Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia
Invercargill and Thence to Dunedin
Invercargill and Thence to Dunedin.
Invercargill has been laid out by a surveyor of expansive views. Its principal streets are of enormous width. I forget the measurement, but it is certainly not less than two chains. The town is situated on a dead level, at the head of navigation of the New river, and would be on a fine situation, were it not for the numerous swamps and consequent dampness of the position, and the absence of road metal. It is, in fact, in the centre of the soft country. As only small craft can ascend the New river, the port for large vessels is twenty miles distant, at the Bluff. In the absence of road metal the foot-ways of the main streets were formed of wood, in the fashion of a grating but without the cross pieces. It was rather awkward walking, one was apt to trip. There was a surprising number of good buildings, stores, hotels, &c, but the thing was overdone. It was intended by a railway to the lakes to take most of the gold business from Dunedin, but the scheme was not successful, and Invercargill, afterwards, to a great extent collapsed.page 252
I met friends in Invercargill, and spent a pleasant time there. There was great animation in the streets, and a curious mixture of Scotch settlers and Australian miners. Some of the former frequented the bars in kilts, and looked proud of their appearance.
I rode to the Bluff. The road was near the line of railway and through heavy cuttings in peat swamps. I found igneous rocks on approaching the Bluff. The trees showed signs of strong gales from the south-west. The Bluff is rather a wild-looking windy place, but as there is depth of water for large vessels, it is a great convenience as a harbour. The line of railway from Invercargill to the interior was planned and laid down with wooden rails. This proved a failure. The wheels slipped in wet weather and the rails crushed, so that iron rails had to be substituted.*
On April 7th I started in Cobb's coach for Dunedin, the only other passenger being Mr. Sheath, the head of the telegraph department. Our road was over a rich unctuous plain, skirted by what is called the "Long Bush." In the distance, on our left, were the high mountains; the scenery altogether is very fine. We descended some gravel terraces and crossed a creek where some coal-seams cropped out. At 1 P.M. we dined at M'Gibbon's at the Mataura falls. This is a most interesting spot. The Mataura, a fine river, here falls over page 253mesozoic sandstone of the New Zealand coal period. I found plant impressions on the south side. There are fine pools in the river, which looks perfection for a salmon stream.
At length we passed through a gorge and reached Papatunoa, at 6 P.M. As this was the first trip of the coach, the tussocks had not become worn down, and we had been tossed about in a most violent manner. Papatunoa is a picturesque spot, broken, rocky, and woody.page 254
On April 8th we drove over undulating ground, farms making their appearance. We crossed the Molyneux or Clutha at Clutha ferry, and passing Tokomairiro and up the Taieri valley, we reached Dunedin at 6 p.m.
* A through line of railway is now complete from the Bluff to Christchurch and Lyttelton.