THE NEW OVERLAND ROUTE, OR HOW TO GET TO NEW ZEALAND [Part 1]
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THE NEW OVERLAND ROUTE, OR HOW TO GET TO NEW ZEALAND.
NOW that the tide of emigration and travel has fairly set towards New Zealand, and she has entered upon a career of prosperity even greater than her best friends could have expected, it may be worth while to give people some idea of how the journey is to be made from England to the Antipodes. There are, at present, four distinct routes, all of which have excellences of their own to offer in different respects. The first and cheapest is to start by sailing-vessel direct from Glasgow, Liverpool, or London, the voyage by which takes about one hundred days. If you have a quantity of luggage, and if you are transporting to the new home all your Lares and Penates, such as furniture, stock-in-trade of farming implements or machinery, there is little doubt you would choose this route, as there is no transhipment to be undergone; and what you lose in time you gain in economy, for a first-class cabin passage only costs about £60; and assisted passages, which are now being granted by the Colonial Government at their London Agency, can be obtained for a sum varying between £8 and £2 for married people and single men, whilst unmarried women between 14 and 35 years of age are taken gratis. It is even said that a premium will soon be offered to heads of families, taking out two or three suitable girls to the Colony under their charge. There is an extraordinary demand at present for this class of labour--female domestic servants; a ship load of forty Norwegian girls, who landed at Napier lately, and none of whom could speak English with any
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facility, were all engaged the first day they went on shore; and in Auckland, when an emigrant ship is signalled, you will see in the office a list of perhaps two hundred names of people wanting servants; they have to wait their turn, and take whoever they can get when the ship arrives. Even then many are disappointed, and have to wait for another lot. The country is quite a Paradise for labour; for not only are wages high and hours short, but in social position servants gain so much, as they have a change of bettering themselves indefinitely here. And then a little experience in service goes such a long way; "it is easy to be a whale among minnows," and we have often to put up with pretentious ignorance, and teach our minnows what little they do know before they become "whales."
Another very favourite route for invalids, or men with large families, is to travel by the Great Britain from Liverpool, or one of Money Wigram's steamers from London, transhipping once only at Melbourne, from whence there is good communication every week with all parts of New Zealand. This voyage takes about sixty days to Melbourne, and eight days to Dunedin or Auckland. It has the recommendation of good English food all the way, and little trouble.
The third and most luxurious route perhaps, is to take the Peninsular and Oriental boat from Southampton, Venice, or Brindisi; the accommodation on board in the way of baths, berths, food, wine, piano, smoking-room, &c., is proverbially excellent, and the journey fairly interesting, if one has never seen Egypt, or Point of Galle before; but there is one great drawback to it in the passage of the Red Sea, which is at all times unpleasant, and frequently almost intolerable.
Last of all comes the New Overland Route by steamer, from Liverpool to New York, across America by rail to
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San Francisco, and thence by steamer touching at the Sandwich and Navigator Islands to Auckland. In point of time (if the steamers on the Pacific were at all up to the mark) this would be incomparably the shortest way, and ought not to occupy more than six weeks; but, as a matter of fact, the journey is rarely accomplished under two months; and though there is much to see en route, the discomfort and positive danger of the American mailboats, and the constant delays in winter from snow-drifts when crossing the Continent, are gradually driving people away from what should be the high-road to the Southern hemisphere under more favourable circumstances. In any case it is better to return from than to go to New Zealand this way; as in coming home you are sure to find a steamer waiting for you any day of the week at New York, to put you "over the ferry," and can thus please yourself how long you remain at each place on the line of rail, without being tied to a day or two; whereas, going to New Zealand, you must be at San Francisco on a certain date to catch the mailboat, which only leaves once a month. I have tried it myself in both directions, and in giving a short account of it, prefer to describe my journey from Auckland homewards, so that I may have a double experience to guide me in recording my impressions. When I went out to New Zealand in 1871, there were two rival lines of steamers on the Pacific; the one ran from San Francisco to Sydney, via Honolulu and the Fijis; the other direct to Auckland, via Honolulu and the Navigators. The boats of the first were rather small but clean, and the table was liberally supplied with English cookery, viz., joints, puddings, and fruits. An American of the name of Hall had chartered the steamers Wonga-Wonga and City of Melbourne, from the Australian Steam Navigation Company; but there was not room for opposition, and he had to succumb to
