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    Growing up in New Zealand 1925-50

    Part 19 - Travelling Between The Towns And Going On Holiday
    Dorothy - 06/07/01
    Handy destinations favoured
    Holidays usually involved little travelling. Anne J enjoyed holidays on an uncle's farm or having country cousins to stay in the city. Many families went to a bach or a tent at a nearby beach, river or lake. In Otago and Southland baches were known as cribs.

    Robin cottage
    Corrugated iron bach in the beech forest at Lake Rotoiti
    Photo source Elizabeth Arnold
    Corrugated iron was often used for building holiday houses. The bach in the photograph was built around 1930 at the South Island Lake Rotoiti which is in what is now the Nelson Lakes National Park.

    Lake Rotoiti has long been a popular holiday destination for Nelson people as it is only 119 kilometres from Nelson.

    Problems with car travel
    Even on such short trips car travel could be full of difficulties with punctures to tyres or the engine boiling going up hills. There were none of the modern judder bars to slow traffic, but the corrugations in unsealed roads especially on hills and on corners could have the same effect. Cold temperatures made travel in a small Austin 7 with flapping side curtains very unpleasant.

    On steep hills the engine would often over-heat and the trip would be halted until the engine cooled. Peter remembers 1930s journeys from Nelson to Lake Rotoiti which were punctuated with stops as the car engine boiled going up Spooners Range. Wet weather could make fords difficult to cross. Families would often carry a lot of camping gear on the running boards along each side and this meant a heavy load for a low-powered car.

    Mildred recalls travel in an Austin 7
    "While we lived in Moana Ken drove an Austin 7, but motoring on the rough roads of the West Coast was not easy. There were few bridges and cars often got stuck in the fords. Planks were left beside the river for use in getting cars out of the river. The Austin was so light that Ken and I could lift the car on to the boards to drive out."

    Road/rail bridges
    When petrol was not rationed (as it was during the war) some people travelled further by car but often had to wait at bridges such as those at the Rakaia and Waitaki Rivers, which were shared between road and rail traffic. A crossing keeper was on duty and stopped the cars when a train was coming.

    The Geary family at their camp site with the Essex Super Six
    Photo source Ngare Rutledge
    Travel in remote areas
    Ngare recalls that her father had a job with a large Electrical Power and Lines Department as Lines Superintendent. "He certainly gave the job his best shot as our car journeys were never free of 'Tut-tut, that light is out, take a note of the street or avenue', and so on. It's a pity we were all girls as the lessons on power distribution were given, and these were embellished by visits to remote power houses and hydrodams built on some of the mighty rivers of the Canterbury Plains and amongst the remote areas of the West Coast - enough to inspire the boys to opt for a career in engineering. My father took great risks as he led us over some really primitive swing bridges and rickety wooden ones. The forests were beautiful, and after recovering from our fears of falling through gaps etc. from these bridges, often situated many feet above the river or gorge levels, we heard tui, korimako (bellbird) and riro riro (grey warbler), etc., in our earliest years.

    "For holidays my father built a sturdy trailer - I can still see the leaved springs beneath her frame. It weighed a ton. Once goods, including an enormous food canteen, were unpacked and lodged in the beautiful tent, a double mattress was spread over the floor of the trailer and whiz-bang, a communal bed for four, and one or two in the tent. The back of the front seat of the car was adapted, hinged and made a very comfortable double bed for my parents. The first family car was an Essex Super Six, rigidly sprung, and some of the family suffered years of car-sickness. Then the family progressed to a Graham Paige."

    Travelling to camp in Central Otago
    George's father worked very long hours and when the holidays came he did a quick tidy up at home and then they went on holiday. In the May and August holidays they stayed in a hut at Frankton. Gullies ran down from the hut to the lake and George remembers rabbits being everywhere.

    The family travelled in a Rugby car and in summer went about twenty five miles a day and then stopped to camp. His father had built what George thinks may have been one of the first caravans in New Zealand - a trailer with a canvas top. There were no couplings and no tow bar but a complex system of tying it to the car. Luggage was carried on a concertina luggage rack. A calico lean-to tent was attached to the car when they set up camp. They could camp anywhere as long as there was a stream for water, and they travelled all over Central Otago.

    Travelling had its problems, though. His father fashioned specially shaped pieces of wood to put behind the wheels whenever they got stuck. Once when driving over the Kilmog, a hill on the main road north of Dunedin, they had to stop seven times to mend a puncture.

