Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
Reminiscences of Tahiti - Society Islands - during a six week's visit, September - November 1887
MLMSS 488 / vol. 4
British New Guinea
PAGA POINT and the site of the first township Granville
Government Bungalow Flagstaff
Govt Cutter Maine, 8 tons
Native Villages in Sea
London Missionary Societe’s Headquarters
[Photo] Tahitian girls in native dress with frangipani & tiarei flowers
Reminiscences of Tahiti – Society Islands –
during a six week`s visit.
Sept to Nov 1887
Climbing up to the bridge of the S.S. Richmond about five o`clock one September morning we found ourselves just abreast of Moorea & close up to Tahiti, the principal island of the Society Group. On the previous day we had sighted the outlying islands of Scilly & Mopelia and passed not far from Raiatea and Huaheine, being eight days out from Samoa, days of very slow but pleasant steaming against an Easterly trade wind.
At that hour in the morning Moorea was quite like a scene from dreamland – if it is true that people are ever privileged to see such beauty in their dreams – It was a fine study in grey. Opposite to this the one light of Papeete Harbour was trying to hold its own against the strengthening rays of the sun now fast rising over Point Venus on which is the only other light in the island. The crescent moon and the stars were succumbing to the same blaze, and clear cut against a cloudless sky stood the lofty central peaks of Tahiti, making an exquisite background.
Here is Miss Gordon Cummings` idea of the view taken from the reef, before photography had reached the Southern Seas. Like all her sketches it is rather fantastic, and the sky affect uncommon, but the impression conveyed is fairly true
[small sketch at bottom of page]
No wonder that when we saw such a picture remembering all we had heard of the delights of the island, two of my compagnons de voyage and myself decided that if we could make satisfactory arrangements at Papeete we would leave the Richmond and spend six or seven weeks in exploring it beauties.
According to Melville :-
"Tahiti or Otaheite is situated in Lat 17º 40`S & Long: 150º 30` E. It is composed of two peninsulas each rising gradually from the sea shore to an altitude of 7000ft above sea level and covered to the summit with the most luxuriant foliage. The one section is about twice the size of the other. From the great central peaks of Orohena Aorai and Perohitea the land radiates on all sides to the sea in sloping green ridges. Between these are broad and shadowy valleys watered with fine streams and thickly wooded. Unlike many of the other islands, there extends nearly all round Tahiti a belt of low alluvial soil teeming with the richest vegetation. Here chiefly the natives dwell.
Such is the beauty of the scenery, endlessly diversified with valleys, ridges, glens and cascades, and such the charm of animate and inanimate nature and of climate that the French bestowed upon the island the appellation of New Cythera.
The vegetable productions are considerable. There are 50 varieties of Bread Fruit (artocarpus), 13 of Bananas & Coconuts, arum, yam, potato, sugar cane, vanilla, cotton, guava, orange, lemon, lime, pine apple, mango and other quaint fruits abound. Dogs, hogs, & rats are numerous. Saddle horses are imported from South America & from the Colonies of Australia and there are small flocks of sheep & herds of cattle also brought over from the latter. Fowls are much domesticated and amongst indigenous birds are wild ducks, turtle doves, large pigeons, small parroquets, kingfishers, cuckoos & herons. Snakes are unknown in the island. –
The natives are well made and graceful in appearance & movement, lighter coloured for the most part, than the other Pacific Islanders, and generally more capable of intelligent impressions. Here are three specimens, rather flattering
[Three photos – 2 women, 1 man]
to the girls in question. The hair and eyes are generally black, the nose has a tendency to flatness, which in the case of the women mars what would otherwise be a beautiful face. For long drooping eyelashes and pearly
white teeth of great regularity they are matchless. In many instances again the mouth is too large and the lips too thick. The softness and lithesome appearance of their skin is due to the use of coconut oil.
Of the history of Tahiti the following:-
The Spaniards were the first to discover the island in 1605; they called it La Sagittaria. Captain Wallis in the Dolphin rediscovered it in 1767, hoisted the British Flag and called it King George’s Island, apparently ignorant of the claims of the Spaniards. In 1768 M. de Bougainville in a French Ship took possession of it and christened it La Nouvelle Cythere. In the following year the position of Tahiti was probably one of the best established in the world. Lieut James Cook in the "Endeavour" and a party of scientific men made a headland about 7 miles from Papeete a station from which to observe the Transit of Venus. The lighthouse was erected on the point of observation.
The island has an additional interest by reason of the crew of the "Bounty", who had spent five months there, mutinying, owing probably, as Lady Brassey suggests, partly to the charms of the inhabitants and partly to the severity of Captain Bligh the commander.
In 1791 the Pandora which was in search of the missing vessel arrived at Tahiti and took away the 14 members of the ‘Bounty’s’ crew who had remained on the island, three of whom were afterwards executed at Spithead.
Eventually in 1844 Captn Bruat landed in strong force hauled down Queen Pomare’s standard & hoisted the French Flag, taking possession of the island in the name of Louis Philippe, King of the French. Up to [blank space] it remained a French Protectorate & was then proclaimed a Colony with its Governor and Legislative Body.
On landing we paid our respects to the British Consul, and in the usual way made the acquaintance of several of the residents. Our first business was to find a house in which to
live during our visit, and it so happened that we accomplished this with but little difficulty, there only being two available.
Papeete with all its stores, restaurants and semi civilization can boast of no Hotel and nothing in the way of furnished rooms. After all they are very much out of the world. Once in six weeks, a Mail Steamer, that by which we travelled, arrives from Auckland, N. Zealand, via the Tongan & Samoan Islands, and once a month a mail Schooner leaves for San Francisco and another leaves that port for Papeete.
Long as it has been settled the Channels of communication remain as above and so preserve to Tahiti the charms of a unique and natural character.
Here is a sketch of Tahiti in the olden days which even in this corner of the Pacific the residents speak of as ‘the good old days.
But Tahiti does not look like this.
Description and even photography fail to do credit to it. It must be perceived, and with the brain as well as the eye. Beauty of scenery of climate and of association combine to make an ideal total which must ever remain a bright and deep cut cameo to the chance visitor.
A narrow entrance through a coral reef leads into the Bay of Papeete. The water is deep up to the very Quay, round which runs the town with a road and a border of trees and grass between
the stores and the sea. Backward at right angles are the principal streets, the business houses of the usual inelegant style, but in the bye streets are some very picturesque cottages with gardens, small but prolific in flowers of all shades of brightness. Principal among these is the Bougainvillea, of which there are wonderful developments of colour & size. In addition are white and pink oleanders, Alamanders, Magnolias, huge Passion Flowers, Virginia & Wisteria Creepers, yellow & scarlet Hibiscus, brick red Pomegranate, white and lavender Duranta, flaming Coral Poinsettia & Ponciana Trees, Stephanotis, Heliotrope, Cape Jasmine, Roses & Lilies, such a combination as is rarely seen.
And not only into flowers & trees, sea and sky has nature instilled colour. The native population love it and affect it.
They are themselves of half a dozen different tints from the black natives of more Northern & savage groups to the light brown, olive & mahogany of Tahiti proper and its half castes & quadroons. Fifty years hence it will puzzle ethnologists to trace back the mixed race which will then be found there. As the Fronticepiece group shows, the women wear a long gown
of bright colours put into a yoke at the shoulders after the fashion of a graduate’s gown at home, with white frilling round the neck and hands. This gown reaches down to the feet and in some cases has a train which the girls wear with becoming effect. For colour, blue and white, cerise and white and black and red in stripes and azure blue are very well suited to them, but every sort of combination is to be seen. The black glossy hair is simply held together by a silk ribbon, and for the head either a charming flower perhaps is stuck over the ear and more flowers adorn the hat.
Such is the appearance of a Tahiti girl armed for conquest must not omit to add the silk handkerchief round the neck
[Photo of five girls]
The straw hats they wear are the finest industrial production of Tahiti. They are plaited of palm, bamboo, sugar cane white and black banana or arrowroot leaf, exquisite in fabric and very durable. The best are a work of some time and cost a purchaser from £ 2 to £: 3. A great feature in
these is the band which surrounds them and is plaited in imitation of flowers & knots. This work in ‘pia’ or arrow root is the finest & most costly
[Photo of two girls – the writing beside it]
Men and women alike smoke quantities of native cigarettes rolled in dried banana leaves or in bamboo. They are very strong & have a more palatable aroma than taste. Added to this the coconut oil on the hair and the perfume of frangipani flowers & tiarei (or single gardenia) and a scent is produced which could never fail to recall the Tahitian beauties.
As though the natural scent of flowers were not sweet enough, pieces of pine apple are actually interwoven in between the flowers of the wreaths.
All walk barefoot, except on rare and great occasions when with evident discomfort & loss of grace they ensconce their liberal feet and ancles in French boots. As for the men a simple pariu or waistcloth is the usual every day dress out of Papeete.
They are fine looking well developed men, but their easy sensuous life is the cause of their want of ‘grit’ and staying power which becomes noticeable on emergencies All love ease and that natural luxury which is within the grasp of a Kanaka.
