G.L. Meredith writes home to his family in Tasmania from New Zealand’s North Island in the late 1870s –
I witnessed a novel crossing of the Akitio River by a bullock-dray loaded with fencing posts. I had ridden across the bar at the mouth of the river and was coming along the sandy bank to regain the inland bridle track, when a team of eight bullocks came into sight.
The dray to which they were attached was loaded with totara posts to a height of five feet above the bed. Totara is a light timber of the pine species, and floats very readily. To my astonishment, the bullocky headed his team straight for the river where it was about eighty yards across and quite unfordable. The bullocks took the water like ducks, making straight for the opposite shore. As the dray left the bank, the bullocky scrambled on top of the load, and balanced himself there cracking his whip. The opposite bank was shelving, and the bullocks gradually emerged; the bullocky jumped down and continued on as if it were an every-day occurrence. Of course, the weight of the wheels and axle acted as ballast and kept the dray right side up. I pulled up for lunch at a friend’s station near by, and was told that it was a common practice of the bullocky to swim his team over the river in this way.
Adventuring in Maoriland in the Seventies. G.L. Meredith. Angus & Robertson Ltd., Sydney. 1935.