    Travel from Central Otago
    James has vivid memories of travelling from Central Otago to Dunedin in the late 1920s.
    "Our holidays frequently took us to Dunedin to visit relations or else to an Otago beach. We had no motorcar and transport was public, by a bus to Ranfurly and then a train to Dunedin - quite an adventure! The journey always had its fascination, especially in the Taieri Gorge. Some of the carriages had forward facing seats, but some still had two rows facing each other, so you had plenty of opportunity to scrutinise your fellow travellers. There are many tunnels on that line and lighting was by gas mantels which the guard came along and lit to our wonderment. Similarly in Naseby township the few street lights were lit by the dayman who worked for the Borough, but I think these were kerosene whereas the railway ones were acetylene.

    "Once we arrived in Dunedin to reach our grandparents' home at Halfway Bush we travelled to the end of the Kaikorai cable car (which we proudly knew had been built by my grandfather) and were met by my uncle in the springcart. Often it would be dark before we reached the farm and the lighting of the gig was by a candle in a special holder.

    "A holiday at a beach took more organising as all bedding had to be carried as well as our clothes and I suppose some essential stores, but it seemed to be only rarely that we used carriers. There were horse drawn covered carts which operated from the railway station in Dunedin and throughout the town."

    An unforgettable incident on a camping trip.
    Wallace recalls:
    "One Christmas the family received the best present of them all. A small, black and white foxy dog we called 'Scamp'. He was loved by all and in turn loved us.

    "We were camping at Naseby once when at 3 am Dad pumped up the primus for a cup of tea. Just picture it - a heavy frost over all, a full moon throwing up the relief of pine trees and outside the tent the dog and Dad pumping and shivering away. Little Sitting Bull Dad sat there with a blanket round him, drinking tea and looking at the moon. It was too much for the dog. He got into Dad's sleeping bag. The next thing I heard was a demented howl as Dad rolled onto the pooch. Mum woke up and said she had enough. Dad was saying something to Christ and I could not stop laughing as the dog made out through the hole door in the igloo tent."

    A tiring trip from Christchurch to Picton in 1942
    I remember a trip in 1943 from Christchurch to Picton to visit my sister. It was wartime so we didn't have enough petrol to take the car. We left about 8 a.m. and travelled by steam train to Hundalee. Then we had to transfer to a service car - a bus with a door beside each row of seats - as the railway along the Kaikoura coast was not completed until about 1948. After a winding and dusty trip from Hundalee through Kaikoura to Clarence Bridge we transferred to another train. It waited over an hour to load sheep trucks, and another hour outside Blenheim, and we finally arrived in Picton at 9.45 p.m. - nearly three hours late. I remember being told that the only time the train arrived on time there was no one there to greet it or unload luggage and the only taxi driver was at home having dinner. The trip took nearly fourteen hours, but it now takes less than five hours by bus or train.

    Travelling between the North and South Islands
    An overnight ferry ran both ways each night between Wellington and Lyttelton (the port for Christchurch), and ferries also ran from Picton and Nelson to Wellington. All could be very uncomfortable trips especially when there was stormy weather in Cook Strait. On the overnight ferry the stewardess brought in a cup of tea and a biscuit at about 6 am to ensure that passengers were awake and ready to disembark. You could ask for a cooked breakfast to be served on the boat. If you were putting the car on the ferry it had to be there about 5 pm.

    Jane recalls her trips from Wellington to visit grandparents in Christchurch
    "Sometimes we visited the South Island travelling to Christchurch over night on the Wahine or the Maori. It was not an enjoyable trip., We used to travel there in the term holidays to see my grandparents, and we often had very rough trips at that time of the year. I hated the smell of the ship. There were no sea sick pills and I was very relieved to wake up in the calmer waters of Lyttelton Harbour in the morning, We travelled by train from Lyttelton to Christchurch and then by taxi to my grandparents' house. I longed for my parents to hire a horse-drawn cab instead of a taxi but that did not happen.

    Beach holidays
    "In the summer holidays we sunbathed on the beaches at Plimmerton, Karehana Bay, Raumati, Paraparaumu and Days Bay. Every summer we were badly sunburned. However in those days we didn't think we might be doing ourselves serious harm.

    Business trips from Wellington to Auckland
    "My father travelled a lot for his business. Travel between Wellington and Auckland was on the 3 pm express and the 7pm Limited, the overnight express. It had limited stops and left at 7 p m arriving in Auckland in the morning.

    Flying to Sydney
    "My father was one of the early fliers to go across the Tasman. It would involve eight to twelve hours flying just above the sea.

    Overseas travel
    "People like my grandparents used to travel round the world, taking a year's tour with trunks full of luggage. Long overseas experiences were popular with those who could afford it. It took four days to get to Australia, and some six weeks to get to Britain."

    Travel and holidays not for everyone
    Not everyone could afford to travel. Especially during the Depression some adults and children went only as far from home as they could walk. Many children living in Christchurch had never seen the sea, though that city has seaside suburbs just a tram ride away.

    Published with permission from NZine