The three following photographs show good types of these lazy fellows. In the first they are busily engaged in their favourite occupation – that of doing nothing. The arrangement of flower on the head and behind the ear is also seen
The streets, of which some are shown, are finely timbered and shaded avenues with little cottages and villas lying on either side behind a white fence. For names those of Paris are affected and the result is as comic as usual
[Photos of men]
[indecipherable] such an attempt is made to reconcile methods of civilization with those of nature
This is the Pont de l’Est, the Eastern Boundary of Papeete & close to our house which stands on this side of it. The avenue is the same as that in the next photo.
Rue de l’Est
This avenue of Buron Trees leads from the Bridge towards the Restaurant where we had our meals It is a delightfully cool stroll
A large Banyan Tree in a garden at Papeete
Rue de l’Ouest
The other extremity of the Rue de l’Est leading westwards out of Papeete past the Prison
Looking from the road which encircles the Harbour the view is very fine, embracing a small masked Battery on Quarantine Island and in the distance the Fairy Land of Moorea behind which the sun sets with gorgeous effect. On the reef and all over the harbour are canoes with natives fishing with nets, lines & spears, particularly in the early morning before the sea breeze blows in.
Some canoes are fitted with mast & sail and make a very pretty picture. Some of the French Fleet are always in port, this being the Headquarters of the French Pacific Fleet.
The lower photo shows the ‘Duquesne’ Flagship & many of the market boats.
On the next page is a view of the house in which we lived. We could only get one unfurnished and so had to hire furniture and invest in bedding & linen and the numerous other trifling details so unfamiliar to the bachelor mind.
It was an excellent house with four large rooms surrounded by a cool and broad verandah, the whole standing on its own grounds in which were breadfruit mango & rose apple & guava trees as well as several bright flowering shrubs. It stands on the main road east just beyond the bridge; it was recently the German Consulate. In one respect we were unfortunate. All the cocks of the neighbourhood and their name is legion – seemed to be congregated within crow of us. One had to live it down, but at midnight, at 2 o’clock and then from 4 a.m. continuously the crowing was enough to dissipate sleep for the first few nights. Dogs and pigs did their best to aid in this.
Our mangoes were splendid. Day and night the mango came pattering to the ground sometimes bursting with ripeness. The quantity was so far beyond our own powers of consumption that we were enabled to keep the Restaurant supplied at which we took Dejeuner and Diner.
Our kitchen stables & outhouses we did not use.
From the store of a Chinaman opposite we were supplied in the early morning with coffee & rolls, and at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. we repaired to Georjay’s Restaurant where we were very reasonably & fairly well served. For deference to his customers & theatrical demonstrativeness this man is unrivalled. All his courses have long names & there is an abundance of clean plates: these are his strong points.
After Dejeuner, during the hottest hours of the day, we would return to our house, get into pyjamas & smoke a cigar, while lounging under the mosquito curtains or on a pile of Samoan tappa & mats on the breezy verandah. Here we had hammocks and easy chairs and a supply of coconuts oranges &c. Our rooms had plenty of windows & doors which were open day & night there being no danger of robbery in Papeete.
With our Samoan tappa, mats, & curios we made the
Maison aux trois vagabonds -
J. Horsfall W. Lieberoth R. Gallop Tau – native servant
interior look habitable. Our house having no name we christened it ‘au trois vagabonds’, a character which we did our best to sustain from every point of view during our visit, and if gossip spoke true succeeded in doing.
On the subject of Gossip, I believe in Papeete I have at last found a town where this taste is prevalent beyond all powers of rivalry. In various small places amongst others in Fiji, this appeared to have been carefully studied and reduced to an accomplishment, a fine art, but just as Nature is superior to Art, so is the gossip of Papeete, which is firmly implanted as one of the strongest impulses of the Tahitian breast, absolutely unapproachable in its naivete by any of the elaborations of ennui which bear this name in narrowed though civilized social spheres.
Needless to add that the gentler sex are the most confirmed in this.
From this source we derived a vast amount of entertainment. We were the only strangers in town, all bachelors, and two of our party Germans, a fact the Tahitians very soon got hold of, and these they regarded as German spies, officers in disguise! We had taken the best house procurable in town, and proceeded to live & enjoy ourselves in perfect freedom. Our doings were watched with interest, magnified, and duly reported and discussed round the town, reaching us again generally pretty correctly, but often queerly mangled in their details.
No morning or evening paper is required here; about half an hour is sufficient for the latest piece of information to circulate, like a special Edition throughout Papeete, and this is the case of not only the present and immediate past but of the future. Our very plans while scarcely matured were known and discussed!
Truly that ‘fierce light which beats upon the throne of Kings’ is a mere flash in the pan compared to the scorching blaze of Papeetian notoriety. And yet five o’clock tea is an unknown institution here!
The Flagship of Admiral St. Hilaire & a portion of the Squadron were in harbour when we arrived
Three times a week in the evenings the Admiral’s Band played in the Place de Musique, opposite to the Governor’s House, and here assembled regularly the youth and beauty, the gaiety and careless frivolity of the little town. The girls in their most fascinating tenue, a large amount of military & naval officers and men and all the Kanaka jeunesse, [indecipherable] and otherwise, in their evening dress.
This dress is unique and worth a description.
instead of a mere pariu they wear trousers and a white shirt, the latter is always worn outside in its entirety with the queerest effect, a bright coloured tie is loosely worn, and a straw hat with flowers round it or single ones over the ear; a wreath dangling from the neck and the Kanaka boy is happy and comfortable.
In this scene we spent our first evening. Of the many new impressions which a traveller in the Pacific is called upon to receive, few are calculated to be so striking or indelible as the spectacle which greeted our eyes on entering the Place de Musique.
A lively air was being played, one of those that set the feet tingling & invite to rhythmic action, all of which we so ‘properly’ suppress with such uncomfortable dignity at English gatherings or Band recitals. Here girls & men gallop round the Band Pavilion, in time to the music, in a very jolly way, indicative of the perfect gaiety and abandon of their buoyant spirits. It struck us as very similar to a scene from a ballet, a stage representation of the dance succeeding a village feast, or the old ‘footing it’ round the May Pole.
No signs of care or anxiety among these happy natives. Their greatest griefs are barely skin deep; they are ready to cry or to laugh and to change from one to the other on the slenderest pretext.
But this is a land consecrated to Nature. Every human impulse or desire sanctioned by Nature is recognised sans reproche by the Tahitians & strange to say this has prevailed in spite of the opposing influence of Missionaries or various sects, and against the declines of civilization.
in the first place such artificialisms as the ‘couvenances are entirely unknown. As in the child of every country, so in the grown up girls and women of the Society Islands simplicity in word, thought and action regulates their conduct.
That which in countries moulded by centuries of civilization is contrary to the thereby evolved code of morality and is attributed to a wilfully vicious character, may, under such conditions as obtain in Tahiti, be with truth & justice exempted from the charge of vice and attributed to the influence of past centuries of existence as Children of Nature, under which all that is human is allowed full and unfettered scope.
This is by way of explanation rather than of justification.
All this is rather startling to the newcomer and takes some time to thoroughly grasp and appreciate. Probably under no other Regime than that of France would this state of social relationship be allowed to visit.
But in its entirety the Tahitian character is inconceivable
From personal observation I have
observed noted traits which no other evidence would have persuaded me to regard as even possible, flashes of character inherited from their prehistoric age of savagedom not inhuman only, but such as one would scorn in a well-bred dog or horse, - ignoble, almost unnatural.
They are great liars, objectless and ridiculous very often quite inconsistent and so easily unmasked as to be almost harmless. They will give you the answer they think you want and say anything to satisfy the requirements of the moment, men & women alike. Anything for a quiet life’!
‘Vivere in diem’ is their principle of life. Take no thought for the morrow. While they have covering and food nothing tempts them to work. Inconceivable is the strength of their attachment to the purpose or the pleasure of the moment, their refusal or inability to grasp the exigencies of the morrow, their great efforts to secure the former, their scarcely human indifference to the latter.
But their happiness is complete, let no one disturb it!
Two sounds are very familiar in Papeete, the few busy girls at work at Sewing Machines making clothes the many idle ones playing the eternal Concertina or Accordian. Our first servant was not Tahitian. He was a native of the island of Sandwich in the Cannibal New Hebrides Group, and as black as coal. A good servant & very amusing. He took the name of a late employer & liked to be called Mr Darsie. His sayings were very humourous, couched in the ‘Beche de Mer’ English patios of which I had had a long experience among his kind on Queensland Sugar Estates and in the Islands. His failing was drink. In this state he would go perfectly wild & generally finish up in ‘Calaboose’. We were told we should be lucky if we managed to keep him for a week at a time. He lasted about three! At any rate he served us well while with us & supplied us with many a good laugh.
By way of preparing for our proposed walk round the island we explored the vicinity of Papeete and found some good rambles & steep climbs.
Some miles up the Tipearui Valley is a fine fall of water, one leap being 600 feet or so. The walk is a very pleasant one for one is soon of the hot and dusty main road, walking through a forest of trees and creepers with plenty of oranges lemons and limes overhead.
Some fine crags show themselves now and again protruding from the heights on either side which are here considerable and after awhile the road becomes a scramble up the bed of the river. The arums and giant taro are the special ornaments of these river beds and plenty of small trout are in the pools. After 3 hours walking a grand view is disclosed by a turn in the valley, the waterfall above and a deep clear basin of water below. We had managed to get quite hot enough to enjoy a swim. The fall of the water on the back was just such a shower bath as a man can stand, while to float & look up at the falling stream was sensuous luxury. We were about 1300 feet above the level of the sea & found the water very cold.is failing was drink. In this state he wouled go perfectly wild &
The Upper Fall of Tipearui
The Lower Fall
[Photo of three girls]
The Home of the German Consul in Papeete
Autour de l’isle
Our first Expedition consisted of a stroll round the two peninsulas which constitute Tahiti.
