Ida Jane Vaniman

An American Woman's Impressions of New Zealand.

(by Ida L. Vaniman in Christchurch "Press.")   

To the traveller who desires a comprehensive idea of the natural wonders and beauties of the world, and who has neither time, money, nor patience to make an extensive tour, New Zealand is a perfect Mecca. 'Bounteous Nature loves all lands,' but while she has given to each country some characteristic or peculiar charm of scenery, she has lavished upon New Zealand all her varied forms, so that within its small area of one hundred thousand square miles, one finds a reproduction of all the wonders and beauties for which other parts of the world are famous. The picturesque ness of the Rhine, the beauty of the fiords of Norway, the charm of the Alps, the scenery of the lakes of Switzerland, all are here in counterpart. Snowcapped mountain peaks, grand canyons and fruitful valleys, coal-beds, goldfields, mineral waters, hot springs, and geysers, that, if equalled, are not excelled by those of the interior of Japan or Yellowstone Park in America. Besides all this, New Zealand boasts the highest waterfall in the world, which originates in huge glaciers high above the clouds, and in falling gains such destructive force that Nature has provided for its reception a basin of solid granite.

To many the most attractive feature in this cyclorama of world's wonders is the geyser district of the North Island, where Nature's work is not yet finished, and she seems to have summoned all her forces and bidden them hasten the work of completion. For day and night you can hear the roaring and rumbling as of a mighty engine, and the thin crust of pumice on which you stand trembles with it vibrations. Here and there from the escape-valves, great streams of hot water shoot hundreds of feet into the air. More than seventeen miles away, over intervening mountain ranges, the steam issuing from Waimangu is plainly seen rising to meet the clouds. Large pools of boiling mud, white, or pink, or ugly black, are simmering and thickening to the proper consistency for earth's crust. Immense cauldrons of boiling water containing carbonates and bicarbonates of soda and of potash, sulphuretted hydrogen, and sulphuric and hydrochloric acids, over flow into the riverbed, the waste pipe of the region. So far man has analysed all Nature's products and harnessed her forces to do his bidding, but, standing in the midst of all this waste of well known chemicals, one wonders if perhaps Dame Nature is concocting some new and wonderful combination that shall puzzle man's brain in future days.

This crude state of Nature lends quite naturally to the study of primitive man, and to one who cares for the subject the whole district is like an open book of legendary and historic records of the early Maori inhabitants. Every stream and geyser and mountain, in its unpronounceable native name, holds the key to an interesting chapter, which may be amusing, or pathetic, or horrible, in turn. If one prefers to illustrate the story with living characters, large numbers of Maoris are still to be soon living in this country, where Nature has so lavishly contributed to their needs. Their simple meals are cooked in hot steam issuing from holes in the ground. Their laundry-work is done in a pool of boiling water not far from the "steam cooker,"' and their bathroom is a similar pool nearby, besides which the costly furnishings, the beauty and conveniences of a marble bath in the modern mansion, pale into insignificance in comparison with the one luxurious essential to the perfect bath which the Maori enjoys — water, that continually bubbles out of the ground at exactly the right temperature, so delightful, so invigorating, and so rich in curative chemicals, one feels that Ponce do Leon might still be living had he searched New Zealand for the Fountain of Youth.

Near the centre of this "hot region" is Lake Rotorua, with its unfathomable depths of clear, cold water, covering an area of 20,000 acres. Almost in the middle of the lake is an island called Mokoia, while all around the outer edge are little pools of water and mud boiling furiously, and some of the finest hot mineral springs of the whole thermal district. On the southern shore of this lake the New Zealand Government has a reservation of some fifty acres, where they have built, a sanatorium, utilising the waters of most beneficial properties for baths. The natural growth of native bush has been preserved in the grounds, which are beautifully laid out. The flower gardens are a unique and most attractive feature in this region of hot steam and sulphur vapor. Here in February, that month suggestive of raw, piercing kinds and grey skies, one sees blossoming at the same time all the flowers soon each in its turn throughout the year in a temperate clime. Magnificent roses of every variety, stately dahlias, delicate lilies, graceful cosmos, smiling-faced pansies, migonette, beautiful carnations, and many blossoms seen elsewhere only in hot-houses, all contribute their beauty and fragrance to make this a place of delight to the hundreds of people who visit the Wonderland yearly.