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the superior capital and pretensions of his countryman Mr.Webb, to whom our extravagant little Colony, under Mr.Vogel's auspices, has been paying an annual subsidy of £60,000 for an ill-performed and uncertain four-weekly service. The steamers to which the safety (?) of Her Majesty's subjects and mails were recently entrusted, are three in number, the Nevada, Nebraska, and Dacota; great big wooden paddle-boats of 3,000 tons, with massive beam-engines, and enormous hulls. It has always been a moot point, what would become of them if their machinery broke down, as they do not carry sufficient sail to make steerage-way in case of any such accident; but passengers were always assured that there was no instance on record of bad weather or hard work affecting their powers of going; so on they went, in a reckless kind of way, till now we read in a recent number of the Times:--"On the arrival of the Nevada, in Auckland, on December 16th, a unanimous protest was signed by her passengers, against the state of the vessel; they were never twenty-four hours without one of the boilers giving out; for a considerable time the engines were altogether stopped, and the steamer lay for hours in the trough of a heavy sea, all hands, passengers and crew, working at the pumps by relays," &c., &c.
So much for the general history of the line; my personal reminiscences are nearly as unpleasant in many respects. For various reasons, my brother and I had kept deferring the day of our departure from month to month, until at last we had almost decided to leave Auckland by the Nebraska, in August, 1872. Shortly after she had left the harbour, in June, however, a sinister rumour began to spread abroad that she had brought small-pox down with her on the last trip from the United States, and that two of the seamen on board were infected when the vessel left Auckland again. Credence was attached to this report
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from the fact that a man named Thompson, who had been landed there sick, died shortly afterwards in hospital. There was a small panic in the island; New South Wales and Victoria quarantined our vessels; an enterprising doctor paraded a calf before his door in Parnell, whilst hundreds rushed to be vaccinated; and one read an advertisement in the papers about "a fresh heifer ready by the end of the month;" whilst opinions were freely expressed that the scourge would more than decimate the population if it were allowed to spread; and as for Maories, there would be no more need for volunteers or armed constabulary to protect us against the infinitesimal remnant of natives which would survive the infection. However, not more than four white people died; and the Thames chiefs prudently issued orders forbidding their people to come into town till the panic subsided. To our surprise we found that the natives were as fully alive to the merits of vaccination as ourselves, and had for some time had their own practitioners in the art. But nevertheless, we made up our minds that the Nebraska would not come back, and so we hurried our preparations to go by the Nevada in July. When she arrived, to our dismay we found her boilers sadly out of order, and the shaft on the port side suspiciously cracked in three places. "Small-pox or shipwreck," utrum horum mavis, accipe! We were on the horns of a dilemma, but decided to risk the latter evil, as Nancarrow, the Government inspector, said that she would be safe enough at half-speed, and with only eleven pounds' pressure of steam; but he urged that she should be laid up at the end of her voyage for repairs. She had then run over fifty thousand miles in sixteen months, without an overhaul; whereas (to show the difference) the Cunard and other first-rate boats are carefully examined each time they come into the dock at Liverpool. This was in July, 1872,