Being entirely unbound to time, having glorious scenery before us and an unrivalled climate we felt bound to take it easy and so enjoy to the full the delights in store for us. The best arrangement we could make with regard to our house was simply to close it during our absence depositing with a friend our keys and small valuables.
As I said before, like the rest of humanity our swarthy attendant Mr Darsie has his moments of weakness when, in spite of the willingness of the ‘spirit’, the flesh is weak, very weak, and complaisance outweighs caution with resulting consequences.
Accordingly one Monday morning, after very early coffee, Mr Darsie was made happy with his complement of dollars, all the doors and windows of the house were fastened and our tramp began. Our guide and carrier was a Tahitian of light mahogany hue, having the conveniently short name of Tau, for which we felt grateful to him.
His qualifications were that he was very willing, well acquainted with our route of travel and the various natives and Europeans on the way and possessed of an equally deficient smattering of English & French.
Our days’ walks were mostly regulated on the following principle to suit the climate: an early bath, followed by coffee, and then a tramp till 10 o’clock or so: another bath while Tau got breakfast ready, after which a long lounge in the shade, leaving a few miles to complete the day’s work. This gave us the opportunity of seeing everything en route and at our destination, where a third swim and dinner was followed by the cigar of satisfaction and an early retirement to bed.
The first day’s walk was a hot one, taking us along the lee side of the island where the Trade Wind was intercepted by the high mountains of the interior, but the [indecipherable] varying views of Moorea, crowned with its dome of clouds
Mr Goupil’s House
and beautified with light and shade and colour more than atoned for such merely personal inconvenience and lent a special charm to the whole walk.
A few miles out we passed Mr Goupil’s very pretty house, a good specimen of what sort of a home a man may make for himself in Tahiti.
After the long period – 5 months – of dry weather which has prevailed we were not surprised to find the rivers almost dry which in the rainy season swell to considerable torrents.
On the banks of one which was better off in this respect we camped for breakfast. For this meal we carried tins of New Zealand preserved meats, a supply of bread, and a ‘Billy’ with tea and sugar. This we supplemented with fish or eggs bought on the way and so made up a very presentable meal. But first for the appetiser, a swim in the sea followed by a freshwater bath in the river. The combined effect seemed to have some medicinally reviving charm about it, for I never remember to have been so thoroughly invigorated by a mere bath.
Tea was made in the usual Australian ‘bush’ style, while the fish was cleaned and roasted in island fashion upon stones heated on the fire, an excellent plan for campaigners.
The first peep at the Central Ranges of which we were to have so many fine views was up the Valley of the Punarveu. [Punarvasu]
[Photo of the valley and ranges]
at the head of which are congregated the Diadeuv (4500 ft) Aorai (6900 ft) and Orohena (7500 ft), Tahite’s loftiest summits. These figures are from a French Chart a very incorrect one, and are probably under the mark.
Paea, distant about 12 ms from Papeete was our first stage. We were expected at the Restaurant (so called and preparations had been made in the shape of cool & clean looking, well mosquito curtained beds, and a French menu to which we did ample credit.
So far our attention had been charmed by the views seaward; Moorea over ten miles of sapphire sea, Moorea over an emerald expanse relieved by patches of water of every imaginable hue, bounded by a long low line of coral beating surf; Moorea through clumps of Coco palms or groves of delicate hued Mango, always a varying contour, always a varying colour, and when the next day’s tramp shut out our dreamy island we had not had enough of it.
One of the great charms of the trip is that each day appears to possess its individuality of feature and to convey easily distinguishable impressions.
[Photo of French Map of Tahiti]
In scenery, in climate, in the very nature of the bathing and camping & commisariat there is that daily recurring change so dear to the heart of the true vagabond.
The photographed plan of the island, a mass of inaccuracy most respects, will just serve as an itinerary chart to show the route and the different days’ stages. It is about as suggestive of the beauties of outline as a Chart on Mercator’s Projection is of the shape of the Globe. The Landscape views must be allowed to make amends for this.
- on the coast of Papara -
Our route through the Orange Districts of Papara Mataiea and Papeariri was one continual progress through an ideal Eden. Since experiencing this I can understand what was in Tennyson’s mind when he wrote his "Lotos Eaters", I know what imaginative people dream of when they speak of an Earthly Paradise.
And it takes a strong imagination to equal the reality. First let your phantasy soar to its highest pitch & construct an atmosphere, a temperature and a heaven. You have them here ready to hand.
The road in Maraa
The Taharu Rr & Central Peaks
Now imagine a smooth broad road almost level the whole time and in a good state of repair, shaded with a most luxuriant foliage. On either side is a scene of great fertility, and in this respect each day gave us fresh evidence of the capacity in luxuriation of this delightful island.
Scene in Mataiea
In the districts of which I speak the road is fringed with and often shaded by the majestic coco palm, the spreading mango, yielding its impenetrable shade, the orange, the lemon and the lime, each with its varying and rich green and its profusion at once of luscious fruit and strongly perfumed flowers. Behind these are to be seen fields of Sugar cane and of Maize, rows of green-leafed red-berried coffee, thickets of golden fruited guava, clumps of bananas and bamboos, and peeping out from among them all the georgesness of pomegranate, scarlet and lemon hibiscus, the gigantic passion flower, to my mind Nature’s supremest floral effort, oleanders, alamanders & other creepers and flowers multicoloured and innumerable.
Villages are all along the road, and of course the native food plants make their due show, most noticeable among these being the Bread Fruit & the graceful Taro, some of the varieties of which attain such huge proportions, and are nearly allied to our European Caladiniums and Cala Lillies.
Speaking of this road Lady Brassey says:-
"The road that encircles the island is called the Broom Road.
The Bread Fruit Tree
"Convicts were employed in its original construction, and now it is the punishment for anyone getting drunk in any part of the island to be set to work to sweep repair and set in good order a piece of the road in the neighbourhood of his dwelling. It is the one good road of Tahiti, encircling the larger of the two Peninsulas close to the sea shore and surmounting the low mountain range in the centre of the Isthmus."
To the left of the road valley after valley discloses the rare beauties of gorge and peak sloping from the wild and little known interior of this small island to the sea
- Fall in Papeuriri -
while to the right are such beauties of sea and sky, of bays and sky, of bays and reefs and surf, as the most exacting art critic would find it difficult to depreciate.
On our second day we passed through large tracts of cotton running quite wild. As an industry this has ceased to be remuneratic & has for some time past been abandoned. Both the flower & the busting pod are very pretty.
In Mataiea we inspected a small Sugar Mill worked on principles of almost prehistoric antiquity. All boiling operations, even to the boiling up of the actual grain, take place in open pans, by which the loss of time, of steam, of fuel, of results and of everything that is chiefly desirable in a Sugar Mill must be very great. A Rum distillery is attached to the Mill. Compared to the magnificent Mills of Fiji and Queensland this was a veritable playing at sugar making.
A very striking gorge is the valley of the Vailuria at the head of which is a loftily situated Lake which will be the object of a separate expedition. Mt Tehifera at no apparent distance, and rising to a height of 6000 ft: makes the prospect of this trip very enticing. To see such fine peaks as these is to long to scale them.
Our second night’s camp was at a Frenchman’s house where for a mediocre dinner and the same style
of accommodation, not to mention a too liberal supply of nocturnal animal life, he wanted to charge us 40 francs, and didn’t appear particularly surprised when we gave him 20 fs in full payment.
We had several startling instances during our trip of the contrast between the avariciousness of the civilized man and the liberal hospitality of the native.
Here we had a fine swim in sight of this picturesque little island. The native is engaged in spearing fish.
On approaching the Isthmas of Taravao the road becomes exceedingly tortuous & diversified; winding round and beneath crags, bay after bay of small dimensions & of exquisite colour appears. Of these some have to be skirted, while across others, as the photograph shows, an artificially embanked road has been made.
Every new turn disclosed fresh beauties in vegetation in colour and in view, and the high mountains of the Presqu’Ile of Taiarapu concentrated into so small a compass came in sight. On ascending the hill leading into Taravao a very good idea of the configuration of the whole small Peninsula is obtained and views which shall speak for themselves.
[Two photos of scenery]
[Photo of stream and trees]
Fern hunters would be charmed with the abundance and variety of ferns which everywhere on this point of the road clothes its steep sides while the gnarled and tangled masses of swamp mangrove are most grotesque and uninviting. They do not however show well in the photograph.
For the first time today I saw that beautiful creeper the Vanilla Plant growing profusely. It is trailed up palms and guava trees and is kept as well shaded as possible. The flower, like an orchid, is of a pale green and while colour quite curious enough to please an orchid fancier. The scent of the bean while lying in the sun to dry is very choice.
There is a considerable industry in the growth & preparation of this bean, the market price is now about five dollars per kilo, equal to about 9s/6 per lb, a great reduction from the price formerly obtained.
