Picturesque New Zealand/Chapter 12

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Dunedin—Miscellaneous Ben Rudd and Flagstaff Hill—Roomy Invercargill—State Oysters—Romantic Stewart Island

Two hundred and thirty miles southwest of Christchurch is Dunedin, the fourth city in population in New Zealand and the chief gateway to Fiordland and the Cold Lakes. It is reached by one of the most interesting railway routes in the country. For a large part of the way its sea vistas rival those of the Southern Pacific's Coast Line in California, and for many miles the train passes through meadows and wheat-fields divided by gorse-hedges. On this route, also, are Timaru, a well-built town with the prettiest beach in New Zealand, and Oamaru, the stone city where a brick chimney is an uncommon sight.

Dunedin is noted for its Scotch characteristics. It was founded by Scots, and it is said to have more Scottish residents than any other New Zealand city. Proof of Scotch individuality I saw there on every hand; in the Octagon, where one side of the street is graced by a monument to Robert Burns, and the other side by a memorial to the Reverend Thomas Burns, the first Presbyterian minister in Otago; in handsome Presbyterian churches; in Caledonian and Burns societies; in marching pipers, in reels, flings, and hornpipes; and yet again in the railway station immediately on my arrival.

To its handsome tower I was quickly attracted, for at its top were four lions guarding the British royal arms. Each lion had a scholarly pose, and looked as if he were delivering a valedictory.

Dunedin is situated at the end of Otago Harbor, an inlet about sixteen miles long. It lies in a very hilly district, and both on the north and the south the immediate approach to the city by rail is through tunnels. Like Christchurch, it has a seaport,—Port Chalmers, eight miles distant,—but recent dredgings have made it unnecessary for it to depend entirely upon its port for ocean shipping.

Of New Zealand cities, Dunedin, next to Auckland, presents the finest views. It has not an encircling panorama equal to Auckland's, but within its own limits it does surpass Auckland in beauty and general attractiveness. Greater segregation of land and water and conspicuous isolations give Auckland a superior magnificent whole, but Dunedin, borrowing more from nature, has screened its more exclusive parts with native bush, and in addition has provided itself with many open spaces, such as the Botanical Gardens, the Oval and Market Reserves, the parked Octagon, Jubilee Park, and Victoria Gardens.

Despite its hills, Dunedin is not seriously cramped for room in its business district. On the landward side of Princes and George Streets, the main commercial thoroughfares, business cannot go far without climbing steep hills, but seaward are other long paralleling


highways, and more room is being made by filling in shallow harbor areas.

To climb its steep hills the city employs cable cars, the city's electric tramway system being confined mainly to flat ground. There are two private cable lines and one owned and operated by the Borough of Mornington. On the steepest part of the municipal line the grade is about thirty per cent. These cable systems figure that it is worth more to a man to be carried uphill than downhill, and they charge accordingly.

Dunedin has an aspect of solidity. Its streets are well paved, its principal buildings are substantial, and many of them are ornate as well. The majority of the business blocks are built of stone, brick, and concrete. The highest of them is the seven-story reinforced concrete structure built for the New Zealand Express Company, at a cost of $225,000.

The architecture of the public buildings is pleasing. The town hall, overlooking the Octagon, has not been weathered into blackness like Wellington's municipal hall, and it is more pleasantly situated. By some critics it is considered to have the most musical clock chimes in the country. Near the town hall, and built with a donation of $50,000 from Andrew Carnegie, is the best Carnegie library in the two islands. Other important buildings are the Law Courts; the Boys' High School, noted for its large swimming-bath; and the University of Otago, housed in a group of buildings of the domestic Gothic style, and having attached to it thirty professors and lecturers. By this institution, more than forty years ago, university education was first established in New Zealand.

It is one of four affiliated with the University of New Zealand, the other three being Canterbury College, Christchurch; Victoria College, Wellington; and Auckland University College. The University of New Zealand was established in 1870, and is an examining body only. Its senate of twenty-four members awards degrees on the results of examinations conducted by examiners appointed in Great Britain. According to the University's Royal Charter, these degrees are entitled to "rank, precedence, and consideration throughout the British Empire as fully as if the said degrees had been conferred by any university of the United Kingdom."

