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Last News of the Wakatipians--Mr Anthony Trollope's Opinion of the Wakatipu--Conclusion.
TWENTY years have gone by since I left the shores of the Wakatipu, and some of my quondam friends I have lost sight of, whilst of others I have occasionally heard.
Mr Rees now resides at Greymouth, on the west coast, he having a Government appointment there, and James Flint is an opulent farmer on the Shotover. George Simpson puts in his time by a judicious blending of rabbit hunting and sheep shearing and washing. Dooley is the leasee of a coal mine on the Kawarau, but whether it is worked on a large scale or not I cannot say, as I have not heard of him for some years. Andrew Low died many years ago at the Dunstan, and poor old Bob Fortune, shortly after the diggings broke out and spirits were being retailed in the district, was found dead under a tomatagorra bush near the old wool-shed, with an empty gin bottle in one hand and a shilling in the other. Little Billy Fortune was lying
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asleep beside him, utterly ignorant of what had befallen him. Where Billy disappeared to I never heard. Duncan MacAusland for years was host of an hotel at Balclutha, but he afterwards left the colony, and went, I think, to California. Simon Harvey was for some time sheep inspector, and the last that I heard of him was that he had married late in life, and settled down in Dunedin.
Mitchell, when the Waikato militia was disbanded, in which he had risen to the rank of Major, adopted literature as a profession, and became the editor of a newspaper; and Mr Von Tunzelmann, I believe, still occupies his old quarters on the west side of the Lake.
Of the old Wakatipians, Maori Jack alone remains to whom any reference need be made, and of him I have heard nothing since 1865, when I chanced to meet him in Queenstown. He had just arrived from the Shotover, where he had been successful in taking £400 worth of gold out of a claim in which he had a share. Hearing that I was on the eve of leaving for home, he entreated me to let him accompany me, as he had now the means of taking a trip, which had been the dream of his youth and the aspiration of his riper years. Jack and I had always been great friends, and I really think he would have
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done anything in his power to please me, but I could not see how to oblige him in this matter, as I was not going home direct, but was going to break my journey, for indefinite periods, in Australia and in Ceylon. I pointed this out to him, but his refrain to all my arguments was, "I be no trouble; all I want is you take me to a theatre, and introduce me to Queen Wicatoria." The first of his wishes I felt that I could easily have done, but to introduce him to Her Majesty was, I feared, beyond my ability. I persuaded him at last to give up the idea of taking a trip to the mother country, and to return to the Shotover, where I hoped to meet him again on my return. Wringing his big, powerful hand, I left him standing in the middle of Rees Street, the tears running down his handsome face, and I regret to say that I have neither seen nor heard of that good-hearted giant, Maori Jack, since that day.
The Wakatipu Lake district has of late years come to the front rank with regard to grandeur of scenery and salubrity of climate. It is now one of the regular beats for globe trotters and tourists. The deep blue waters of the Lake, over 1500 feet in depth, have been praised in verse by the poet; the author has extolled the grandeur of its scenery to the skies, and the painter has found such a variety
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of subjects for his brush around its shores, and so different from the usual landscape paintings with which artists' studios are decorated, that he can scarce tear himself away from them; and now hardly an illustrated paper exists which does not periodically contain pictures of some lovely bits of Wakatipian scenery. Several eminent writers have declared that the beauties of the Swiss Lakes, the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains, and the glacier-clothed peaks of the Himalaya mountains are as nothing when compared with the deep blue waters of the Wakatipu, the grandeur of the Remarkables, and the glacier-covered Earnslaw.
Even Mr Anthony Trollope, who was not easily impressed with the beauties of nature, writes thus of the Wakatipu Lake:--
"We found a steamer at Kingstown, ready to carry us 24 miles up the lake to Queenstown. But no sooner were we on board than the rain began to fall as it does only when the heavens are quite in earnest. And it was very very cold. We could feel that the scenery around us was fine, that the sides of the lake were precipitous, and the mountain tops sharp and grand, and the water blue; but it soon became impossible to see anything. We huddled down into a little cabin, and endeavoured to console ourselves with the reflection that, though
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all its beauties were hidden from our sight, we were in truth steaming across the most beautiful of the New Zealand lakes."
Again, writing of the upper end of the lake, Mr Trollope says:--
"It was a bright, clear, cold day, with the temperature at freezing point from morning to evening. I do not know that lake scenery can be finer than that of the upper ten miles of Wakatipu, although doubtless it can be very much prettier. The mountains for the most part are bare and steep. Here and there only are they wooded down to the water's edge, and so much is the timber in request for fuel and building, that what there is of it close to the water will quickly disappear. As the steamer gradually winds round into the upper reach, which runs almost directly north and south, one set of peaks after another come into view. They are sharp and broken, making the hill tops look like a vast saw with irregular gaps in it. Perhaps no shape of mountain tops is more picturesque than this. The summits are nearly as high as those of Switzerland, that of Mount Earnslaw at the head of the Lake being over 10,000 feet above sea level. The effect of the sun shining on the line of peaks was equal to anything I had seen elsewhere. The whole district around is, or rather will be in coming days, a country known for its magnificent scenery."
I could give scores of quotations from writers of
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eminence, all full of praise and admiration, on the subject of Wakatipu scenery, but this seems to me to be unnecessary, now that the district has become so well known to travellers, and is so frequently being mentioned by writers, that the pink terraces of Roto Mahana, now buried by an earthquake, were never more celebrated than are the peaks of the mountains which rise sheer from the Wakatipu Lake, whose waters wash their worn feet.