[Photo] The Presqu’Ile of Taiarapu as seen from the West coast
The Presqu’Ile has a reputation for its fish, especially its shell & cray fish, and very justly as we abundantly proved. After a lunch of oysters, lobsters and other fish, with salad and fruit and good native grown coffee, all which was provided for us at the stables of the Coach, we took our last opportunity of changing some money and in doing this we made the acquaintance of Monsieur Lucas, a very genial & hospitable old Frenchman, a Government
Official in charge of the District. He had heard of the arrival in the country of the ‘trois vagabonds and very courteously invited us to lunch with him on our return from the circuit of the Presqu’Ile.
Here is the Fort de Taravao, once fully manned with French soldiers, now garrisoned by two grusd’arive.
That evening we tasted true native hospitality at the house of some relations of our man Tau, a roomy native hut with three large four poster bedsteads and some European
[Photo of hut and people]
furniture. The native house of Tahiti is built of straight bamboos or saplings standing vertically close together, so as to allow a free current of air to pass into the house from all sides and so that those on the inside can see what is doing outside, though the converse is not the case. The roof as in other Pacific Islands is of coconut or pandanus thatch raised on a central ridge pole.
The whole structure is fastened with cinnet made of coco fibre. A most friendly welcome was accorded us by the inmates and their neighbours, and extensive preparations were soon under way for a meal while we were enjoying our usual afternoon swim.
When the meal was ready it really was a dainty feast and fit to set before a king, including as it did oysters, enormous fresh water for prawns, each armed with one long and formidable pincer claw, sea fish and a marvellous cray fish of the lobster species called by the natives Varo. It is a sea scorpion of dangerous appearance. In taste we all agreed that it quite took the palm as a cray fish, being incomparably superior to and more delicate than lobster, crab or other crayfish.
To a first class gourmet it would be priceless, so aldermanic is it in its rich and dyspeptic qualities. Following these good things appeared the inevitable chicken with taro, sweet potatoes and plaintains.
The vintage was coconut water fresh from the wood and excellent. Dessert – Oranges, Bananas and Rose Apples. An equally elaborate meal was set before us next day with the additional ceremony of a roast pig which had been specially killed.
When we took our departure our entertainers looked upon our present of 4 dollars as a princely gift. Our beds were very comfortable, with but one drawback, the presence in large and hungry numbers of the ‘pulex irritans’!
All this time Mr L: our Tahitian scholar was making rapid progress with the language and was able to make himself understood by Tau: this was very agreeable to his companions.
This part of Tahiti, the Presqu’Ile is rarely seen by the visitor as the regular coaching arrangements do not comprise this side of it.
What those see who content themselves with a drive round the larger Peninsula, compared to those who, like ourselves, make the complete circuit of both is verily "As moonlight unto sunlight and as water unto wine".
The road now narrowed own to a soft grassy track constantly crossing small rivulets which ought to be streams & just sufficing to keep our feet cool. It was a treat to quit the high road for such an easy track.
Throughout our walks in the island we used a shoe of Chinese manufacture, having canvas or carpet ‘uppers’ and strong & very soft rope work soles, equally good for rough walking over stones or through water or on a good road: though we ran through many pairs of these we returned to them again and again and found them invaluable.
The greater part of our ‘swag’ we either forwarded by coach, or stored at some house as a depot as occasion offered, leaving Tau but little to carry and that he
[Photo of three natives one carrying fruit]
balanced in two bundles at each end of a bamboo pole much as the native in the photograph is carrying ‘fei’ or wild plantains, a principle on which they carry really enormous weights.
Leaving Tau’s friends in the Toahotu District we got occasional glimpses of fisher life by the seaside;
These views – or the same hut – show what rudely constructed homes suffice in this favoured country
[Two photos of huts and inhabitants]
Our walk now lay through increasingly luxuriant vegetation to a perfect climax of fertility in Teahupo where the slopes of the mountains approaching close to the sea and leaving space only for a road and houses, are covered with a vegetation of such denseness and brilliancy of green as not even the tangled foliage overhanging a New Guinea river or the most fertile ‘bits’ of northern Queensland could equal.
The huge creeper shown here is the gigantic passion flower of which I have before spoken. The fruit of this which we call Granadilla and the French Barbedine is most luscious. There was no lack of evidence that we had reached the rainiest corner of Tahiti.
Faut de mieux we camped for the night at the house of the Missionary i.e. a native Bible Teacher. Having had various experiences of the fruits of mission influence in other groups, I was by no means surprised at the treatment which this old hypocrite essayed to practise upon us.
After providing us with a most inferior meal, quite the worst on our trip, and putting us into insect infected and curtainless beds, he had the impudence to demand five dollars. He received three, which in a fit of Xtian [Christian] temper he threw on the ground; on the ‘take it or leave it’ principle we set out on our way rejoicing that we had foiled another knave. Tau afterwards told us that he had received no food at all and that the Missionary had actually wanted him to pay additional for a shake-down on the verandah.
where they did not even give him a mat or blanket. Truly a Xtian Missionary! He took us in! He is likely to hear of this again.
By the kind forethought of a friend in Papeete a large market boat and four men had been sent from Tautira on the opposite coast to Vaiarava to pick us up and take us round the intraversable portion of the Presqu’Ile.
This sea journey was the day of the whole nine, involving a rest and an acceptable change from walking and embracing the wildest & grandest views of the tour. During the few miles tramp to Vaiarava the landscape appeared to be working itself up with surprising rapidity to a perfect frenzy of beauty. Each succeeding valley struck one with greater admiration than the last. Such stupendous declivities, densely clothed walls, pinnacled and turreted crags, backed by marvellous & ever changing effects of cloud and shine. It was a series of panoramic vistas up rapidly succeeding valleys, which for us, at any rate, have as yet no equal. But we are led to expect great things of Moorea, and Ceylon & Java are as yet unvisited
Here is a spoilt view of Vaiarava. The Camera standing on the coral reef in the water was moved by a sea at the critical moment.
Fortunately there was only a light head wind and no sea. At one time our course lay through two passages between coral reefs which are said to be exceedingly dangerous when there is any surf running; even while piloting the boat through in slack water there is no margin for mistakes.
To give our rowers and ourselves a rest we landed for coconuts and had a swim first and then boiled the Billy & had afternoon tea.
An hour or so before sundown we reach Tautira Point and village, next to Papeete the principal place in the island. A very good house was placed at our disposal during our short stay and we were well entertained.
[Photo of valley]
The valley or Tautera is one of the many which we in turn considered the loveliest we had seen, the river one of the broadest and deepest in Tahiti.
Following it up a short way we came upon a splendid bathing place where it was possible to climb up the trunk of a dead tree and get a header into ten feet of water and a long swim. We made the most of the several baths we had there, and in fact, throughout the island, the variety in the type of bath was a great charm; at one time the open sea with a moderate shore surf, or inside the reef in water of absolute stillness and depth of colour,
magnifying like a glass; shallow rivers, deep rivers, swift & slow streams, fresh water lakes and salt lagoons, all that our amphibious hearts could desire.
The village of Tautira consists of a considerable collection of native and semi civilized houses built on either side of a beautiful grass road shadowed by mango trees & palms, a hundred yards or so from the beach.
This view shows a "Fare Hou" or Town Hall in which
all functions take place. They are very long fine houses, built like a native dwelling house.
All this time our weather has been ‘dead perfection’. Sea and land breezes were punctual in their daily advent. When the sun grew unpleasantly strong there was an abundance of shade; water was to be found continually and in addition to the nights being cool they were illumined with a brilliant moonlight.
So gorgeous were they that we decided to make our next stage by moonlight and to idle away our next day, not in ‘mild-mouthed melancholy’ which would, I think, be unpleasant to oneself and is hateful in others, but in a mild ramble up the valley diversified with frequent dips into such inviting pools as this, and
spells intervals for lunch and the contemplative pipe.
[Photo of river and tree branches]
The moon was at its full that night, a glorious spectacle, as it rose opposite to where the last evidences of decaying day were being effaced by its golden light. It is this light which gives to the coconut palm that peculiarly beautiful sheen which makes it the symbol of dignified majesty as it rears its head high above its fellows.
We made our start at half past eleven when the moon
was about one third up, and walking along the springy grass road were soon engaged in crossing one river after another, never getting in above the knees. We walked through twenty nine that night.
Then we could appreciate the wonderful depth of the mango tree’s shade, an impenetrable black all the darker for the flood of light beyond. The sea, the reef and the rocks all presented a very different aspect to that of daylight and were quite worthy of the magnificent illumination which was lavished upon them night after night and which we had hitherto neglected for the commonplace claims of sleep.
The atmosphere was delightfully warm and the water in the rivers sometimes warm sometimes cold according as whether the beds were muddy or stony.
Undoubtedly this is the most agreeable way of walking in hot weather, for the enervation of heat and the discomfort of thirst are equally avoided, and carrying becomes easy work for the natives.
About 3 o’clock we camped for a few hours sleep in a tumbledown boatshed, making capital beds out of platted palm fronds and waking a few hours later to find an old beach comber, an American contemplating us and inviting us to take an early cup of coffee with him which we were glad to do.
This brought us to within a few miles of Taravao on the E. side of the Presqu’Ile, and for a sunrise effect the view on to the main island was well worth waking to see.
Monsieur Lucas was already in the sea we were fully prepared to do justice to his culinary efforts.