The best place from which to view Dunedin is Flagstaff Hill, a few miles west of Princes Street. Flagstaff Hill is a hill without a flagstaff. On its summit I found only an iron support for one. When I inquired about the staff, a Dunedin man said: "There was a flagstaff there, but the larrikins took it."

Another man told me there never had been a staff on the hill; but if there had been, perhaps larrikins would have removed it. For larrikinism is one of the evils of New Zealand. Everywhere there one hears of the larrikin, or young hoodlum. Larrikins are an unorganized, mischievous fraternity. They are always despoiling or marring public or private property or making people the butt of coarse jokes and jeers. If something is


stolen, "the larrikins took it"; if windows or park seats are broken, "the larrikins did it."

On Flagstaff Hill one can see the whole of Dunedin, excepting small parts hidden by bush and brows of hills. From its summit, in a wilderness of tussocks and black boulders, the eye beholds beauty and grandeur.

The visitor to Dunedin should not fail to climb Flagstaff's top, but as he goes, let him beware of Ben Rudd. The top of the hill is neutral territory, but not entirely so are its slopes. On New Zealand railways it is "Look out for the engine"; on Flagstaff Hill, when I reached its foot, it was "Look out for Ben Rudd." Externally, Ben Rudd, judging by an account of him I received, is a sort of miscellaneous man, like Hawthorne's Uncle Venner, but without that patriarch's geniality. I first heard of him when I stopped at a farmhouse to inquire the way to Flagstaff's summit.

"There are several ways," said the pleasant, chatty woman who answered my knock. "But look out for old Ben Rudd."

"Who is Ben Rudd?" I asked.

"Oh! have you never heard of Ben Rudd?" cried she, throwing up her hands in amazement. "He is a hermit living at the foot of Flagstaff Hill. If you try to get through his rabbit-proof fence, he will shoot you. If you meet a small, crouching old man with a little black beard and fingers interlocked under his chin, and who says to you, 'Mister, what may you be wanting here?' that's Ben Rudd. His clothes are all patches; he must have a million patches."

"Is he dangerous?" I inquired.

"Well," she answered, "if, in answer to his question, you tell him to 'Go to Halifax,' he will stone you. Instead say real cheerfully, 'Good-morning, Mr. Rudd! What a fine morning it is! I have lost my way. Can you direct me?' If you do that, Ben will treat you all right."

As I had no desire to be stoned, I asked the woman, "Where am I likely to meet Ben? If I take that short cut you mentioned, won't I miss him?"

"Oh, yes, you may," she replied; "but you never know where you'll meet Ben Rudd."

I continued on my way, thankful that the weather was fine, so that I could use it as a password, as advised. But I did not meet Mr. Rudd, and heard no whizzing stones.

The panorama of Flagstaff Hill proved well worth the trip. Eastward, rolling in unbroken from a remote, unobstructed horizon, the ocean broke against the pretty, billowy Otago Peninsula, swept up the white beach between Lawyer's Head and St. Clair, hurled itself against the cliffs between St. Clair and Green Island Beach, and lapped the shallow shores of South Dunedin, once a part of the sea bed and later still a swamp. Between the peninsula and the hill were the city and its harbor. In the foreground were the heights of Mornington, Roslyn, and Maori Hill, where beautiful homes have been built from three hundred to seven hundred feet above the sea. Below them ran the leafy fringe known as the Town Belt, divided by sinuous Queen's Drive, a name that suggested what it did not signify—a broad and well-paved driveway. On each side of this drive were many delightful bowers. There, clustering thickly together, were fuschia and other low growth, canopied and weighted heavily with clematis, lawyer, and other creepers; and there the manuka, white with scentless blossoms, exhaled its strong aroma of leaf and limb.

On Maori Hill were revealed the lake-like city reservoir and the shady retreats of Ross Creek, its chief feeder. Below Maori Hill meandered the Valley of the Leith, a charming dale running toward Mount Cargill between leaf-screened cliffs.

West of Flagstaff ran the gorge of the Taieri River, and in the distance, over hill and vale, rose the Lammerlaws, the Rock and Pillar Range, and, dimly outlined, Mount Ida and Mount St. Bathans, overlooking the Central Otago goldfields.

Southward stretched the hedge-bordered paddocks of Taieri Plain, which with its varied colors produced by cut and uncut grain, and hayfields and groves of trees, looked like a crazy quilt. On the eastern side of this plain is the largest glacial drift in New Zealand. Forming a range of hills more than twenty-five miles long, it is from a half-mile to three miles wide and about a thousand feet deep.

