Early Rotorua and Taupo tourism

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Reminiscences of the early tourist trade at Rotorua and Taupo by Harry Desborough, manager in Rotorua of Thomas Cook and Sons in the late 1890's. He is interviewed by Rotorua broadcaster Alf Sanft.

Part 1. He explains how tourism began in the 1860s with the visit of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1865 [sic. actually December) Harry Desborough who was 1870] who rowed from Maketu to Rotorua to see the Pink and White Terraces. In the 1880s various coaching companies including Thomas Cook set up running from the rail head at Tirau through to Rotorua and Napier. He came to Rotorua in 1889 as Thomas Cook's manager. He recalls the favourite attractions for tourists at the time, after the destruction of the Pink and White Terraces in 1886. He feels some houses at Wairoa, damaged by the eruption of Mt Tarawera should have been preserved, including Guide Sophia's whare in which she saved the lives of many people on the night of the eruption.

Part 2. He describes travelling with Mr T.E. Don superintendant of the Government Tourist Department, to develop a "round trip" to Waimangu over the Tarawera eruption area. Māori assistants George Gray and [Tenei], were appointed and a route developed. Fishing in the early days began in 1897 when trout fry were liberated in Lake Taupo on several occasions. Transport and liberation of the fish was done by volunteers. George Chirnside from Werribee Park, Victoria Australia sent several crates of small deer which were liberated at Okareka, again by volunteers to encourage tourism. Stables for the coach horses were where 1YZ station is now located, with paddocks opposite Whakarewarewa. Describes the types of coaches used. Roads were all pumice and passengers on fine days were covered in white pumice dust. He describes the tourist route from Rotorua through Taupo to Wellington, which was a week's travelling and compares the cost of travel and hotels at the time with present day.

Part 3. He talks in some details about the coach service: names the good coach drivers he remembers; Dick Mayes was the main driver, Dick Garlick, Albert Downie, Jack Chapman, Blackett Atkinson and his son Tommy, Charles Beresford, Mau Timohau, Jim Diver, David Greenlees, Jack Hayden and Charles Wilmott who was driver on the day the Waimangu geyser erupted (1903) that killed guide Joe Warbrick and two tourists. Joe was the brother of Alf Warbrick, the chief guide in the district and captain of the Māori rugby team which visited England in 1888 and he (Joe) coined the name 'All Blacks' for the New Zealand rugby team during that tour of England, according to Alf Warbrick. Driver's wages and apprenticeship; transition to motor coaches began in 1903 or 1904 when a Mr Russell Graham of Wairakei brought a car to run on the Rotorua-Taupo road; Mr Grapes [?] begun running a car to Te Puke and Tauranga and was the first mail contractor in New Zealand to run a motor vehicle. Māori guides are remembered fondly; Guide Sophia was respected by everybody; Maggie Papakura and her sister Bella. He claims The Rotorua Carnival of 1904 saw Bella Papakura invent the seated waka poi dance, to mock local boys who lost several waka races in the Carnival.

Part 4. He talks about the soaping of the Wairau Geyser which was done on special occasions, Mr Clarke,the caretaker would put in cut-up soap, which would melt and make a bubbly spectacle when thrown back, upwards. Arrangements for the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York (and Cornwall) in June 1901; eight arches with ferns were erected with an electric light on each one; Maggie Papakura and Sophia guided the royal couple at Whakarewarewa; Māori welcome at the racecourse. Ends by expressing his affection for the Māori people and sends a greeting in Māori, "In memory of the days that are past."

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Year 1953

Reference number 31355

Media type AUDIO

Collection Sound Collection

Credits RNZ Collection
Desborough, Harry, -1955, Interviewee
Sanft, Alf, Interviewer

Duration 00:39:15

Date 1953

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