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Many and varied were the ways of travel

By Frank Paine

Early journeys of missionaries and ministers required courage and stamina. While there were a range of travel options, none was easy.

In 1840 Samuel Ironside, John Aldred and George Buttle set out from Ahuahu Mission, Kawhia, to explore areas suitable for the establishment of new stations. They negotiated swamps with mud to their knees, crossed creeks, travelled by moonlight at low tide, and were carried over rough stones and rivers by the great chief Haupokia. It was no easy stroll.

Aldred recalls they also had to climb over a high precipitous rock, Pirimoko. “It was fearfully grand, with not more than five inches on which to place our feet, nothing to hold on to but the naked rock, all at 1200ft, and below, stones against which the sea was breaking with awful violence.”

Charles Creed started from Akaroa in 1845, visiting areas on Banks Peninsula and thence travelling home to Waikouaiti, along the coast. He walked about 270 miles. “Fortunately the rivers were low, and so the natives assisted me. We crossed the largest river in a raupo boat. This journey was one of the most arduous and fatiguing I have ever undertaken.”

Rev William Woon described a voyage to Taranaki in 1846.
“We left Manukau on Friday 24th April in a gale of wind and had a boisterous run to Kawhia where we arrived the following day, after much sea sickness. On Monday we were again on our way with a fair wind to New Plymouth and received a hearty welcome from brother Turton. A large Government boat ferrying supplies took us ashore in a high wind with torrents of rain, thus saving us being tossed about all night with a freshened wind and very high sea.”

In 1850 he wrote:
“We left New Plymouth to attend the District Meeting in a small craft named the “John Wesley” and expected to be in Auckland in 30 hours, but twelve days transpired before I reached my destination and by that time the District business was concluded.”

Horse and Motor Car
In the vast Kaipara Circuit Rev William Gittos travelled large distances by horse and boat. He was an expert builder and sailor. Later, Rev TG Brooke working in the same area expected to spend two thirds of his time ‘in the saddle’.

In 1866 Revs William Morley and John Rishworth described their ride from Auckland as ‘long and toilsome and tracks difficult to find’ but they accomplished their journey and preached at the opening of the Whangarei Church. Earlier, at Port Waikato, William Morley had crossed a river in a leaking canoe, baling all the while and pulling his horse behind him.

Years passed and progress was made in 1916 when Paparoa purchased their first buggy, and 10 or so years later a lady member presented the circuit with a Model T Ford coupe. The roads were really not suitable and it is interesting that the first minister capable of driving this car was Rev H Ford.

Velocipedes and motor bikes
In our earliest newspaper (Christian Observer, 1870) ‘A Tired Pedestrian’ wrote “I cannot see the use of the velocipede on the Lord’s Day would be a violation of the fourth commandment. What is your opinion?”

St Albans Circuit in 1902 presented Rev WG Parsonson with a bicycle and increased his stipend by ?30. Forty years later Rev DO Williams was also presented with a bicycle, but no increase in stipend! In 1953 Rev John Osborne travelled by bus between Panmure and Howick. He used two bicycles – one in each area.

When Sister Rita Snowden was appointed to Raetihi she became well known as she travelled over rough country roads on her motorbike called ‘John Wesley’.

Nowadays, many miss out on the thrills of yesteryear when they stay at home and ‘let their fingers do the walking’.