In all this panorama nothing is so fascinating as the wild seacoast. In front of Dunedin and for miles to its right and left the ocean beats against high, rocky cliffs, rolls ceaselessly through caves, and sweeps up short, yellow beaches. One of the most absorbing spots is the convenient cliff profile, Lawyer's Head, the northern terminus of St. Kilda beach. Here, on a coast of half-submerged rocks, and sand-dunes held in place by a tangle of wiry grasses and shrubs, the sea constantly floods and drains a weird and cavernous playground. Here brown seaweed scourges, from twenty to thirty feet long, unceasingly flay the rocks that give their tenacious roots support. One moment they dive to their roots; the next instant, struggling like coiling snakes or sweeping in gracefully on a breaker, they furiously assail their dripping, adamantean home.

Almost at the southern extremity of the South Island, one hundred and thirty-nine miles from Dunedin, is Invercargill, the roomiest town in New Zealand and the most southern town of its population in the world. The founders of Invercargill must have been advocates of the broad-gauge principle; for the town's two main business streets, Dee and Tay, are each one hundred and thirty-two feet wide. To a Wellington man they probably look nearly wide enough for a cross-country run.

In Invercargill five railways centre, and it ranks next to Dunedin as a gateway to the Cold Lakes and the western sounds. In oversea shipping, Invercargill's port, the Bluff, seventeen miles distant, is the third entry and clearance point in the Dominion.

At the Bluff concentrates New Zealand's largest oyster


fleet. In Foveaux Strait, separating the South Island and Stewart Island, is one of the most extensive oyster beds in the world. The deep-sea oyster beds in New Zealand are exploited wholly by private enterprise, but the rock oyster industry is controlled by the State, which took it in charge because of injury to the beds by irresponsible pickers.

Through the Bluff passes the tourist traffic to Stewart Island, the Rakiura of the southern Maoris. This island, situated about twenty miles south of the Bluff, somewhat resembles South America in miniature, with Paterson Inlet occupying about the same relative position as the mouth of the Amazon.

Stewart Island is one of the most beautiful and romantic islands of the world. Here, a century ago, in picturesque harbors and coves haunted by cannibals, anchored venturesome English, American, and Australasian whalers and sealers. To-day, all around Rakiura's boulder coasts, are names reminiscent of wild and perilous escapades, in which more than one whaler and sealer were slain and eaten by Maoris. In those days vessels lay at anchor in the island's harbors with loaded cannon and with sentinels on duty; to-day the chugging of pleasure boats is heard where carronades then barked, and the merry laugh of delighted campers has replaced the murderous cry of savages.

No longer is the Strait a famous whaling-ground, and the seals, slaughtered by the thousand for many years, have been so nearly exterminated that they are protected by legislation. Yet Stewart Island is still a great rendezvous for fishermen, as it is for tourists. In its bays are trumpeter, blue cod, flounders, groper, trevalli, and other fish, and into some of its rivers trout have been introduced.

Mountainous and densely wooded, Stewart Island has an area of six hundred and sixty-five square miles, with an extreme length of thirty-nine miles and a maximum breadth of twenty miles. Its highest elevation is Mount Anglem (3200 feet), an extinct volcano with a lake near its crest. On all sides the ocean breaks against a rocky shore, and rolls against many neighboring islets infested by tens of thousands of mutton birds, which afford Maoris an annual hunting, feasting, and preserving expedition of several weeks' duration.

To those seeking the finest scenery of Stewart Island, the easily accessible Paterson Inlet appeals most strongly. This sea-arm is about ten miles long, and its shores are covered to the water's edge with a variety of trees; yet everywhere, excepting where short, yellow beaches interpose, the sea washes against rocky faces and boulders. The inlet's smallest islands are capped with bush and splashed with the rata's crimson.

The islands form one of the inlet's main attractions, its bosom being dotted with them. There are Faith, Hope, and Charity; the oval lona; and Ulva, where one can mail, as one would mail an ordinary postcard, a puharitaiko leaf letter. On the broad and silvery under-surface of this leaf messages in ink can be written as easily as on a leather card. South of Paterson Inlet little of Stewart Island is known to the average tourist, because as yet that part cannot be conveniently reached.