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and the Nevada has been running ever since, under protest from the captain, until her last mishap, as above, in December of the same year. Many of our fellow-passengers backed out at the last moment from fear of accident, but we came through safely enough after all. But I should be sorry to speak no good word for the line; although the stewards are extremely dirty and rather uppish, although the discipline is lax, and the officers do not look so neat as are those on Red Sea boats, with their spruce uniforms and (on occasions) white kid gloves, still there is a magnificent promenade along the whole length of the hurricane deck, from bow to stern, and the three tiers of cabins are wonderfully well ventilated, with the exception of an occasional whiff from the cattle, sheep, and poultry forward, which might be the case on any boat, where the meat is not stored in an ice-house. The cookery is questionable; there is an attempt at reform from the profusion of little dishes to which one is accustomed in an American hotel; but they have fallen between two Stools in the effort, and there is a smack of both nationalities, with the distinctive merits of neither. Up to the end of the solids all goes smoothly; then pudding, cheese, dessert, and coffee are huddled on together to save time, and to prevent the meat growing cold for the stewards, who dine at the same table immediately after the saloon passengers have finished. The Englishman's love for a matutinal tumby is beginning to be understood, though at first the captain of the Nebraska could not understand "the Britishers wanting more water in the bath-room than would wet their sponges." Beyond and above all this there is a barber's shop on board, which is not yet folly appreciated by us as it should be; all good Americans go to be shaven every morning, and seldom perform the office for themselves. To those who have never experienced the skill of negro barbers, hair-
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dressing is robbed of half its pleasures; for all through the United States there are three occupations or professions almost monopolised by our black brethren, viz., barbering, waiting at table, and whitewashing houses.
In about three days' steaming from Auckland, one is out of the region of variable winds and into the tropics, where for the rest of the voyage a deliciously cool trade-wind blows steadily from the east, and prevents the heat from ever becoming oppressive. The "social hall," at the head of the cabin stairs, is a good sized comfortable room for reading in; piano there was none, but we soon found a couple of concertinas on board, and inaugurated "The Amateur Musical and Dramatic Club," with a dozen performing members. I contributed a collection of Orpheus Glees, Musical Times, and Mendelssohn's Open-air Quartettes, which our choir rendered very effectively. My brother performed on the Picco-pipe, and gave a few humorous recitations from Hans Breitman's famous ballads; and an old gentleman, called Donaldson, gave us some of the best comic songs I ever heard, one being "Kate McClusky, or the Gooseless Gander," the other an entirely new version of "Old King Cole," one verse of which might have been written to describe King Thakombau of the Fiji Islands, so accurate is the likeness. It was as follows:
"His sign for Rex was a single X,
And his drink was ditto double;
So to read and to write were useless quite,
And it saved him a vast deal of trouble."
The German consul from Hobarton, Tasmania, was our conductor, and to him we owed most of our success.
On the eighth day, at dusk, we sighted Upola, one of the Samoan or Navigator Group, and about nine o'clock p.m. we stopped off Pango-pango (the finest harbour in
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the South Pacific), until the canoes came out with a chance passenger or two, and a welcome supply of bananas, cocoa-nuts, and other fruits. I had heard that cakes of scented soap were much prized by these savages, and accordingly I had laid in a stock to barter for curios. I exchanged some with a gigantic chief who came on board, for a handful of the lovely green opercula shells, which make very neat sleeve-links or solitaires; but, to my horror and amusement, he raised it to his mouth, and, exclaiming interrogatively "kai-kai?" (food?) was going to make a bite at it, if I had not stopped him and explained its uses.
These Samoans are the most lovely race of savages with whom it has been my fortune to meet; they have not the flat noses, thick lips, and frizzled hair of the negro type, but have distinctly European features, and a very pleasing expression. The colour of their skin is a rich golden; their whole costume is limited to a light fringe of grass round the waist, and the women confine themselves in the way of tattooing to a couple of thin blue lines across the lips. The men are of great physical strength and enormous stature; they have a queer disdain for us whites, and say that while we employ brute force, e.g. Armstrong guns, etc., like a bull, they have the reason and intellect of the child who runs away from the bull.
