But all my attempts at slumber were fruitless. I underwent a simultaneous attack of vermin of all descriptions; fleas, mosquitoes, and sand-flies, which, beside their depredations on my person, made such a buzzing noise, that even the chattering of the natives could not drown it, or the smoke from the fire or pipes drive them away.
Toilsome journey through the forest.
Next morning, at daybreak, we took leave of our hosts, and proceeded on our journey; we had eight miles more of this thick forest to scramble through, and this part we found considerably worse than that we had traversed yesterday. The roots of trees covered the path in all directions, rendering it necessary to watch every step we took, in order to prevent being thrown down; the supple-jacks, suspended and twining from tree to tree, making in many places a complete net-work; and while we were toiling with the greatest difficulty through this miserable road, our natives were jogging on as comfortably as possible: use had so completely accustomed them to it, that they sprung over the roots, and dived under the supple-jacks and branches, with perfect ease, while we were panting after them in vain. The whole way was mountainous. The climbing up, and then descending, was truly frightful; not a gleam of sky was to be seen, all was a mass of gigantic trees, straight and lofty, their wide spreading branches mingling overhead, and producing throughout the forest an endless darkness and unbroken gloom.
After three or four hours of laborious struggling, we emerged from the wood, and found ourselves upon an extensive plain, which, as far as the eye could reach, appeared covered with fern. A small path lay before us, and this was our road. The New Zealanders always travel on foot, one after the other, or in Indian file. Their pathways are not more than a foot wide, which to a European is most painful; but as the natives invariably walk with the feet turned in, or pigeon-toed, they feel no inconvenience from the narrowness. When a traveller is once on the path, it is impossible for him to go astray. No other animal, except man, ever traverses this country, and his track cannot be mistaken, since none ever deviate from the beaten footpath, which was in consequence, in some places (where the soil was light), worn so deep as to resemble a gutter more than a road. We proceeded for many miles in this unsocial manner; unsocial, for it precludes all conversation. Our natives occasionally gave us a song, or, rather, dirge, in which they all joined chorus. Having at length attained the summit of a hill, we beheld the Bay of Islands, stretching out in the distance; and at sunset we arrived at the Kerikeri river, where there is a Church-missionary settlement.
[Illustration: Mission Station, Kerikeri.]