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The First Ascent of Mount Ruapehu

Extracts from the Tabloid Pocket Diary of the Late George Beetham

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Extracts from the Tabloid Pocket Diary of the Late George Beetham.

Thursday, 3rd March, 1892.

Frances and I started from Napier by Wellington—Manawatu Railway.

Monday, 7th March,

Started for Birch's, 7 a.m.—pleasant ride on whole, but dusty, rather dangerous. Kuripapanga comfortable—much changed. Good bridge over Ngaruruto.

Tuesday, 8th March.

7 a.m. start. Walked up Gentle Annie—very fair road. Lunched at Rangitiksi [sic: Rangitikei]—very dusty. Pleasant evening, music.

Wednesday, 9th March.

Chapman and I got horses from Birch and rode to Moawhango. Ladies drove. Great changes. Arranged with Batley for provisions, horses, etc. Cloudy—mountains not visible. Native meeting.

Thursday, 10th March.

Rode down early to Moawhango. No bread procurable. Started from Homestead at 11—lunched at the Birch House at Shearing Station—started at 2 p.m., Mr. Birch going with us a short way. Camped at Westlawn—good camp. Three tents, three pack-horses and good gear. Very comfortable for first night; fine view of Ruapehu in moonlight.

Friday, 11th March.

Up early, but eight before we got off. Long, heavy ride to the Desert, over hills, gullies, streams and tussocks. Very tired when reached Ohinepango at 5.30. Picked good camp. Chapman very good and Dr. Martin doing well also. Fine view of Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe in evening by moonlight. To bed at 8 p.m.

Saturday, 12th March.

Fog and rain early—fortunately cleared up in good time. Lunched on way—arrived Tongariro saddle, 1.45. Splendid view, ascended the active crater from where smoke, steam and dust were ejected. Very hard work—ladies did well. Came down mountain hand in hand.

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Sunday, 13th March.

Started early, 5.30; got to the summit of Ruapehu about 2 p.m., very cold and foggy—Scotch mist that wet us through with strong wind. Weather too bad to cross the snow-field. Camped at 6 p.m., very tired. Ladies did well.

Monday, 14th March.

Started early for Tokaanu via Roto-Aira; leaving the newly-made road on our right—had to cut through scrub. No natives at Pouto. Fine day—gathered wild strawberries. Arrived Tokaanu at 6 p.m. very tired. Ladies wearied out. Better quarters than expected; better grub. Good bath in puia.

Tuesday, 15th March.

Walked about looking at natural curiosities and bathed. Started in Fernie's boat for Taupo—no wind, had to pole a long way—head wind after. Chapman and I pulled all night—ladies under forecastle and sick. Not a comfortable night by any means.

Wednesday, 16th March.

Arrived at Taupo at 10 a.m., pulling up to the last. Good breakfast. Visited Wairakei—lunched there, bathed in douche bath; ladies there and large party. Visited the geysers and puias—well worth a visit. Back to Taupo to dinner. Riddiford's party arrived, great chatter; they rode from Hunterville. Heavy rain.

Thursday, March 17th.

Still raining—left Riddiford party journeying to Wairakei. We took steamer at 10 o'clock—strong wind with us. Ladies unwell. I held out—too much sea for small boat. Glad to land although in rain—everything wet, Brown and Scott Peterson saw Maori tangi, sorry we missed it. Word from R——; no canoe.!

Friday, 18th March.

Still raining, too wet to start over Puketapu track for Taumaranui. Heard very bad report of road. With Martin inspected the lepers—horrible sight. Visited the Mission Station at Waihi, also the falls—very good—let in for subscription. Dreary rain.

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Saturday, 19th March.

Fiddled about in the wet all day—very angry. Saw Maori races, rather good. Bathed in puias and got cold shower bath outside. Music at Blake's hotel.

Sunday, 20th March.

Started 8 a.m. for Taumaranui via Waimarino. Too wet for Puketapu—guide struck for more pay—sent him back. Roto-Aira very pretty. Got guide. Crossed upper Wanganui—wet camp, everything wet.

Monday, 21st March.

Guide returned. Heavy rains again, nasty river. Proceeded on indicated track until 2 p.m.; river then so much swollen could not see track. Returned to wharé and decided to camp there; very dirty, but better than wet tent. Put up partition. Sent guide Withers to river again; returned, and said could not cross and no road. Cleared up and saw Ruapehu just above us; knew that road must cross creek.

Tuesday, 22nd March.

Chapman and I out early to inspect; stoked with Irish stew. Found the road did cross the river. Returned, got off 9 a.m.; reached Waimarino pa at 1.30 p.m. Lunched, and got the only man there for a guide. Went on and camped in the bush about 12 miles from entrance; tired. Road much overgrown—splendid Todeas, used them as seats. No poles—bad swamps on road.

Wednesday, 23rd March.

Fancied that an early start would take us to Taumaranui by 1 p.m., but it did not. Passed two clearings on road; pleasant to see the sun and to feel the warmth after the everlasting wet scrub. After we lost the bush we found we had 10 miles to ride—passing two pas, both of which we were ready to believe were Taumaranui. Arrived 6.30, very tired. Took possession of good wharé, tent for ladies. Saw Bell, got some bread.

Thursday, 24th March.

All day trying to arrange for canoe—met with a good deal of trouble with the natives; finally arranged for a start next morning with a man introduced by Bell, Hakiaha. Tried to arrange smaller canoe for short distance to pick up larger one; fortunately failed, for same canoe upset a party of natives, who lost all their luggage and had to swim for their lives.

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Friday, 25th March.

Heavy fog on river; we were ready at 6 a.m., Found the natives determined to break through the arrangement: wanted the £25 arranged for and £6 additional for canoe. Stuck out firmly, although in fear and trepidation, and carried my point, assisted by Bell, who offered us horses to return by land. Started at 8 a.m.; beautiful morning—good spirits. About half a mile down Ongaruhe passed the Kaiwhakauka.

Saturday, 26th March.

Started early—amusement of natives, who came down to see us breakfast. Gold rings and such things evidently unknown. Plenty of rapids and gorges, all very interesting. Difficulty re camps; plenty of mud and sticks, no fern.

Sunday, 27th March.

Started early; glad to get away. No sun, very deep gorges; no sun for miles; worked hard to keep warm. Examined interesting caves; saw many wild duck. Lunched at Pipiriki. Passed Hiruharama, Camped at Porongorau, near Karatea.

Monday, 28th March.

Started early. Very lovely; river widening out with deep gorges, stock to be seen—willows plentiful. Left the river at Omaru and walked over to Kennedy's, at Upohongaruru. Fine view. Natives took canoe round; reached Wanganui 7 p.m., rather tired, having pulled the whole way down the river with the exception of the big bend. Glad to change our clothes at the Rutland; lots of letters.

Tuesday, 29th March.

Sorry to find just missed HWB and Pulham, who had started for Taranaki and Auckland. Went to canoe—found Hakiaha very drunk and only old Tuaoa in charge; settled by paying him and obtaining receipt. Dined all the Wanganui College boys; they ate enough for a regiment. Ladies tired. Saw “The Sorcerer” performed very well by amateurs. Dreamed of river.


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