They live a happy graceless life; the earth unasked produces her treasures in abundance; they have no need to dig when all is ready to their hand. They bask in the sunshine, or bathe in the cool waters of some retired cove, and cannot understand why we should come to thrust our business worries upon them, to buy their land and grow cotton and sugar, and disfigure the romantic picturesqueness of their islands with convenient but intrusive roads; and, above all, why we should send missionaries, who can't agree among themselves, and who attempt to
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introduce all-concealing garments, of which the want was before unknown. It isn't half as pretty a dress as the garlands of fresh flowers with which they love to adorn themselves in their artless and primitive simplicity. They are not moral, according to our ideas--far from it, but they have a strong sense of the aesthetic, and chastity does not rank as a virtue among them, where the reverse is no sin. They are very clever at hammering out shillings into rude silver rings between a couple of stones, and they also bring for sale little tortoise-shell ornaments, inlaid with silver. Their coiffure might have come from Paris or London, for when I was there bright red hair was in vogue with both sexes. They plaster their heads over with lime for a few days, which destroys the original colour of the hair, and produces a loud saffron tinge. When a man becomes engaged, the fair fiancee often clips her flowing locks, and brings them to her Adonis, who plaits them in elaborately with his own, producing a most elaborate head-dress. The disgusting way in which they prepare kava, an intoxicating drink, by chewing, has often been described, and I do not care to repeat it.
Strangely enough, the Samoans are just one day behind all the rest of the world. Their Sunday should be the same day as in New Zealand and Australia, but, as their missionaries came from the East to them, and forgot to miss out a day in their reckoning, they have perpetuated the mistake. It was Monday on board the Nevada when we touched at Pango-pango, but with them it was still the Sabbath, and in consequence we were unable to "trade" to any large extent. In this respect, the missionaries have certainly produced the most stringent observance of their teaching, however much they may fail in checking immorality. I was the more struck with it, because a ship doesn't call here every day, and they must have felt
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sorely tempted to make the most of our visit by a little contraband dealing.
We heard a good deal about life in these islands from a lady who came on board here for San Francisco. She had been living in Apia, the largest of the group, for some time, and told us there were about fifty white settlers in all, British, German, and American. Her husband, an energetic Scotchman, who came to see her off, had taken up an immense block of land here for sugar and cotton, and his partner has lately been in England to try and form a Steamship Company for working the island trade, by taking Tahiti as a centre, and running boats thence to Sydney, Auckland, the Navigator and Sandwich Islands, and San Francisco. It seemed strange and somewhat incongruous, to see a highly-refined and well-dressed Englishwoman like Mrs.C-- step out of a canoe full of naked savages, and to hear her experiences of "roughing it." It shows what ladies can put up with in these out-of-the-way places, and what a curiously abnormal life some of our fellow countrymen lead out of England. Mrs.C-- was born in Tahiti, had been living in Sydney, Melbourne, had often visited New Zealand, and now after a few years in the Navigators, was going to California to see her daughter and nieces educated. I kept wondering to myself, how one that had never seen England could be so thoroughly English, and, in that lonely spot still preserve the fascination of manner which made her so universal a favourite on board our steamer. For the last eight years with one short interval, a sanguinary war has been going on in these islands between the young king and an usurping uncle. The natives have run very short of ammunition now, and were firing old bottles and all kinds of rubbish from their guns, with as much danger to themselves as their adversaries. Like the Maories, they never