In the company of the Juge de Paix’ un de plus riches proprietaires’ and our host, we sat down to a meal of which I must be excused for giving the Menu; just as seven years ago, setting at the same table, Lady Brassey experienced a similar treat & gave a full account of it in her charming little book on
Oysters. Varos. Crabs. Prawns.
Vin. Californian Hock
Cotelettes de Monton aux pommes frites
Vin de Bordeau
Omelet au Rhum
Bananas Fruit de Cythere.
Cognac & Rhum.
Such an exquisitely cooked and served meal was a very agreeable surprise in a part of the island which can scarcely even claim to be a village.
The Juge de Paix was such a delightfully orthodox i.e. selfish gourmand, and so loud in proclaiming the superiority of the Varo over every other fish, and its claim to be the only true cray fish, that we dubbed him in our post prandial moments of irresponsible frivolity, & before the bad tobacco which he gave us quite muddled our wits – The Judge of Pies; his motto, ‘In varo veritas’!
We heard a deal of interest about the island, its history and resources, & much enjoyed our day with our kind host. He however did not consider that he had discharged the duties of hospitality until he had not only dined us in the evening but given us early coffee next morning. Alas for walking condition!
The Fruit de Cythere was new to us. In taste and consistency it recalls the medlar or the custard apple & is of the same satisfying nature.
We had now been on the tramp for seven days and thinking two more quite sufficient for the remainder
of the journey, we made about 17 miles per day for the last days, fair walking in a hot climate and yet easy work.
The road continued to resemble a grass walk through a park with small intervals of short cuts over beach or rocky ground. Looking back we had still views of the Presqu’Ile as far as Tautira Point and landward was Valley after valley and stream upon stream.
In wet seasons this part of the road is at times unpassable owing to the rush of water from the interior, but in such a dry season the continual arrival at water is a boon.
The vegetation now becomes less luxuriant & of a tougher growth, calculated to thrive in spite of the trade wind constantly blowing over it, for this is the weather side. The fruit trees give way to the sturdy screw pine and the ironwood tree, a hardy species of fir, and the coast itself becomes rocky and ironbound, the road being artificially cut on the face of the cliffs.
In the valley of Papeiha we had quite our best swim in a fresh water basin of great length and depth & commanding charming inland peeps at the mountains.
Over one river a woman in a canoe was kind enough to paddle us, and, to our surprise, refused payment.
Let me mention here the great contrast between the natives of Samoa and those of Tahiti. The former are charmingly naive in manner, always pleased to welcome a ‘papalange’ or white man to their houses and overflowing with smiles & gaiety, their true nature. In Tahiti – outside Papeete – little of this is visible, the result, no doubt, of ultra civilization and missionary instilled scruples, a compound out of which result a cool indifference to and stony stare at strangers.
Everywhere they gave us the impression that they didn’t
particularly care about seeing us, excepting of course, people to whom we were specially commended.
1. In the Catholic Church at Raiatea, Society Isds.
2. The King Stone
The standard height for a King of Tahiti in the olden days.
Sacrificial Stones of the olden days in Tahiti. In order to prevent a scarcity of food any infants born beyond a prescribed number were sacrificed on these stones.
[Photo – tatooed man]
A specimen of tatooing from the Marquesa Islands
Probably they have had enough and to spare of the Frenchmen, and in their eyes all white men are alike. Perhaps fifty years ago things were different.
The Valley of Mahaena has a fine river through which we scrambled, and on the banks of which, as it meets the sea, we found a group of natives feasting and indulging in native music and festivities.
To these pursuits and to the science of doing nothing they devote their best energies and for their thorough success they are to be envied.
At Tiarei we were well received and entertained by the Chef of the District or Chefferie of Tiarei. Amongst other viands he gave us a dish of small fish about the size of whitebait, but as these had been boiled they were not particularly tasty.
Our last day’s walk was our longest and hottest. The Papenoo River we swam, carrying over our clothes on our heads. The water was very cold, and two journeys each way was sufficient for a bath.
The low palm covered headland of Point Venus and its lighthouse now bore in view.
The Papara Valley disclosed a fine view of Oroheua. This was the last river we had to wade through and then, under a really blazing sun we negotiated one tree hill before
After this exertion breakfast & coconuts were imperative
The above lovely view of Moorea & Papeete greeted us on top of the hill. During the hottest hours of the day we finished along that dusty high road the remaining four miles under the hour.
It was a pleasure to be lounging again in deshabille in our cool verandah feeling that our trip had been a great success.
[Photo of boy and waterfall]
Half caste Tahitienne
Native Dances. A Trip to Moorea. Foufoua Valley
After our return from the Tour de l’isle we spent some days in easy idleness, rivalling the natives in indolence and lying about on comfortable mats in cool and shady places, occasionally doing a little writing and a very little reading.
In the evenings when the Admiral’s Band was playing we made the Place de Musique our lounge and alfresco smoking room; under a bright moon and a cloudless sky, with dry grass to sit upon and plenty of occupation for eyes and ears this was very agreeable. There was really a little too much though in the musical line. They have a half caste Band which plays once or twice a week, and on the other nights a native dance with singing takes place not far from our house.
Twenty girls and more decorated with flowers sit tightly packed together on the ground round a girl who plays the accordion; a man accompanies on a sort of native flute. The air is quick and jerky, impossible to catch and more than impossible to describe. The most curious wavings and bendings of the body go on during this performance, and the end of each stave is modulated and dies away in a soft gradual monotone which fascinates the ear and strangely enough recalls the endings to Gregorian chants, the effect being heightened by the fact that every head is bent down at the last stave. Up come the heads again and off go voices, accordion & movements as jerkily and briskly as before. But the character of the whole think is very different from chants; the words, I am told, and the morale is of a questionable Music Hall standard.
In another corner of the ground a group of girls from the Paumotu Islands perform their national dance. This is more outre’ than the Tahitian, but perfectly unique and more extraordinary than anything of the
kind in the Pacific. It is performed by about ten girls standing, Indian file, in two rows, and to the music of accordion and drum played very quickly & grotesquely. The gestures and contortions are again so strange that no impression can be conveyed in words of the queer effect.
The Photographs give but a poor idea of any of these dances.
In the first is a large group of dancers ‘sitting’ under mango trees laden with fruit.
The second is an attempt to reproduce some of the action
What is wonderful about the performance is the command which the girls have over the various parts of their frame, of which they appear able to move any part of their will to the exclusion of the others.
Such suppleness and agility of action as they exhibited struck me as surpassing some of our youthful professional acrobatic tricks.
Contrary to the Tahitian dance this finishes suddenly on a beat of the drum with no warning, and a good deal of amusement is afforded by the actual position of each girl on the last drum beat. The gestures are wild and very free; the usual long gowns and ornaments are worn for it.
This Photo shows the finish of a sitting ‘Upa Upa’, as the dance is called, each girl throwing one foot over the other knee and resting her head on her hand.
During the musical performances here and at the band the ground is margined by a row of women & men seated on the ground, each with a lighted candle and wares for sale; the principal are the exquisite wreaths & single flowers, frangipani, gardenia, stephanotis and others peculiar to the islands. In addition are many sorts of fruits, native cigarettes & drinks. The color and scent involved in all this makes up a very striking whole which
is better viewed from the slight distance in time and space which lends the proverbial enchantment to the view; and this is the pleasant impression under which the majority of visitors leave Tahiti. On closer acquaintance the curtain falls, the illusion vanishes and what remains is often disappointingly matter of fact.
The Tahitian character is a strange and interesting compound which many generations of intermarriage with Europeans will not, I think, efface. Probably the last trace of the Race which is already on the wane will show itself in momentary outbursts, when those characteristics which are now well known, will come to the surface and puzzle posterity.
To us of course the singing at the Upa Upa was mere gibberish but the amusement which the words & action afforded to those who understood them was catching enough to communicate itself to us.
Now for our trip to Moorea to which we had all been looking forward with so much expectation.
Once a week a small Steamer the ‘Eva’, notorious for is rolling capacities and general unseaworthiness, leaves Papeete for the beautiful Bay of Papetoai on the N.W. side of Moorea. This steamer returns the same evening We had been strongly advised to avoid her and instead to come to terms with some market man from Moorea to take us over on his return from market.
We struck the bargain, and one Sunday morning after the ‘hubbub of the market’ had subsided, and a proportion of their earnings had been spent in liquor by the too cultivated Kanakas, we three with our carrier embarked.
Of the crew only two were non compos. Meeting the sea breeze which sprang up about 10 a.m. we passed through the Reef and under two native rigged sails, stood direct for the Passe de Tapapauran; from reef to reef the crossing took us three hours, and very hot hours they were, but with fine views ahead and astern the whole time.
[Map of Moorea]
Showing our track in red ink.
The principal mountains are marked in feet
The whole island is one mass of mountains and valleys
We had grown to consider the Papeete coast of Tahiti as rather plain compared to the remainder of the island and were surprised at its altered aspect from six miles out at sea. For the first time Mt Oroheua reared its head for us above and beyond Mt. Aorai, a very imposing sight.
In Findlay’s South Pacific Directory the island is thus described.
"Moorea or Eimeo as discovered by Captn. Wallis July 1767 and by him named Duke of York Island. The distance between the reefs of Tahiti and those of Eimeo, as measured in the United States Exploring Expedition ship Vincennes, with the patent log, was ten miles.
