one guide, who is showing off the monster to us by throwing a kerosene can into the jet, and catching it as it is violently flung back to him, many yards away. "I can throw a penny the same," he says, and does so, getting back the coin promptly, a good deal hotter than it went in. one of the ladies of our party is nearly reduced to tears by the sinister aspect, the menacing horror of the spot. She begs to be taken away, because she knows she will dream about it. She does dream about it; I know that, because I do myself, that night; and the dreams are not nice. Still, I would face them again for another look at roaring Karapiti. It is a wonder of wonders, a horror of horrors, unlike anything else in the world. On the whole, I am glad of that last fact. Too much Karapiti would certainly get on one's nerves.
There have never been any accidents to travellers here. No one could fall down the hole, because the funnel narrows rapidly, and is only about two feet across in the inner part. All the same, one cannot safely approach very near, for there is an in-rush as well as an out-rush, and if any one did fall victim to it, and stumble into the funnel, the highly condemned steam would strip the flesh from his bones as quickly as a cherry is shelled off its stone. The Valley of the Coloured Lakes came next. I wonder what the inhabitants of Brighton or Bath would do-- how they would advertise, how they would cry for visitors --if they had a valley at their very gates which contained a scalding hot river, tumbling over pink and cream-coloured cascades of china-like silica, in clouds of steamy spray - a great round pond, set deep in richest forest, and coloured vivid orange, with red rocks round the bottom; another, crude Reckitt's blue; another, staring verdigris green; another, raspberry pink; others still, yellow as custard and white as starch! All these ponds are hot; they are coloured by the various minerals they hold in solution, but they have not yet been chemically analysed, so it is only possible to speculate as to the exact cause of the colours. Seen from a height above, the ponds resemble nothing so much as a member of paint-pots; and that, indeed, is one of the names by which the valley is generally known.
Leaving behind me, unlooked at, still more than I had seen. I took coach again next morning for Rotorua. It was an early and a chilly start, for we had over thirty miles to do before lunch. The light, springy coach, with its leather-curtain sides, was filled with a cheerful party, all young, all enjoying themselves heartily, and all full of the genial good spirits that come of much open air and a holiday frame of mind. New New Zealand at its best was represented there, much as Old New Zealand was represented by the silent bearded men, with the lonely-looking eyes, who travelled in the Pipiriki and Waioru stages of the journey. How fast the spanking team swings in along the road! How lovely the changing panorama of the encircling hills, how velvet-brown with rich green dells and valleys, now far-off pansy-purple, now palest grey, seamed with crimson streaks of hematite! The air is very clear to-day, with that strange New Zealand clearness that changes every distance to sea-blue crystal, and pencils every shadow sharp and square.
We have left the royal gold broom behind us; but the beautiful manuka scrub of the valleys is in full blossom, exquisitely tipped and touched with white lace-like blossoms. It is almost as if a heavy hoar-frost had misted over every delicate green bough with finext touches of silver. Arum lilies bloom in the ditches; the Maori flax, like tall iris leaves, wonders wildly over hill and valley; great fields of Pampoas grass wave their creamy plumes over the shot green satin of thick-growing leaves. What horses, as the coach goes by, look warily out from behind some woody knoll, or canter away across the plains with their long-legged foals. Some of them are fine creatures, too, worth catching and breathtaking and many are taken there from time to time. What a happy land, where a man can go out and pick a fine horse in a mountain meadow, much as you pick a daisy at home!
Lunch-time befalls at another of the inevitable Wais - Waiotapu, this time - and before the coach starts on the last stretch of eighteen miles to Rotorua, I go across the road to see the only one of Waiotapu's sights for which I have time - the Champagne Pool and Alum Cliffs. These are to be found on a most extraordinary milk-coloured plain, which looks exactly as if a careless giant had been mixing colours and trying brushes on it, and left everything lying about. The rocks and heights, the deep dells with boiling pools and grumbling geysers at the bottom, the narrow pathways leading here and there, are spotted and streaked with carmine, rose madder, scarlet, primrose, bright yellow, and amber. The "Cliffs" are a succession of rocky heights composed of something very like cream fondant, which is mostly alum. At their feet opens out a fascinating succession of bays and inlets full of variously coloured water, at which I can only glance as I pass. There are to mustard-coloured pools, and one pale green, among them. Close at hand the overflow from the Champagne Pool rushes, steaming fiercely, over a fall of rocks which appear to have been very newly and sticky painted in palest primrose colour. Alum, sulphur, and hematite are responsible, I am told, for most of these strange hues. Sulphur and arsenic have coloured the Champagne Pool itself - a great green lake, almost boiling, and of a most amazing colour-something between the green of a peridot and that of Chartreuse. It has never been bottomed; the hue ran out at 900 feet when tried. The edge of all the lake is most delicately wrought into a coralline border of ornamental knobs and branches, canary yellow in colour. Its name is derived from the curious effect produced to the depths of the pond by a handful of sand. The water begins to cream and froth at once, like champagne or lemonade, and continues to do so to places for at least half an hour.
And now we hurry back to the coach once more, and on to Rotorua, wonder of wonders, and thermal temple of every healing water known to the medical world.
An extract from IN THE STRANGE SOUTH SEAS by BEATRICE GRIMSHAW, published in London by Hutchinson & Co., 1908.
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