Jude Knight introduces us to Victorian Tourists to New Zealand.
The nineteenth century, says the book I’m currently reading, was the European century; the century in which Europe dominated the world.
The nineteenth century was a European one also in the sense that other continents took Europe as their yardstick. Europe’s hold over them was threefold: it had power, which it often deployed with ruthlessness and violence; it had influence, which it knew how to spread through the countless channels of capitalist expansion; and it had the force of example, against which even many of its victims did not balk. This multiple superiority had not existed in the early modern phase of European expansion. Neither Portugal nor Spain nor the Netherlands nor England (before approximately 1760) had projected their power to the farthest corner of the earth and had such a powerful cultural impact on “the Others” as Britain and France did in the nineteenth century. The history of the nineteenth century was made in and by Europe, to an extent that cannot be said of either the eighteenth or twentieth century, not to speak of earlier periods. Never has Europe released a comparable burst of innovativeness and initiative—or of conquering might and arrogance. (The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century, by Jurgen Osterhammel)
It was the century in which the seeds of globalisation were planted, nurtured, and put out a few trembling leaves. And one of the new saplings of this world-wide change was global tourism, a completely different animal from the pilgrimages of the Middle Ages and the Grand Tour of the English in the eighteenth century, both of which had other ostensible motivations (religious devotion and education respectively).
The nineteenth century tourist was off to see the sights and enjoy being somewhere different. In my story in the Bluestocking Belles holiday box set, my heroine is companion to a tourist who has come to see the Pink and White Terraces, whose stupendous beauty moved another tourist and world explorer to the following words. James Kerry-Nicholls gushed:
I HAD SEEN THE Himalayas…floated down the Nile, the Ganges, the Yangtze Kiang… I had beheld the giant marvels of Yosemite and stood by the thrilling waters of Niagara, but for the delicate unique beauty, for chaste design and sublime detail of construction, never had I gazed upon so wonderful a sight as Te Tarata. (Quoted in ‘Maori Tourism’, an article by Steve Sole in New Zealand Geographic)
Otukapuarangi (Fountain of the Clouded Sky) and Te Tarata (The Tattooed Rock) were a series of silica shelves laid down by cascading thermal water on the shores of a lake in Rotorua’s thermal district. Hard to get to, and at that time still in Maori hands, these natural wonders were the reason people travelled from Europe, putting up with the hardships of travel and the inconvenience of having to deal with ‘the natives’.
One can’t help but feel that their inconvenience was nothing compared to the inconvenience suffered by those who graciously hosted the overseas visitors, holding to their traditional belief that guests were to be treated with dignity and respect, and receiving contempt in return.
These invariably wealthy people were in no doubt about their superiority, typically describing Maori as “simply and inevitably detestable… idlers and drunkards of the most completely developed description… their dress compared to the broken down, shabby, dirty Europe clothes of a white navvy or of a half-caste ‘loafer’ in India” (Country of Writing, L. Wevers, 2002.)
Our travellers might be global tourists, but the age of the global citizen was yet to come.
Excerpt from Forged in Fire, Jude’s novella in the Bluestocking Belles 2017 Holiday Collection
In Forged in Fire, my characters don’t make it to the Terraces before the Tarawera Eruption destroys Te Wairoa, where they are staying overnight (today known as the Buried Village), and the Terraces themselves. This excerpt is set on the way to Te Wairoa.d
The road wound around the shores of the lake, and then struck up into the hills. They would spend two nights at Te Wairoa, since the trip to the famed terraces of Rotomohana would consume the day between.
Mr. Berry was distant today, too, but he smiled when he caught her looking at him, so she acquitted him of prejudice and just wondered what had him out of sorts. No. Sad. Something had happened to distress him, though he hid it well.
She left him to his brooding and Myrtle and the young ladies to their discussion, all but pressing her nose to the window. Boring? By no means. Lottie could not see enough of the ever-changing textures and the unending variety of greens in the passing scenery.
They stopped for afternoon tea on the shores of a small lake, which Mr. Te Paora called Tikitapu. “The daughter of a high chief, a princess, you would call her, went swimming one day, wearing nothing but a precious greenstone tiki, an heirloom of her tribe, tied to her neck with a flax cord. When the cord broke, the whole tribe searched, but the sacred tiki was lost forever in the deep, making the lake itself sacred; we would say, ‘tapu’.”
He entertained them as the carriage drivers and Mr. Berry prepared and served tea, boiling the leaves in the water in a pot over a small fire, telling them other stories about the lake. Of an evil magician who was killed on a ridge between this lake and the next, his heart burned on his own altar. Of a taniwha, a water monster, that preyed on travellers until one day, it ate a chieftain’s daughter and was hunted to its death.
“There are many taniwha in these lakes,” he said, lowering his deep voice for dramatic effect as they climbed back into the carriages. “Some say it is their breath you see in the hot lakes, their voices you hear when the ground rumbles.”
Stories about sea monsters occupied Lottie and the Pritchard girls as the carriage wound its way along the road through the bush clad hills. Myrtle dropped off to sleep despite the coach’s lurching. Mr. Berry was still in the brown study that had consumed him all day. From time to time, he pointed out another landmark, but mostly he sat silent, staring at the little Bible he turned over and over in his hands.
He roused himself at last, tucking the book inside his jacket pocket. “We are coming into Te Wairoa, ladies. If you look from the window, you’ll see the hotel.”
Lottie was disappointed, on the whole. It would have been interesting to stay in a proper Māori village, but Te Wairoa, despite the exotic name, was very similar to villages she’d seen in England, if a little roomier, each cottage on its own patch of land. They descended outside a two-storied wooden building with a double verandah. On the lower level, despite the biting cold that had descended as the sun dipped below the hills, several Māori children sat dangling their legs, watching the tourists descend from the carriages.
Mr. Berry ushered them inside and introduced them to the landlord, who assured them their bed chambers were ready, that hot water would be sent up within minutes, and that dinner would be on the table in one hour.
The hotel was pleasant but not large. The Bletherow party would be sharing a room, Myrtle and Lottie in the bed and Parrish on a low roll-out trundled. Myrtle, who had woken grumpy, objected to Mr. Berry, to the landlord, Mr. McRae, and to Lottie herself when all her complaints could not increase the number of rooms or reduce the number of other guests.
Lottie was pleased to go down to dinner and unsurprised to be sent back up several times for things Myrtle had ‘forgotten’. But the dinner was soon over, and it was time for the tour party and other guests in the hotel to walk through the dark to the local meeting house, which Mr. Te Paora called Hinemihi. The moon, somewhat more than half full, was high in the sky, lighting the paths so they didn’t need lamps, and Lottie could see them well-enough, converging from all over the settlement on the building to which they walked. Beyond the chatter of the other guests, she could hear mournful cries from the surrounding hills, the same notes, repeated over and over, one sliding down and the other up.
A bird perhaps, though it did not sound like any owl she had ever heard. She would ask Mr. Berry.
To find out more about Forged in Fire and the boxed set:
About The Bluestocking Belles
The Bluestocking Belles (the “BellesInBlue”) are eight very different writers united by a love of history and a history of writing about love. From sweet to steamy, from light-hearted fun to dark tortured tales full of angst, from London ballrooms to country cottages to the sultan’s seraglio, one or more of us will have a tale to suit your tastes and mood. Jude Knight and Caroline Warfield are proud to be Belles.