The Meeting House, Waitangi Treaty Grounds
We left early for the drive to Paihia
via Whangarei. First stop was Kawakawa
, an old coal town which is now famous for the "Hundertwasser Toilets"! The Austrian architect Friedrich Hundertwasser spent his last few years living in Kawakawa and designed these toilets, which are very Gaudi-like in appearance - strange shapes, beautiful colours, tiles, glass bottles in the walls, etc.. We then stopped briefly in Paihia to organise a couple of tours before driving around to the Waitangi
Treaty Grounds, the site where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on 6 February 1840.
The Stone Store, Kororipo Pa
There is a war canoe on display here, as well as an elaborately carved Meeting House. The Treaty House has been restored very well, and there is a huge amount of information on hand telling you about the house itself and the people who lived in it. It was actually pre-fabricated in Sydney and then shipped over.
In the afternoon we drove over to Kerikeri
, first stop the Makana Confections factory - free samples of chocolate and brittle - delicious and extremely tempting. Just the other side of Kerikeri is the Mission House and Stone Store, original buildings from missionary days. They are now National Trust properties, so that saves you some money if you're a member in your home country.
The Mission House, Kororipo Pa
Some of the bricks in the Mission House were made by convicts in Sydney. The Stone Store next door still sells items such as those that would have been sold in the 1840's so quite interesting.
Our second day in the area involved an all-day Bay of Islands cruise with Fullers ($75pp but you get a 10% discount if you book two of their tours, which we did!). We were collected by a mini-bus which was great, because parking in Paihia, all day, can be a bit of an issue. The cruise was called the "Cream Cruise" because it still does the mail/grocery run for local islands, so along the way we stopped at various jetties and handed over mail sacks, boxes of wine, food etc., and got to meet the local dogs - they were most pleased to see the boat because they get fed dog biscuits each time it pulls in.
Tour boat and view of Otekei Bay from Urupukapuka Island
The commentary was pretty good, telling us about the history of the various islands as we went around. The only place we actually stopped and got off was at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island, where we had lunch. This where the American author Zane Grey camped in the 1920's and wrote his books about fishing. The furthest point on the trip was the "hole in the rock" in Piercy Island, through which the boat actually went. It was quite eerie, although the tunnel is not big you head out into quite rough water so it gets a bit choppy and bouncy. Just near here we saw a huge shoal of fish just "sitting" on the surface of the water. One of the crew threw a hand line out and pulled on in, they were ocean trout so would have been delicous for dinner!
The third day saw us take the little ferry across to Russell
, which is actually on the mainland also but is easier to get to by going straight across the harbour from Paihia.
The Hole in the Rock, Bay of Islands
Had a lovely brunch overlooking the harbour then wandered through the Russell Museum ($5pp) which tells you about the history of the town itself and contains a 1/33 scale model of Cook's Endeavour. The town was known in early days as "the hell hole of the Pacific" as it catered to whalers and other sailors who wanted a good time once they finally got to shore, so brothels and drinking holes predominated. The whole town was actually destroyed during the Northern wars of the 1840's but is now quite quaint and genteel. Also had a look through Pompallier House, which was run as a printing operation by Marist Brothers, the guide was excellent and even gave a bit of a demo on the original printing presses. This is also a National Trust property. Headed over to the Te Waimate Mission House in the afternoon, another NT one, and the 2nd oldest house in NZ.
Noel on a great expedition...
The guide/caretaker here is extremely talkative but has lived all over the UK and Europe so quite interesting! This house was at the centre of a thriving village in the 1830's but is now the only remaining building although if we had been able to get through the gave we could have wandered through the foundation stones of some of the other buildings. When Charles Darwin visited the village in 1835, he was apparently most impressed with the thriving mill and village he found!
On our last full day, we took another Fullers tour up to Cape Reinga
and 90 Mile Beach. It was an early start but had to cover about 450km in the day. Early on it was very foggy so we didn't get to see much on the trip up, but on the way home we saw the lovely mountains and coastal views that were hidding in the morning.
...Noel in process of great sand-boarding expedition near Te Pahi Qucksand Stream
The first stop was at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom in Waihara, basically a shop selling kauri products, but it has a huge spiral staircase which has been carved out of a gian kauri root - quite impressive. We then drove right up 90 Mile Beach in the bus - the sand was quite firm and we flew along at quite a pace. Stopped to collect tua-tua (think that's how you spell it) and tasted them raw - you eat them like an oyseter but they're much more mild in flavour, sort of like a scallop. We headed out of the beach via the Te Paki quicksand stream, which is actually fresh water that overflows from the lakes higher up. We all went sand-boarding down the dunes, even the elderly ladies so quite funny! The northern-most point was Cape Reinga where we stopped at the lighthouse, and is the point where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean - you can see where the waves crash together.
Cape Reinga Lighthouse, where the Tasman meets the Pacific.
This is also the place where Maori legend believes that the spirits of the departed leave for ancient Hawaiiki, where they rest. Had lunch at Houhoura Harbour, then drove back to Paihia via Mangonui. Decided we could live here - the village itself is quite old and has beautiful buildings, but people were also catching huge fish off the jetty! Also had the best value ice cream so far in NZ, $1.50 for a single cone which actually had 2 big scoops, so town looks pretty good all up! The last stop was the Puketi Kauri Forest, where an excellent boardwalk system takes you past various fine kauri speciments and information boards are regularly situated to tell you about what you're seeing. It was actually pouring rain just before we arrived here but stopped as we left the bus, so we were pretty lucky.