But the beauty is not all outside the Sanatorium buildings, and is, of course, of but minor interest to those who come to be benefited by the baths. On entering the Duchess Bath your eye rests on every luxury conductive to comfort and pleasure. A lovely bath, with cold shower, and hot douche, and a dainty dressing-room, with furniture made of the handsome New Zealand woods. The water for this bath is from the famous Madam Rachael spring, which boils out of the ground at a temperature of 180 deg., and at the rate of 50,000 gallons daily. The delightful velvety feeling this water imparts to the skin soon converts one to a belief in the popular tradition concerning its power to make people beautiful. Then there is the Rachael Pavilion, with a large number of private baths, with cold showers, and douches, with dressing-rooms and a cosy lounging room constantly kept at a temperature of 70 deg. There are two large swimming baths, one for men and one for women, quite like a plunge at the beach, for the water is warm, and their only roof is the blue sky above and the overhanging branches of trees that dare to peep. But most inviting of all is the Blue Swimming Bath. It is not heaven's reflected blue, nor the blue of the deep sea, but a cooling, sparkling, transparent looking blue, that you will find nowhere else in all the world outside of Nature's chemist shop. At various parts of the grounds are other baths, each noted for some peculiar property which gains for it its quota of admirers. There is a commodious cottage for invalids, and a doctor, appointed by the Government, to look after those who require his advice and attention. These waters effect marvellous cures every year, and all who go away benefited speak with greatest enthusiasm of the place, which in a few years is sure to be the sanatorium for all Australasia.

Of the four largest cities in New Zealand, each has an individual charm, that, to its loyal citizens, easily places it in advance of the other three. Christchurch, the "City of the Plains," was originally a Church of England settlement, and is conceded by all to be very English in every respect. It has its Cathedral-square, a good Art Gallery, and the finest museum in the colony. The beautiful little river Avon winds its way through the heart of the city, giving additional beauty to the fine park in which the Christchurch Museum stands, and lending its charm to the grounds of a splendid hospital. Like a broad avenue, its grassy banks form a continuous park through the city, where one may lounge beneath over hanging willows and watch the trout hiding in dark shadows of picturesque stone bridges that span its waters.

Dunedin, as its name suggests, is the home of the "cannny Scot." The abundance of building stone in its immediate vicinity has been used in all the buildings, giving the city an appearance of solid stability, in harmony with the character of its inhabitants. Their sturdy, religious nature has found expression in churches whose architectural beauty is not equalled in any of the colonies. The city is built on gently sloping hills overlooking the bay and as vast expanse of ocean in the distance.

Auckland, the oldest and most northerly city, claims the most beautiful harbor, the most magnificent surrounding scenery, the mildest climate, and, with its many picturesque suburbs, the greatest population.

But Wellington, the capital of the colony, is, perhaps, the most interesting of all, in that it is the most essentially characteristic of the people and affairs colonial. Here the seat of Government is located, and the headquarters of all departments administering to the general welfare of the colony. It is through the executive ability of these bodies that one learns to admire the colonial spirit of progress and patriotism. In this   place, thousands of miles from the large seaport cities of the world, is to be found a harbor with the most perfect wharfage facilities and modern appliances for loading and unloading vessels in the Southern Hemisphere. The Athenic, a vessel of 12,000 tons capacity, is now in port loading a cargo for Liverpool, the largest item of which is 100,000 carcasses of frozen mutton. This colony exports annually about two million frozen carcasses of sheep, and in the rabbit season a special train is run daily from the rural districts whence "bunny" is brought to the freezing works, and also shipped to the land the colonies sneaks of as "Home.”

The Daily News (Perth, WA), 6 August 1902 page 2.

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