Eimeo is a beautiful object in the view from Tahiti, and its beauty is enhanced on a nearer approach; its hills and mountains may, without any stretch of imagination, be constructed into battlements, spires and towers rising one above the other, their grey sides clothed here and there with verdure, which at a distance resembles ivy of the richest hue. Eimeo has, if possible, a more broken surface than Tahiti, and is more thrown up into separate peaks: its scenery is wild, even in comparison with Tahiti, and particularly from the water to a height of 25OO (?) feet.
The reef which surrounds the island is similar to that of Tahiti and has no soundings immediately outside it. Black cellular lava abounds and holes are found in its sheltered ridges, among which is the noted one through which the God Oroo is said to have thrown his spear.
The inhabitants of Eimeo reside upon the shores, where there are several large villages on the South side of the island. Coffee small cotton, sugar and all other tropical plants succeed well at Eimeo’.
Such is still true of Moorea and certainly Miss Gordon Cumming’s sketches bear testimony to the fantastic arrangement of ‘battlements & spires’.
As we approached the island its reputation was more and more justified in our minds. Ahead of us rose Mt. Tohivea of 4000ft and upwards, the highest mountain of the island, lying at the back of a regular bay – to apply a sea term to land – of mountain encircled country.
A curious peak rose to the right, an acutely pointed broken pinnacle with a small opening, looking at a distance like the eye of a needle, piercing it close to the to the topmost point. This is the hole mentioned by Findlay, already referred to.
Landing in the District of Afareaitu we walked a little beyond the Bay of Vaiere in the neighbouring district of Teavaro, through country which was very similar to that of Tahiti. Cotton bushes once properly tended were growing profusely. As in Tahiti this culture is now neglected. The natives still pick it and ‘gin’ it with their fingers using the material for bedding pillows &c.
We had a note to a native, who at once turned his family out of his house, made up comfortable curtained beds and put the whole at our disposal. We saw the chicken killed, after a chase by the whole family, which an hour later formed part of our meal. This is the usual custom and the chicken is consistently tough.
After a splendid nights’ rest we got away early and walked through Afareaitu again and on through Maatea into the Hapiti District.
The first contrast to Tahiti which we noted was a pleasing one. The natives were really glad to see us and above all pleased to hear we were not French.
Throughout the island we were struck with the same prevalent feeling. It must not be forgotten that the Tahitians have more than once petitioned to be annexed to England.
But they are not badly governed and very happy as they are.
We soon shut out Tahiti from the view & could give our attention to the beauties around us.
Here is a scene during our first days’ walk.
There is no high road as in Tahiti but the track is very good for walking. At one time an avenue richly scented and strewn with flowers and leaves, at another a field path surrounded by rich green grass, now a dark glade through forest and now a sandy track exposed to a glaring sun. And variety charms
The quantity and proportions of the crabs which everywhere infest the track is incredible.
These monsters have two pincer claws, one being out of all proportion larger than the other. They burrow like rabbits and are very keen of hearing and precipitate in their retreat. Always ready for a skirmish, if they are unable to reach their home, they get up on to the points of their sharp claw legs and show fight with their formidable claws.
In Haapiti we had a
very agreeable novel experience.
After enjoying excellent food and lodging, on our departure next day our Kanaka host absolutely declined to accept any money. All we could do was to make his wife a present out of his own store. Such an uncivilized, unTahitian and altogether hospitable manifestation was a surprise.
In the village of Teurutea we had a chat with two Roman Catholic Priests, one a Frenchman the other a Rhinelander.
The former had been in these latitudes for 40 and the latter for 20 years, and leave of absence to return home on a visit had been several times refused.
The above sketch shows the road out of Haapiti on our way round the island.
Fruit is not very plentiful on the island. Beyond Mango, Sugar Cane, & Guava we saw but little.
Tobacco was being cultivated on one plantation, and on the same we got a couple of fine water melons & some Papaw fruit for lunch.
Want of rain as in Tahiti was the complaint in Moorea, and as water was scarce in the river courses our midday camp had to be chosen with reference to this.
The girls in Moorea are very friendly in their manner and not inflicted with that civilized ‘scaredom’ prevalent in the outward districts of Tahiti, in which island most of the girls are centralized in Papeete, and the remainder seem to have been taught to mistrust the white man.
In Papetoai the verdure on the sloping hills had quite an European aspect, and the previous softness of vegetation gave place to a hardy casuarina or ironwood tree, which resembles at a small distance the firs & pines of Northern Latitudes.
Further on again we reached the Western or Lee side of the island, a very hot tract where no one cares to settle. Here the magnificence of the wild mountain scenery began.
The above scene opened before us, more or less, as we came round the point and opened up the Bay of Papetoai, a scene of great beauty. I say ‘more or less’ advisedly, for as a sketch it is not as true to nature as it might be.
The next sketch shows the same Bay from another point of view.
Here is Mr Salmon’s house & Cattle Station and Plantation situated at the head of the bay as shown in the opposite sketch
In former days this was a Sugar Plantation & large sums of money have been lost over the concern. The old Mill is a mere wreck. Now cattle & coconuts are found to be a milder and safer form of speculation.
We were kindly received and glad to be able to speak to an Englishman again, for much as Mr L. had improved in his Tahitian, it was a painful effort to make himself thoroughly understood, and at times we must have appeared very ungracious to our native hosts.
Looking inland from the house and in fact almost
in a circle is a view of the wildest beauty.
Fantastic and erratic in the extreme, jagged, rugged, and ponderous in turns are the peaks and walls of rock which crop up in all directions.
The country round abounds in wild fowls, wild pigs, duck and snipe.
Mr. H. went out for a days’ sport with Mr Salmon while Mr L. & I, with a native from the locality started to cross the Range into Haapiti.
Through primaeval forest, in among huge banyans and gnarled chestnuts we plodded along, ascending till we reached an altitude of 1250 ft, where from a particular coco-paluo which we had seen from below we had a panorama of magnificence, of which this sketch only represents one tithe of the beauty and extent.
Looking at the map and noting the height of the peaks, the view may be imagined.
The Presqu’Ile of Tahiti, if equal to this, is not superior, and in the former our views, being from seaward, up valleys were more circumscribed.
The descent into Haapiti involved very steep and difficulty walking. After lunching again with our hosts of the
previous day – who were very surprised to see us appear again from a different direction – we walked back to Opunhoo, as Mr Salmon’s house is called, by the coast a distance of 12 miles in 3 hours, having had about 22 miles walking in all.
Arrangements had been made for us to start back to Papeete in a market boat at half past ten that night. The previous night we had waged a warfare against and been worsted by mosquitoes, as we were not protected by nets, and this night sleep there was none.
As usual some of our men were ‘half seas over’, the worst of them recovering slightly after falling into the water. The night was very fine and a dead calm, and after long spells of chatting, smoking and brawling on the part of the natives and occasional short spells of rowing, we eventually reached Papeete at 8 a.m. next day, having been away only four days.
The next week we spent in Papeete, taking a few walks during the day.
The most popular excursion – which we also made – is to the remains of the Fort of Foutoua, up in the mountains at the head of the lovely valley of that name. Ladies are able to ride up the greater
[Photo of road]
part of the way, and as it is close to Papeete it is a great picnic resort.
The road leads off by a fine avenue and at once enters the valley passing a few good houses & narrowing down to a bridle track, having the river on one side and that ‘curse of cultivation’ the guava scrub, on the other.
In Miss Gordon Cumming’s day the avenue was smaller apparently and disclosed a fine view beyond.
The next two photographs show portions of the River Fontona with the ‘Diadem’ in the background
On the next page is a very fine view of this ‘Diadem’ taken from a height of 2000 feet. It is the summit of a mountain of 4300 feet, one of the most striking features in the view up the valley. Soon after crossing the river the fine Pic de Francais came into view, looking very inaccessible in its steepness.
The path now becomes very steep, & fortunately, it being still very early, the sun is only just working his
Pic de Francais
way down the opposite wall of the valley, we are walking through vegetation drenched with a heavy dew, the swarthy Mr Darcie brings up the rear with his load of good things for our breakfast. After winding round the side and up to the summit of this spur, we saw the narrow winding stream of the river-narrow now from want of rain – tumble through a break in the rocks into the basin below, a perpendicular fall of 500 feet. A slight wind was blowing the spray out of its course to one side and the other with strange whimsical effect.
The Fort itself is only a name, its former Kanaka greatness a matter of island history.
A battlemented front of rock alone remains to show what it once was, and a hut is still standing in which two French geus d’arme kept guard
[Photo of waterfall]
over the Fort after the suppression of the Kanaka Rebellion. This was the last mountain fastness in which the natives made their stand – an ineffectual one – against the French. It is said to have fallen through the treachery of a native who offered to conduct the troops by a path by which they could approach unattacked. The result was decisive; a more peaceful lot of people than the Tahitians do not now exist.
[Photo of hut and mountain pass]
Here we made our breakfast camp with the above view before us. Mr Aorai on the left, below us the river in which we had already taken our morning swim, a very chilly one. Round us grew strawberry plants, roses in profusion and a fine foliage of every sort.
The height in the mountains is Our altitude here was 1620 feet.
