On the 24th November we took our departure from the bay, as we had to return to Hokianga, where we had left our brig; and it was only under a promise of making a speedy return, and remaining longer with them, that our savage friends would suffer us to leave them. We expected to reach the Kerikeri River before night; but in this we were disappointed. It at length became quite dark; and the ebb tide making against us, rendered further advance impossible. We had to seek some place of shelter for the night, and not a hut was visible. While we were debating on what was best to be done, we observed a light from the shore, and made for it; but, it being low water, our boat stuck fast in the slime long before we reached the banks; we were, consequently, obliged to wade knee-deep through the slippery mud. We soon discovered a party of women sitting round a fire made in the midst of the swamp. They had come here for the purpose of procuring shell-fish; and as they are never very fastidious about shelter or dry beds, they had determined (according to their usual custom) to pass the night where they had been occupied during the day. This sort of bivouac I found excessively uncomfortable. The moment we were seated the water began to ooze out an inch or two all round us. We sought in vain for a dry place, for we were enveloped in darkness, and surrounded by rushes and flags six or seven feet high; but, being very much fatigued, we slept, notwithstanding the misery of a wet bed, with a cloud of fog for curtains. I did not wake till one of the women gave me a good shake, and informed me that the day was well up. They had prepared us a breakfast of hot shell-fish, which they had caught the preceding day, and they all seemed delighted by our eating heartily of them. As we had some biscuits in our boat, we sent for them, and gave our “fair founders of the feast” a share; and we were all very sociable and merry. When we left them, as it was again low water, the women carried us to our boat, and took their leave of us amidst peals of laughter. This was another proof to me that the English are quite safe, though travelling unguarded, amongst these people.
Loading spars at Hokianga.
About nine the next morning we reached the Kerikeri River; and, it being Sunday, the members of the mission met us on landing, and used all their endeavours to prevent our travelling on that day; but, independent of the urgent necessity of our reaching Hokianga, the captain of our vessel, who was with us, being particularly anxious to return on board, we continued our journey, and at night came to a bivouac in a dense wood, so that we now had the luxury of stretching our weary limbs on dry ground. The next day, as we journeyed towards the river, we fell in with all our old friends, who inquired into the particulars of our adventures, and seemed highly delighted at our return.