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CHAPTER XVI.
    Start on an Exploring Expedition to the Wanaka Lake.

We had just now capital pig-hunting. The severity of the snow sent the animals into the flats, where we shot them down, riding being impracticable.

My visit being ended and the weather favourable, I proceeded to Christchurch preparatory to resuming work. I was accompanied by a young man named Evans, a stockrider from one of the Ashburton stations, and on arriving at the Rakaia, being in a hurry, we foolishly tried to ford the river without a guide, as I had frequently done at other times. The river was quite fordable, but the streams were fairly deep, taking the horses some way above the girths. We had nearly crossed the largest when my horse suddenly went down, and in an instant we were swimming in a swift current nearly to the waist. Evans\'s horse followed the other\'s example. They were both good swimmers, and took us out safely on the side from which we entered, some 300 yards down stream. Another try under the forder\'s guidance was successful, but the accident detained us at the north bank accommodation house for the night.

In addition to the completion of the Ashburton gorge road, I obtained a contract from a wealthy runholder in the neighbourhood to put up many miles of wire fencing, then just coming into use for dividing the runs, and also for the erection of several outstation buildings, all of which I had completed before the middle of the summer season, and I was in treaty for further work when I received an offer from Mr. T. Moorhouse, at whose station I had been so ill, to accompany him on an exploring trip to the head of the Wanaka Lake, in Otago Province. He had taken up (or imagined he had done so) some sheep country there, and the expedition was for the purpose of inspecting his newly acquired possessions. Nobody had yet seen this country, or at any rate, been on it.

The journey would be about 300 miles, in addition to the voyage up the lake by boat, about twenty miles. It would be a new experience for me, and I was delighted with the offer, the more so that I would receive a good return for my time with all expenses paid, and I was glad to have an opportunity of again visiting the Lindis and the country far[Pg 86] beyond my late travels, during the summer, when all would look its best and camping out be a real pleasure.

As we were not to start for ten days, I went to Christchurch to receive payment for work, and I was anxious to purchase a good saddle horse in place of my big mare, which was too clumsy and heavy for our proposed ride to Otago. On the day on which I purchased the animal there was an auction sale of walers in the town, and I was sitting on the stockyard rails, looking on, when I saw a jockey riding a powerful bay up and down in front of the stand. This jockey proved to be an old acquaintance, and although some 60 years of age, was still an excellent rider. He was a popular little fellow, a character in his way, and was known by the name of "Old Bob." I was on the point of speaking to him, when the horse he rode was called for sale, and Bob was desired to show off his paces. For a turn or two the animal behaved well, and the bidding was brisk, when apparently, without any cause he bucked violently. I think Bob held on for four or five bucks, then the saddle went forward, and he was shot off, striking the hard road on his head. He seemed to roll up or double up, or something, and lay still, several people rushed to him, but he was past all help, his skull was split in two.

On my return to Moorhouse\'s our preparations were soon completed. In addition to our saddle horses we selected for pack animals as well as for occasional riding two of the best of the station hacks; one of them carried stores and some cooking utensils, while the other was laden with clothes and blankets. We travelled lightly, it being our intention to put up at stations or accommodation houses as much as possible till we arrived at our destination.

The route we followed was for the first 150 miles the same as that described in our journey to the diggings. We moved much faster and in six days reached Miller and Gooche\'s, the former of whom was now on the station. McGregor Miller was one of the finest men I had seen, a Hercules in strength and build, and as jolly and hospitable as he was a perfect gentleman. We stayed two days with him. The station as well as the country presented very different aspects to what they did on my previous visit. A new house had been built and furnished comfortably, and the surroundings were fast being improved under the guiding hand of the "boss," who worked with his men as one of themselves, and easy-going fox-hunting squire as he[Pg 87] was in the old country a couple of years since, he could handle an axe, spade, or shovel with the ............
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