Our return to Papeete was as uneventful as the return from a picnic usually is & was moreover in the heat of the day.
Fontona Valley after Miss Gordon Cumming.
Half caste Tahitian. Hawaiian father, Tahitian mother
[Photo of girl]
Two men and two women
Men fishing with spears, others watching.
At the market. Lake Vailieria and the interior
Every morning in Papeete a market is held, but the market day par excellence is Sunday, and the gathering is the most interesting and pleasing view in the little town of native life and habits.
In the market place are two large covered buildings. Opposite are the splendid Flamboyant Trees – the Ponciana regia – just now one brilliant mass of scarlet flower.
Before daylight the scene is already a busy one, bargaining and selecting going on by the light of the moon or such artificial illumination as each salesman provides.
From Saturday night on the marketers arrive, take up their position for the morning and then go to sleep. When daylight breaks the scene is most fascinating. The natives have arrived from Moorea and all parts of Tahiti by boat, on foot and in carts. All are very gaily dressed and beflowered and are looking quite their best.
A long row of men and women are sitting on the ground under the trees with their wares neatly arranged before them. Fruit stalls are numerous and contain mangoes, pines, oranges, limes, coconuts bananas &c &c; flower stalls are much patronised, wreaths and sprays being temptingly set out, altogether too irresistible for the Tahitians on their Sunday, a day which they devote to pleasure drives, and to even more of the ‘dolce far niente’ than they indulge in on other days.
The fish stalls are full of queer animals; occasionally a shark, a guard fish or a sword fish is to be seen upon them & flying fish are frequent; one fish is of the colour or arsenic, a fish we ate in spite of its coppery appearance.
Meat, vegetables and all the viands procurable have their allotted position. About 5 o’clock the thing is at its height. A bell rings, after which the
market formally and officially opens & bargains already made are completed by payment and delivery.
For a study of Tahitian humanity, with the sprinkling of Chinese common to every known corner of the earth, this scene is well adapted. By six o’clock the marketers are to be seen all over the town, returning home with their purchases, the men generally carrying theirs over their shoulders on a bamboo pole, the fact of the purchase being sometimes a few small fish not altering their custom.
And for gossip, the meeting at the market place is more productive of news than the Sunday papers of civilization. Every little detail, howsoever insignificant, of the public or private life of every man or woman in Papeete – not omitting the visitors can be there ascertained of this trait I have spoken before but to appreciate the humour of the position in which this places all to each other, it is necessary to spend some time there. Then I can promise a real treat. It is too ludicrous altogether!
An excursion which had been strongly recommended to us, chiefly by persons who had never made it or who had made only part of it, was a walk from the Mataiea district of Tahiti up the Vailieria Valley to the Lake, thence across the main range of mountains in the centre of the Island and down through the long Papenoo Valley onto the East coast. Granted fine weather and that we were ‘fit to go’, we should have the best trip and enjoy the wildest scenery of Tahiti.
The time which this was to take was variously stated to us as from three to six days, so, knowing something of the Tahitian style of exercise we reckoned for three days and started very lightly equipped. Mr. H, who was not up to the journey, decided to remain behind.
Early one Monday Mr. L. & myself and our servant Tau made a start in a Buggy for the Mataiea District distant
eastward about 25 miles. The drive in the early morning with a fast pair of horses driven in a very unprofessional style was very jolly. This ground we had walked over in two days and now we were able as it were to review the journey & get a comprehensive view of the whole in a few hours.
Certainly Papara and Mataiea are very [indecipherable].
A friend in Papeete had kindly put his house at our disposal as a starting point for our tramp.
After a much needed swim we found lunch ready for us. Tau was hunting up the guide for the mountain journey, but returned unable to find him. His pig had broken loose and he was looking for him. Of course this might have been true or not, probably not, the native mind is so partial to gratuitous lying.
Another man was willing to pilot is over for fifteen dollars, but we considered this excessive, and not wishing to behave in the usual new chum fashion and to further spoil the market for excursions, we made him a firm offer of ten dollars and told Tau that whether accepted or not at 2 o’clock we should start, guide or no guide, in which latter case the work entailed upon Tau would be pretty severe. The native remained stubborn, so did we.
So at 2 o’clock we started to accomplish this feat without a guide, our man not knowing the way. The natives thought this a good joke and said they should see us again next day. We thought not.
Entering the valley, close to the subject of the next photograph, we were
rapidly soon engaged in crossing and recrossing the river and at times walking straight up it in from one to three feet of water, then pushing our way through tunnels cut through the tall wild ginger plant, occasionally having to do a little cutting to clear the way and never having a decent track at all. But this was child’s play to what was in store for us.
After counting about seventy five crossings over the river we gave it up as we were then almost the whole time scrambling up through the water.
Rain came on just before dark, so we had to camp for the night, not being able to reach the Lake that night.
[Two photos. Lake and Mountain]
We were lucky enough to come upon the site of an old camp, and utilising the lean-to shanty we touched it up and made a good shelter out of it, covering holes with leaves of the wild ginger.
To light the fire was a work of time and im-patience. But we managed it. Then we changed our wet clothes for damp ones, and had a modest – much too modest meal. Round us were bottles in quantity, empty of course, and we had been foolish enough to start with no sort of spirit!
We passed a good night in spite of all, and by six o’clock next morning were at it again, off through the water. So far our aneroid only showed 400 feet of elevation and the Lake lay at 1300 feet. This additional elevation came in one ascent. A sharp climb, and we were within view of a large green looking lake surrounded on three sides, as the photograph shows with lofty mountains clothed entirely with a close vegetation of tree ferns & other trees and plants. On the left was the lofty peak of Uru faa 4000 feet high, while to the right was Tevaitohi, the pinnacle shown in the photograph. Opposite & across the lake was a small level piece of land receiving the waters from these heights & between two streams stood a small leaf ‘humpy’ which the last visitors had erected.
On all sides slight but long falls of waster were tumbling into the lake. Mountain clouds and rain were passing over us and the sensation was one of dismal solitude, and that contempt for man which Nature is so fond of flaunting in the faces of those who dare to invade her inner fastnesses seemed imprinted on the surroundings.
But our object was to press on, so we put together rafts made in the following way, to carry our clothes and ‘swag’ over.
Banana trees were laid alongside of each other in the water, and stakes were driven through the
[ Photo of lake]
[Shadowy picture of raft]
soft pulp to hold them together. On this, which was a pretty heavy raft in the water we placed our clothes, shoved off, and started to swim the lake, Mr. L. and I pushing behind forming a species of twin screw. A couple of hundred yards behind us came Tau in similar fashion in charge of the precious swag and all our food. The lake smelt unpleasantly and was of a very dirty green colour, yet very deep and at
the depth of our feet very cold. The distance across was between half and three quarters of a mile. Steadily we plodded, pushing with our arms and paddling with our feet. The time seemed very long and was probably above thirty minutes. At last we touched bottom feeling very cold and rather tired in the arms. Pointing to my blue coat Tau told me that that was my colour all over & I felt rather like it!
This was between 7 and 8 a.m. Towards midday the water is said to grow so cold as to be unendurable. This Lake contains a gigantic species of eel with long ears, the body has been known to be as thick as a man’s thigh. I did not see any of these uncanny monsters but I am led to believe the truth of the reports.
Some days later I was dining at the house of a half caste lady, married to a Frenchman; her family claim descent from these eels and by virtue thereof own one side of the lake, and by her the improbable tale was corroborated. After all it is as well to be the descendant by evolution of an eel – especially such an eel – as of a monkey!
During our swim quantities of ducks wheeled about overhead wondering what unaccustomed denizen of the deep we might be.
A fire and some hot tea reduced us to normal condition. At half past ten we started to find our way as best we might across the Col and so onwards. Our object was in sight, which made our work easier than if we had been steering without landmarks.
After two hours steep climbing we reached the summit of the ridge, the Aneroid showing about 3200 feet of height. The feature of the ascent was the truly marvellous way in which Tau crept up steep and slippery places with his heavy load balanced on his shoulders. As for ourselves we required hands and feet to ascent; in some places
one almost had to ‘hang on by one’s eyebrows’, and yet this man appeared close up beside us continually and would not hear of a rest.
From the summit were two views, one on either side of wondrous extent and grandeur. Behind us the Lake looking a more confirmed green than ever and lying deeply ensconced amidst black mountain heights. A narrow cleft in the valley afforded a long view of the sea down at Mataiea with the breakers just visible on the reef. Ahead of us something still finer; about two thirds of the diameter of Tahiti at its widest part lay before us sloping, sometimes gradually with one intervening plateau, and sometimes with sudden capricious descents, towards the sea of which we caught a glimpse at Papeuoo. On either hand are well nigh insurmountable barriers, the magnificent twin peaks of Mr Orohena – hitherto unconquered and the stern rocky heights of Mauru towering over 4000 feet.
On a former expedition we had walked right round Tahiti, and now, from a single stand point, we saw the entire breadth
a distance probably, as the crow flies, of miles.
The descent to the Plateau was a bit of a scramble; when that was reached the first tropical vegetation I have yet seen presented itself to us; its charm was its softness; every tree lichen or moss covered, or nursing parasites and creepers, though flowering plants were scarce, while everything around bore evidence of a liberal
sunshine rainfall with intervals of hot sun.
