The wonderful journey of Thomas Bevan in 1845

Sometimes when the road’s choked it can take 2 or 3 hours to drive between Waikawa Beach and Wellington, and we feel entitled to complain. With any luck, all the expressways will eventually shorten a standard trip to maybe less than an hour.

But next time you’re stuck grinding along at 5 Kph you might like to think of the trip Thomas Bevan Senior took as a child, back in 1845. [These are merely very small extracts from the full text. It’s still a long read, so settle in. I also recommend you actually read the whole text — there’s a huge amount of very interesting detail in the orginal story that has been omitted here.]

Thanks to Lesley-Anne Walker for suggesting this story.

Reminiscences of an old colonist 1908

My Arrival In New Zealand – How Four Pakeha Children Travelled From Port Nicholson To Waikawa In 1845.

[A false start]

My father … made arrangements for us to come to him [from Wellington to Waikawa Beach] … It was in May, 1845, that the captain of the schooner called at our house to take us four children on board. We were put below in a small cabin, the air in which soon became stifling. We sailed about 9 o’clock in the evening, and very soon after our departure the wind rose to a hurricane.

We were roused by the storm and the shouting of the men, who closed down the cabin hatch. We children had a terrible time below during the gale. We could hear the great seas sweeping the deck, so that it was wonderful that the crew were not swept overboard. We heard the hurrying feet above, shouts, of desperation and horrible curses. Nearly suffocated, knocked about by the plunging of the little craft, which, rearing high on a great billow, would plunge as if descending to the depths the next moment, the thoughts of our discomfort were lost in our sense of imminent peril. The skipper put back, and by midnight we were once more safe in the harbour of Wellington; …

The following month [my father] despatched a guide … by the name of Ropina, later by Tamihana Whareakaka. After much persuasion we were induced to entrust ourselves to his care and guidance. At that time the only European settlement between Wellington and Otaki was the military barracks at the frontier post, a short distance from Paremata, in the Porirua district, where Plimmerton now stands. …

[Day One]

It was in June, 1845, that we four children, with our guide Ropina, started on our weary journey over the rough bush tracks from Wellington to Waikawa.

The first day we started to climb the long forest-clad range standing above Kaiwharawhara, overlooking Port Nicholson, and we had a great struggle to ascend the hill. My younger brother, being too weak to walk, had to be carried most of the way in a blanket, slung from the shoulders, by Ropina. We three children followed behind. When our guide was tired he would put the child down and let him walk a little way.

All that day we followed the steep and rough trail over the ranges, through dense underbrush and tangled supple-jacks, over prostrate logs, across swamps and streams, by rugged hill-sides, and through darkening woods …

Our first day’s journey brought us to Mr and Mrs Wall’s house at Takapau, called in those days “The Half-way House.” Those two kind settlers were very good to us, gave us food and shelter, and made up a bed for us in front of the fire-place.

[Day Two]

Next day we continued our journey along a track through dense bush to Kenepuru, Porirua, the place known in after years as “The Ferry”. It took us the whole day to travel this far.

[Day Three]

The next day Ropina got Mr Jackson’s men to ferry us across to Paremata, where the barracks of the soldiers were situated. … and we resumed our journey. Leaving Paremata and its lone frontierpost, we travelled along the beach to Taupo, the site of the present station of Plimmerton …

We continued our journey northward through the Pukerua Bush ranges, looking down, as we climbed, the long leading spur, upon the beautiful bay enclosed by forest-covered hills, its waters glistening in the rays of the sun. …

Throughout the day we toiled through the dense bush and clambered up the rocky ridges, until, towards evening, we emerged from the forest and entered on the old summit of Pukerua Hill. …

Arrived [at the pa], all the people vied with each other in anticipating our wants, and enough food was set before us to have satisfied a score of hungry men: There, in that lone hill pa, inhabited by fierce and savage people, we passed the night in safety, for the mana of Paora, the chief of the Ngatiwehiwehi, was over us.

When morning came, food was brought, and when we were satisfied, Ropina took us up into the watch-tower of the pa, from whence we could see, far below us, the white surf dashing on the rocky coast, and the bright sea flashing in the rays of the morning sun. Away to the north we saw the bold outline of Kapiti the sign left by the great ancestor Kupe in ancient times. For what says the old waiata ?

“Tu ke a Kapiti,

Tu ke Mama,

Tu ke Arapaora,

Ko nga, tohu ena o taku tupuna a Kupe.”

Which may thus be interpreted : ” Stand there Kapiti, Mana, and Arapaora, as signs of our ancestor Kupe.” Then Ropina directed our attention to the long sandy beach which stretched before us far away until it was lost to view in the shimmering haze hanging low down over distant Waikanae. The sunlight playing over the shining sands and rippling waves and virgin forests of that fair land made the scene very beautiful to look upon. Ropina told us that our father’s home lay three days’ journey beyond the furthest visible point. Our hearts sank at the prospect, and we said we should never be able to walk there, for the way was too long. Thus far had we come in two days’ journey from Wellington.

[Day Four]

Then we bade farewell to the hospitable people at the pa, and started once more on … our journey to Paekakariki. Clambering down by the rocky cliffs to the sea-beach, we wended our way slowly along the rough boulders and stony beach which lie beneath the great precipice of Te Paripari. It was very difficult travelling, and we made but little progress. …

We continued our journey till we came to Paekakariki. … After rest and refreshment here, we continued our journey, intending to reach Wainui, but night overtook us, and we were tired out. Our guide therefore collected a quantity of wood from the sea beach and made a fire, at which he roasted some potatoes. After our meal, we lay down by the fire and slept.

[Day Five]

In the morning when we awoke we found that our blankets were covered with frost. Starting afresh, we reached the Wainui pa after about an hour’s walk. A great number of Natives were living here at the time. They made us very welcome, and as the day was Sunday they would not allow us to travel further. They were very strict in their religious observances in those days—they would not even peel their potatoes on Sunday, all such work always being done on the previous day.

[Day Six]

We continued our journey next morning to Waikanae, the Native women coming part of the way along the sea beach to assist in carrying us over the streams, and having seen us safely atross they returned. …

In the morning Mr. Jenkins ferried us across the Waikanae river, and we continued our way … until we reached the Otaki river. Here, near the river mouth, was another large pa with many hundreds of Maori inhabitants, and here, as elsewhere, we were met with loud cries of welcome, and received with every kindness.

[Day Seven]

We slept in the pa, and next morning were ferried across the Otaki river by Mr. Harvey, who told us that we were about six miles only from our father’s place. … Thus we fared along the sandy beach until we reached the Waikawa, our destination. Our home was about half a mile from the pa of the Ngatiwehiwehi, which was close to the mouth of the Waikawa river. The Ngatiwehiwehi, then a powerful tribe who could put hundreds of fighting men in the field, are now represented by a very small remnant. Arriving at the pa a great cry of welcome arose from. the Natives, who assembled to meet us, and then we were led by our guide to our father. Never have I forgotten the joy and happiness of that meeting — what tales we had to tell of the wonderful journey, the care of Ropina, and the kindness of all the Natives.

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