Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 38, September 1994

Improvements in our lifestyle were very gradual especially in our early days in the bush. While I was clearing the bush I would stay in a whare which seemed to be forever damp despite a large open fire at one end. This was used for both cooking meals and drying my clothes but it failed to dry out the earthen floor. I can still smell the dank, musty, smoky interior. I am sure the mange-mange mattress was an advantage because a kapok one would have absorbed the moisture and become mildewed. My bunk was made out of saplings so I was able to tack my blankets to the side pole to prevent them touching the damp ground. Habit dies hard, during that winter it became my custom to roll myself in my blankets or tuck the loose outside edge under my body, a habit I have retained to this day. By morning my Queen Anne bed, complete with wirewove and posturepedic Dunlopillow mattress, plus feather pillow, sheets and blankets are just a shambles. A constant reminder of bygone days. Many people may have a mistaken impression of hardship and a life devoid of pleasure and excitement during the pioneering days, but let me assure them that each generation lives and enjoys the standard of the day. I was reared in the bush in the pioneering days so I saw no hardship in the life that we led. It was our way of life.

People who have never experienced living in an isolated bush camp, especially in a nikau and ponga whare, could never realise how comfortable, warm and satisfying it can be. The first thing you notice is the quietness. The earth floor gives off no noise, neither does the nikau roof. Even during the heaviest storm the rain is inaudible as it lands on the roof and surrounding trees. During a strong gale the wind can be heard faintly as it whines in the tree-tops high overhead, like the sound of distant surf. On the forest floor all is calm and still, unruffled by the storms that rage above. The only sounds to be heard are the calls and songs of native birds. Before retiring at night, when answering nature's call, it is wonderful to view the camp from the edge of the bush. It looks like a Christmas tree or a picture on a Christmas card ... the fire in the hearth, the smoke and sparks ascending the chimney, the interior candle light beaming through the doorway, and thousands of tiny rays of light shining through the cracks between the pongas and nikau roof.