Page:Picturesque New Guinea.djvu/147

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49
EXCURSION UP THE AROA RIVER.

General Scratchley's principal object in visiting this locality was to open communication with the native chiefs and sound them as to the acquisition of land; more particularly with respect to certain real estate said to have been recently acquired by a trader named Cameron. At 7 a.m. on the 9th September, all preparations having been made the party started for shore, the steam launch laden with provisions and camp equipage, towing the whale boat containing the passengers in her wake. The little steamer was so overtaxed, that, on reaching the surf, Mr. Chalmers, who directed the navigation, judged it best to cast off the whale boat and pull ahead of the launch. The bar was crossed without accident, and we found ourselves in the Aroa River proper, at its embouchure some eighty yards across, but widening considerably higher up. Selecting a landing place on the left bank, we discharged all our cargo, and pitched our camp on a singularly picturesque little spot, trunks of driftwood in the foreground forming a natural stockade, while to the rear lay a little estuary with all its tropical surroundings. Leaving a few blue-jackets to pitch the camp and keep guard, the whale boat, again towed by the launch, proceeded up stream, which presented the usual characteristics of a tropical river, snags and other obstacles impeding our progress by water, and dense scrub on the banks rendering it impossible on shore. Mangrove and Nipa palms formed the leading features for two miles, when a creek called "Akibaka" was reached. Here the launch not finding sufficient depth of water, left us and returned to camp, while we proceeded up the branch stream with the rising tide. This tributary soon narrowed so considerably that at times the oars could hardly be used, and great difficulty was experienced in clearing the boat from the snags and masses of overhanging creepers. The Nipa trees in some places completely over-arched the stream, giving it the appearance of a lofty avenue. Notwithstanding the beauty of the scene at high water, considerations of alligators and miasma would deter any judicious person from remaining in this locality longer than absolutely necessary. The temperature was moderate, probably not exceeding 80°, and as we were unmolested by mosquitoes the trip was not without enjoyment. The banks, for some distance flush with the