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spare a wounded man; nay, worse, if your friends see you lying on the ground crippled, they decapitate you themselves, to save your relations and you the indignity of having your head exhibited to the women in the enemy's camp. The heads, however, when taken as trophies are only kept for a time, and then "returned with care" to their belongings to be buried with the body. Both sides seem to respect the white people, possibly from the fact of there being several men-of-war in harbour to protect their respective nationalities. When a European wishes to pass between the conflicting parties, he simply puts up his umbrella, which is the signal for "cease firing," while be walks over the neutral grounds in the middle of the two fortifications. We had two other passengers on board who contributed to our information on the subject. One a Frenchman, who was going to the States to raise capital, either for guano-islands or pearl-fisheries, I forget which. By the bye, the latter is just now the fashionable pursuit for our Colonial young ideas. "Fit up a small vessel with stores and defensive weapons, go off to North Australia to fish for pearls, and make your fortune in a couple of years." There is a smack of adventure, and at first sight an absence of steady grind, which makes the scheme sound attractive. The other gentleman, who knew Samoa, was our friend D--, a dry old Scotchman, the same who sang "Old King Cole" at our concert. He was quite a character, and to my mind spent a very happy life. He is an indefatigable naturalist, and had been wandering all over the Pacific Ocean, collecting new fishes, and birds, and insects, native weapons and implements, in fact, every kind of curiosity he could pick up. He told me that he has an estate in Southern Indiana, U.S.A., of miraculous beauty, on which there are seven or eight subterranean caves, equal if not superior to the celebrated Mammoth
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Cave in Kentucky. He seemed to know all I could tell him, from my personal experience or hearsay, about the Kentucky Caves, the Caves at Deloraine in Tasmania, the Caves on the Blue Mountains of New South Wales, the Alabaster Cave at Folsom in California, or the Amber Caves near Rio Janeiro. So I caved in and let him do the talking. In the summer, he frequently has picnic parties of one hundred young ladies from Indianapolis and Cincinnati, to visit the wonders of his house and its vicinity. He has made the most beautiful pictures and designs of flowers, from the brightest feathers of birds, which he collected in different parts of the world. But his highest pride is in the fact, that he was the first man to tame humming birds; he prepares some honey and water for his pets, when he has a visitor, and places the liquid in a diminutives hell, giving it you to hold; and upon his whistling, two or three little "jets of liquid fire," (the ruby-breasted humming bird) dart down from the trees and sip from the shell in your hands. His only condition is that you must never touch or stroke the tiny things; it seems that noli me tangere is their motto, for they regard it as an unpardonable insult, and never return again if the rule be transgressed. Among other curiosities, he has the two-handled and two-edged sword, formerly used by the headsman of Saxony, which he bought after the last execution of that kind took place there. In his photograph-album there was an excellent cabinet likeness of Cakobau Rex of the Fijis, with the king's own mark X attached. This worthy monarch, when chatting to Mr.D--, among other reminiscences of his boyhood, told him that he distinctly remembered being taken out by his father for a walk before breakfast to select a meal; and that whenever he saw a particularly appetizing slave, his father gave the man orders to lie down on the ground, while the little lad
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Thakombau battered his brains out with a toy-club. He has now taken to better practices; has acquired a gentlemanly taste for old Hollands, and formed a responsible government at Levuka of "mean whites," which is ignored by all the better class of settlers in his kingdom.
To return to the voyage proper. Shortly after leaving Pango-pango and the Samoan group, the Nevada began to exhibit refractory symptoms. Instead of running on an even keel, she became lop-sided and threw all the work on the port paddle-wheel, the shaft of which was known to be suspiciously cracked when we left Auckland. This was a mystery to us, especially as it made the pump in our bathroom on the starboard side incapable of use. But at last we discovered there was only too much reason for the step; it was a choice of two evils, for, although the shaft on one side was cracked, on the other side one-third of the crank had worn clean away; and it was a question whether at any moment we might not break down, and drift helplessly about, till at last possibly we should starve, or else be cast upon the New Hebrides or some unfriendly shore, to be knocked on the head by some cannibal like Thakombau, and eaten without even being properly cooked. I often started up from my sleep with the idea that the engines had stopped, and the bad times come; and one or two of us used to speculate as to whom we would eat first, if it came to a push. Our decision was babies first, and then the stoutest men, before they began to fall off and lose weight, which would cause waste. It really would be highly unpleasant for a vessel to break down in the Pacific; it is at present a vast deserted unknown ocean, considering its size; and except the sister-boat Nebraska, we had not sighted a sail the whole way. All our fears proved groundless, however, and we steamed into Honolulu safely enough in nineteen days from Auckland. The Sandwich Islands