The next day we started the long drive back south along the eastern side of Northland. This meant backtracking for about 100km before turning off long the scenic route around Doubtless Bay to Paihia. We arrived in time for a walk around town which was half closed in winter. We pitched our tent at the local holiday park, before the weather moved in and tested our tent. It was a rainy windy night but we stayed warm and dry much to our surprise. A misty morning followed a wet night and we got to appreciate our waterfront campsite before embarking on a day of learning. We had a day at the Waitangi treaty grounds planned. Our day pass included a guided tour and cultural maori performance that we were both looking forward to especially since we had found a deal and got tickets for $30 each instead of $50.
Morning mist while our tent dries
We started in the museum where we learned about the Treaty of Waitangi which was a treaty between the British and Maori to found New Zealand. Sadly, it wasn’t all plain sailing and it took far too long for the treaty to be legitamised and honoured by both parties. The Maori fought hard to have their rights to their tribal lands recognised and the story of the treaty is still on going today. We were impressed by just how far New Zealand has come in such a short space of time. We only made it halfway around the museum before it was time for our tour of the grounds
The first flag of New Zealand chosen by Maori chiefs
On our tour, we visited the landing place of the British, the waka war canoes an the lawn where the treaty was read and signed. Next to it on the hill top are the house of the British govener and a Maori meeting house. We learnt about the arrival of the Maori to New Zealand and their first fairly hostile meetings with Europeans. Then how the British arrived and colonised, eventually needing to make an agreement with the Maori in order to protect British citizens settled in New Zealand (and stop the French). The treaty was rushed and poorly translated and the Maori chiefs understood little of what they were signing. Many chiefs did not sign or were not given an opportunity to add their signature. Many acted on the advice of missionaries who had converted them to Christianity. Once signed the treaty became a sore point for the Maori as they lost land to the crown and were not able to sell land to anyone else. For years, there was inequality, as Maori did not have the right to vote. Despite this many Maori chiefs stuck by the treaty to defend their mana (honour), to lengths such as volunteering to fight in the world wars. The story of both the Maori and settlers is remarkable especially since it wasn’t until 1960’s that New Zealanders called for Maori rights and recognition.
At the meeting house our cultural perfomance began. First came the welcoming ceremony with our volunteer chief accepting a gift of peace from the fiercesome warrior before we were invited inside. Inside the carved house we enjoyed traditional songs and weapons demonstrations before the group performed a haka to wish us well on our journeys through Aoteoroa.
Next up was finishing the museum and then we took a walk to Haruru falls. It was a lovely sunny day to walk through the forest and mangroves and the falls were roaring with a rainbow in the spray. We didn’t have too much time so we swiftly made our way back to the car and set out south to Whangerei.
We made one important stop at the worlds most famous toilets in Kawakawa. The Hundertwasser toilets are on everyone’s itinerary, and why not, the are fancy public toilets.
Whangerei is a fairly large city, but luckily has a fairly central campsite where we spent the night. The following day we were up early to see the sights of Whangerei, starting with the town basin. The Hatea loop takes you from the town basin long to the Pohe bridge and back around the other side of the river. It was an informative walk with signs about the Maori and settler stories and as a bonus at the end, there is an ice cream fudge cafe.
Te Pohe bridge
Next up was a trip up to the abbey caves which were sadly very wet and slippery. Rather than slip and get stuck in a half flooded cave we decided to leave them be, and move on to Mount Parihaka. Mount Parihaka is an ancient pa (fortress) famous for a legendary haka (war dance) which was performed to scare away the enemy. We drove to the top to see the panorama of Whangerei before taking a walk along the track down to the valley and back up to the summit.
Before too long it was time to be on our way south again, but that night we would be seeing some friends we met in Cambodia. The kiwi couple and their two children welcomed us to their home and we had a lovely evening learning about their renovation project and most recent travels. We couchsurfed that night and then drove back to Auckland to return our hire car and move on to our bus journey through the north island.
P.S.: Happy birthday Neal!