The descent now became steep and rapid, and it was with pleasure that we struck the waters of the Pua River which were to connect us with the Papenoo and so on to the coast.
Winding round in the bush on the Plateau to avoid a swamp had taken up so much of our time that we were unable to reach a deserted village named Mariuti at the junction of the two Rivers.
So we set to work and built a camp for the night out of saplings & the fronds of the wild ginger, a capital shelter but not quite watertight as we discovered in the night when the rain began to find its way through upon us. This had the good effect of turning us out early on a very unpromising looking morning. We managed to raise a fire, and with hot tea and sardines & some damp bread we laid the foundation of a heavy day
[Photo of rocky stream]
And it was a hard day; the ‘road’ bad and the pace too good. We wanted to make sure of reaching Papenoo early in the afternoon so as to get some food and a rest before Mr. H. drove over from Papeete in a Buggy to fetch us.
At twelve thirty we, and what remained of our clothes and shoes walked into Papenoo with a small following of wonderstruck native urchins.
We were in the water the greater art of these 6 ½ hours sometimes up to and above the waist.
We had no time to do more than observe the numbers of cray fish, river prawns & trout that swarmed in the pools and to wish for a swim in
the numerous deep dark pools under huge overhanging rocks.
This is the only trip on which we have been unable to get coconuts to drink. The praises of that delightful nut and its refreshing drink cannot be too loudly sounded. Its utility too is second to that of no tree on the earth. No part of it but has its use. Here is a borrowed account of the use to which the Natives put the palm in earlier days and to a great extent do still:-
"Year after year the Islander reposes beneath its shade, both eating and drinking of its fruit; he thatches his hut with its boughs and weaves them into baskets to carry his food; he cools himself with a fan plaited from the young leaflets, and shields his head from the sun by a bonnet of the leaves. Sometimes he clothes himself with the cloth like substance which wraps round the base of the stalks, whose elastic rods, strung with filberts are used as a taper; the larger nuts thinned and polished furnish him with a beautiful goblet, the smaller ones with bowls for his pipes: the dry husks kindle his fires; their fibres are twisted into fishing lines and cords for his canoes; he heals his wounds with a balsam compounded from the juice of the nut; and with the oil extracted from its meat, anoints his own limbs and embalms the bodies of the dead. The noble trunk itself is far from being valueless. Sawn into posts it upholds the Islander’s dwelling, converted into charcoal it cooks his food, and, supported on blocks of stone rails in his lands. He impels his canoe through the water with a paddle of the wood and goes to battle with clubs and spears of the same material."
Only those who have trudged along under a fierce vertical sun, and parched and tired, have reached a clump of these Palms and drunk of their cool nuts
duly estimate their value. ‘They come as a boon and a blessing to men’, and like Epps’ Cocoa are most certainly ‘grateful and comforting’
On the banks of the Papenoo are great patches of graceful Bamboo, another growth of great utility and ornament. Having the misfortune to cut my finger rather deeply while making my way through this scrub, Tau picked some herbs which he chewed up into a paste and used as a poultice with great healing effect. The Bamboo was formerly shaped by the natives and used as a knife. Its wedge shaped edge cuts clean and deep.
To return to our walk. The River Pua (Tahiti ‘soap’) is so called because of its peculiar thick blueish colour resembling water in which clothes have been washed.
Beyond Mariuti we were entirely encircled by high mountains, the sight of Orohena being specially fine when the summits were clear and the valley clouded. Approaching the lower levels we got back to the coast climate, which means a very hot sun and dry track. The road became very rough, leading over big boulders with spells of sand and guava scrub.
[Drawing of people wading in the lake and fishing]
at Papenoo the Chef of the district asked us into his house and gave us a meal and, what was almost better a big mat and a pillow laid on a clean cool floor. At 4 o’clock Mr. H. turned up with the Buggy and we had a pleasant drive home, comparing notes of our mutual doings during our absence.
After the hard work and poor food, a good dinner at Georjay’s Restaurant and the sparkling cup which both cheers and inebriates were most acceptable.
We gained some kudos for the way in which we performed our trip. The time is a ‘record time’, and we made the exception of having no guide and so running the risk of failure.
Altogether we are told that we have seen more of the Island and of Moorea than any previous visitors have done, or than most of the inhabitants who, as usual, are strangely ignorant of their own lovely island home.
Our visit was now drawing to a close. A few days after our return to Papeete the Richmond arrived from Samoa and Raiatea bringing us mails and news and ‘notice to quit.’
The 5th of Novr. was our sailing day, a Friday. The next day we made Sunday on board, quietly omitting Saturday altogether so as to assimilate the day of week with that of the Eastern Hemisphere to which we were bound.
By four o’clock in the afternoon we had left Tahiti – probably for ever – and were being piloted out through the reef. Everyone in Papeete, native and European alike, makes a point of seeing the Steamer leave and wishing friends a bon voyage. The waving of handkerchiefs and weeping is of the usual farewell description.
But ‘regrets are useless’ and pleasant remembrances and associations more pleasant to dwell upon.
The views of Moorea, as we steamed between that
island and Tahiti at sundown were finer than any we had yet obtained, as though she wished to grace our departure with her richest attire.
Byron’s, Bayley’s beautiful Ode Sonnet addressed to the ‘Shades of evening’ recurred to my memory, and if ever an ‘Isle of Beauty’ was worthy of such a masterly effusion of sentiment it is Moorea.
Much as I regretted leaving Papeete, a few days at sea sufficed to satisfy me that the island life is an enervating, insidious one, quite demoralising mentally and physically for the bustle and activity of ordinary daily life.
So here was compensation for the loss of this exquisite scenery, climate and general environments.
On the voyage to New Zealand Rarotonga in the Cook Group and Aitutake in the Hervey Group were visited by us, and a cargo of oranges, pineapples and cotton taken on board. Large delicious Pine Apples were to be bought in abundance at 12 for a shilling!
After that we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, a few days later entered into comparatively cold weather and quitted the Western Hemisphere days after leaving Papeete we entered the fine harbour of Auckland and amidst mails from home and further travelling arrangements my visit to the Pacific Islands lapsed into a memory of a very pleasant past.
A Group of Singers at Rarotonga – Cook Isds.
Tahitian Natives – see Fronticepiece
Giant Wild Taro
Tahitian Natives [women]
Panorama of Noumea in [second half on next page]
New Caledonia [second half of previous Panorama]
Loyalty Islanders [men]
New Hebridean [woman]
[Explanation of photos on next page]
Place de Cocotiers & Band Stand
planted with Coco-palms & Flamboyants (Ponciana Regia)
[Two photos explanation previous page]
On the Rewa River, Viti Levu
The Nausori Sugar Estates & Mill, the largest working in the world. On the hill is the Manager’s House.
Bathing Pool in Levuka, Obalan
Commodore Goodenough’s officers bathing
The late King Cakoban of Fiji
Cascade near Levuka Obalaw & bathing pool
Young Fijians of the ‘Upper Ten’
Landing Stage at Levuka
Houses of Europeans in Levuka
Village scene in Levuka
Lovoni Valley, centre of Obalan
Tonga or Friendly Islands
[Photos on next page]
Nukualofa, the Capital of Tonga-tabu
Showing King’s Palace & Chapel
King George of Tonga
Tongan Laka-Laka, Native song & dance
Crown Prince of Tonga
Vavan, Tonga Group
Harbour of Vavan
Tongans making Kava
Coco nut for cup Kava Bowl Kava Stone & mat
Tongans joining Tappa, or native cloth
Royal Grave in Haapai
Political Squibs in Tonga
Mr Moulton Mr Baker The King
Br: Consul German Consul
The Native The celebrated Tongan Cow Mr Baker
Banyan Tree near Vavau.
Mango Island Lagoon, Windward Fiji Islands with narrow passage to sea.
Samoa, or Navigator Islands
[Photos next page]
Main road in Apia, the Capital
Store in Main Road
Outside International Hotel
The fourth of July in Apia; Hawaiian Band
My headquarters for a month!
Water Picnic at the Sliding Rock
showing girl on the slide
Samoan Girls singing - siva
High Chiefs of Samoa
Tutu-ila, Samoan Islands
Iron bound coast
Settlement off which the American Mail drops passengers & mails
The War in Samoa
[Photos on next pages]
German Squadron & Mail Boat in Apia Harbour
S.M.S. Carola S.M.S. Olga S.M.S. Sophie Mail S.S. Lubeck North German Lloyd
S.M.S. Bismarck (Flagship)
Landing Artillery & Ambulance opposite the American Consulate
The Samoan Government House
Hauling down the German Naval Flag, preparatory to hoisting that of the Pretender Tamasese
Used as Barracks. Saluting Tamasese on his way to be proclaimed King
The German Consulate
Tamasese & some of his army
Samoan Warrior in full dress.
Native House in Fiji
Sugar Cane field in "Fiji"
Rarotonga Cook Islands – Rarotonga from the Sea.
Panorama or Apia, Samoa
Main Range of Mountains 2000 to 3000 ft high
American Consulate Samoan Govt House McArthur’s Store (British)
R.C. Mission Station Mt Apia 1200 ft
Moors’ Store (American)
R.C. Church German Consulate
International Hotel German Company’s firm & factory Mulinuu Point (Tamasese’s Position)
[Back cover of book]
[Transcribed by Robin Mathews for the State Library of New South Wales]