Page:Picturesque New Zealand, 1913.djvu/282

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180
PICTURESQUE NEW ZEALAND

tains, and over great estates where millions of sheep and rabbits grazed.

Over stretches like these, where I sometimes journeyed from ten to twenty miles before meeting a human being, the traveler is transported mainly by horse-coach or motor-car; for of all these attractions the only one reached directly by railroad is Lake Wakatipu. Te Anau and Manapouri, the most southern of the largest lakes, are forty miles from the nearest railway station; but the coaching trip begins at Lumsden, fifty-two miles distant, where there is more frequent train service. These two lakes are one hundred and eighty-eight miles from Dunedin, and are on the route to Milford Sound.

All the way from Lumsden the coach-road ran across what was practically one great sheep range. In places the road was barred with gates to confine the sheep that here fed on tussocks from one foot to three feet high. Here, as throughout the eastern part of the South Island, tussock grass was as common as tea-tree in the North Island. It was not so prolific, though, as it had been before certain destroying agents—fire, drouth, sheep, and rabbits—had attacked it.

In New Zealand rabbits are a curse; and yet, as I shall show, they also are a blessing. I have seen their burrows in hill, plain, and river bank, and their skeletons, stripped of their fur by trappers, bleaching on many a fence beside public roads. The rabbit pest in New Zealand is by no means so serious as it is in vast areas