A fine walk over the hills

‘‘The harbor was not so crowded with vessels as it used to be, but yet there were some very fine...
‘‘The harbor was not so crowded with vessels as it used to be, but yet there were some very fine craft at anchor here and there.’’ Untitled (Port Chalmers) 1865? , by Nicholas Chevalier. IMAGE: TE PAPA (1912-0044-9)
In the mid-1860s the Otago Daily Times published a lively series of articles titled "Rambles Round Dunedin". The correspondent, writing under the pseudonym "Pakeha", braved bush, bogs and vicious stinging nettles to provide a remarkably prescient picture of the Dunedin district and its rapid development in the boom years of the gold rush. These stories are reproduced with the original variations of now accepted spellings. 
 

Port Chalmers — Lower Harbor Murdering Beach.

Here we are again! Just returned from a long ramble in the above direction. On this occasion we have employed three different means of locomotion — the paddle steamer, the row boat, and our ordinary mode of getting over the ground — shanks’s nags.

By the first we proceeded to Port Chalmers, the steamer going down the Long Channel, calling at Macandrew’s Bay, for the purpose of filling her tanks with fresh water, the jetty there being fitted with large wooden cisterns for the purpose, supplied from a creek on shore.

A wide canvas hose is put on board the steamer, a sluice is opened, and a few minutes suffices to run in a sufficient supply.

After arriving at Port Chalmers we spent a short time admiring the very considerable improvements which have been made on the streets and roads.

Any one who remembers what the Port was a couple of years ago, and who has not seen it in the interim, would hardly recognise it in the spacious streets and most comfortable trottoirs which intersect it in every direction.

‘‘The track is very steep, rising over 700 feet in considerably less than a mile, the top being...
‘‘The track is very steep, rising over 700 feet in considerably less than a mile, the top being flat for some distance and then falling away rapidly to the north and west.’’Coast at the entrance of Dunedin Bay, 10 August 1866, by Nicholas Chevalier. IMAGE: TE PAPA (1912-0044-76)
It is only when he returns to the water side, and finds the old jetty yet in its original inconvenient narrowness, that he discovers he is still in the land of the Old Identity.

After making a few calls in Port, we proceeded to the Jetty, and speedily engaged a boat to take us down the Lower Harbor. The first part of our sail was very pleasant — the weather (though dull), the scenery, the tide, all being in our favor.

The harbor was not so crowded with vessels as it used to be, but yet there were some very fine craft at anchor here and there.

Among others, the fine new steamer Egmont, belonging to the Panama Company; the ships Caribou, Queen of India, and others, all fine craft; the latest arrival, the Peter Denny, from Glasgow, came in for a large share of our attention as we passed, her bulwarks being crowded with immigrants.

While passing the shipping, the wind suddenly freshened considerably, and blew dead against us, causing us to expend more power than we expected.

In addition, it came on to rain heavily, which rendered our discomfort complete; but we had gone too far to turn back, so pulling manfully away we soon reached our place of debarkation — the jetty in Dowling Bay.

From this point, our way lay over the low hill which divides this bay from Tayler’s Bay, then along the flat bottom, just left dry by the retreating tide, over another neck of rock, a sandy flat, and then we entered the bush which covers all the hills in this district, down close to tide mark.

A track leads over the hill from among the sand hills, but the hour or so’s rain had made it in the very worst possible state for comfortable travelling.

Although the rain ceased very soon after we entered the bush, yet the slightest shake of a branch brought a heavy fall of drops down on our devoted shoulders.

‘‘After arriving at Port Chalmers we spent a short time admiring the very considerable...
‘‘After arriving at Port Chalmers we spent a short time admiring the very considerable improvements which have been made on the streets and roads.’’ IMAGE: OTAGO WITNESS
The track, too, got from bad to worse, till it was little better than a mere quagmire, interspersed with such trifling obstructions as a fallen tree here and there, roots, stones, etc, together with a plentiful sprinkling of that native peculiarity — the sting nettle, the slightest touch of whose hairy leaves produces a blister which will trouble for two or three days after.

A few fine totaras, rimus, matais, etc, are to be found in the bush on this side of the hill; but in general the trees are of little value, hardly better than scrub.

The track is very steep, rising over 700 feet in considerably less than a mile, the top being flat for some distance and then falling away rapidly to the north and west.

The trees are so very thick that little or no view can be had; it being rarely that we could see across the harbor to Otago or Portobello.

Once on the hill-top, we made good use of our time, and rapidly sped over the rough ground to the other side, down which we slid and rattled at a great rate, so that it was not long till the sea on the outer beach, and then the clearings surrounding the house of our friends, met our view.

Here we found a hearty welcome — a great blazing fire, and dinner nearly ready.

Our wet habiliments were soon dried, and our inner man satisfied; then our business was got over, and we sallied out for a ramble along the beach and over the sandbanks, to try if we could not pick up a Maori curio or two.

In this, however, we were not very successful — a few flint flakes, teeth, chips of greenstone, and some shells, being all that rewarded our search.

It was too far gone in the day — work of this sort requiring bright sunshine. As there was a keen, cold wind blowing, we were glad to beat a retreat and take up our quarters again at the fireside.

During the evening, the wind increased till it blew a gale from N.E., raising a heavy sea, and causing us considerable trepidation lest the boat should not be able to come down the harbor to pick us up on our return to Port on our way home.

However, when the morning broke, our fears were allayed, as the wind had lulled and the sun shone brightly, giving token of a beautiful day.

After paying another visit to the beach, etc, we returned to breakfast; and, after a short tour round the neighborhood, prepared to recross the hill to the harbor.

The bush here is remarkably gay just at this season, most of the trees putting forth their new buds — the goai, particularly, being covered with blossom.

One feature must not be forgotten, and that was the great number of tuis which were flying all about.

We had never seen them so numerous before, and they looked beautiful in the bright morning sun, darting hither and thither, up, down, and across, just like the swallows at home, and apparently occupied like them in fly-catching.

We were told they were very thin, and not worth shooting.

Paroquets and other birds were also plentiful.

We found the track over the hill considerably improved by the drying wind of the past night, and our walk was rendered all the more agreeable.

We soon left the beach out of sight, and not long after even the roar of the surf became inaudible.

On reaching the summit we took a few minutes to look at some trees, which were completely covered by a fine green moss, hanging from every twig in long strings, as if they were bearded.

Many other beautiful mosses and ferns covered the trunks of the trees and bushes in this part of the hill.

We soon found our way down the southern side of the hill to the sandbanks of the harbor.

Then along the beach and track as before to Dowling Bay; and we had no sooner got clear of the bush than we saw our boat coming across, there not being two minutes difference between us.

We got on board at once, and setting sail stood out into the channel and up towards Port with a fine fair wind.

We made but short stay in Port, but started off for town at once; there being no conveyance, we had to walk, but found that no obstacle to our thoroughly enjoying the fine scenery which opens to view at every turn of the road.

In five minutes less than an hour of fine easy, though warm walking, we found ourselves at the Junction.

After refreshing, we soon rattled off the remaining distance to town, arriving early in the afternoon, very much pleased with our tour.

— Pakeha. Sept. 4, 1865. 

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