" New Zealand Holiday ... 2 . . . Whangarei "
Date & Time: Monday 24th - Wed 26th October 2011.
Locations : Auckland to Whangarei, North Island
Places visited : Auckland, Parua Bay, Bream Head, Kawakawa, Bay of Islands, Waitangi.
Accommodation : Staying with my cousin Marjorie and her husband Colin for a few days.
With : Colin, Marjorie, Ann and myself.
Weather : Beautiful blue skies and spring weather.
Our short but delightful stop-over in Singapore has come to an end,
and we're back at Changi Airport supping tea and eating a muffin, waiting for our plane to be made ready.
Another ten hours, to add to the previous fourteen from Heathrow, is ahead of us.
[ If you are interested in recommendations then the Singapore Airlines staff were the most delightful and helpful
of all the airlines we have ever used in our, albeit limited, long-haul airline travel career. ]
Next morning . . . guess where we are !
Our hire car was ready and waiting in Auckland Airport car park
and checking that they drive on the same side of the road as in the UK, we set off on our New Zealand adventure.
As it happens, the streets below were thronging with folk all heading down-town carrying black flags with silver ferns emblazoned on them.
Anyone would think the All-Blacks had just won the Rugby World Cup . . . oh yes . . . it turns out they have !
That would explain the crowds.
The harbour bridge, perhaps taking its inspiration from that of Sydney in Australia, was built in 1959.
It was extended ten years later with two outer roadways bolted on the outside, making the eight lane highway it is today,
The river bridge at Orewa, the township now by-passed by State Highway 1.
We dropped down on the old coast road and enjoyed a light lunch in the riverside cafe near the seafront.
Looking east from the beach . . . our there beyond the islands was the Pacific Ocean.
The confusing thing was that the sun was in the northern sky, rather than the southern sky that we were used to. When trying to follow the road map,
I felt we were going the wrong way, as we were heading into the sun we thought we were travelling down the page !
Different road signs and scenery.
The forest opposite looked familiar . . . apart from all the palm trees and fern trees interspersed with the pines.
Whangarei Harbour and Bream Head . . . Not far now till we reached the end of today's drive.
A quick walk to see the lovely view ahead helped to stave off the tiredness after our long flight.
Journey's end . . . my cousin's house at Parua Bay, Whangarei.
Colin, myself and Marjorie.
As a child I remember stories of them sailing off round the world in a small boat, reaching New Zealand and making it their home.
With three nights in prospect here we would be able to fill out the detail of their many sea-borne adventures and discover why they travelled no further.
Looking a little like an oversize pineapple, this was a classic fern growing by their front door.
From our bedroom it was the last thing we saw at night
and the first thing we saw next morning after our first good night's rest for a while.
Maybe it was jet lag . . . but Ann was up to see the sunrise over Mount Parihaka next morning.
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After breakfast and a chat we had a "tour of the garden".
Here's one reason why they stayed . . . blue skies, sheltered harbours and a peaceful backwater known as Parua Bay.
[ For those of a nautical persuasion, the tidal rise and fall here is just a few metres,
so the jetty looks hardly different at high or low tide and the moorings are not beset with problems of strong currents.]
You almost expected to find footprints of "Man Friday" down on the foreshore
They have a local, almost private beach shared with their immediate neighbours, several hundreds of yards away on the opposite hillside.
Gradual improvement of the area has encouraged the grass to grow where years back there was a messy and unattractive bog.
Colin and Marjorie took us for a walk around their garden, which encompassed the whole of the headland on the left.
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After lunch we had the pleasure of being driven just a few miles further down the peninsular for a walk at Bream Head.
Urquhart Bay and the wonderful volcanic peaks of Mount Mania, from the start of our walk to Busby Head.
Beautiful white sands . . . middens of shells in the dune are evidence of early Maori occupation of this area.
Dreams of beautiful British summers come to mind as we climb the track to Busby Head.
A native New Zealand palm known as Cabbage Tree (named by Captain Cook in the 1760's)
For those familiar with the English Riviera it is also known in the UK as the Torbay Palm.
A WWII gun emplacement looks out over Reotahi Bay and Marsden Point.
It was built to protect the entrance to the deep water harbour, which is now the site of NZ's only oil refinery.
Near the car park and a chair in memory of Sir Edmund Hillary, Patron of the Bream Head Conservation Trust that looks after the area.
The natural forest in the region is home to many endangered species including the Kiwi and Kaka birds, insects and many of the woodland plants.
[ Colin was saying that he often comes out to the headland to work as a volunteer on the reserve.]
On the way back we drove the short distance over the peninsular to view the open sea at Ocean Bay.
Locals, Marjorie and Colin included, have been known to come out here to see the first light of dawn on New Year's Day
making them the first first people in the world to see the first dawn of the year.
That evening we saw the last light of the day from their garden, after a very pleasant evening meal.
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Next day we're off to the Bay of Islands.
Typical New Zealand street architecture in the town of Kawakawa.
The town is famous, amongst other things for its toilets !!
The brochures say . . . " Don't let clinical, cold-metalled toilet seats goose pimple your road trip north !
No, hold on until Kawakawa, gateway to the Bay of Islands and home to the king of all public conveniences — the Hundertwasser toilets."
. . . and they were not far wrong either.
They are fully working toilets and obviously brings many visitors, and no doubt quite a few pennies, into the tourist town's economy !
Fame has spread sufficiently to enable the town to open its own Hundertwasser museum too.
But we digress . . .
Further north, the harbour and township of Opua
The Opua Ferry enters the harbour as we enjoy a short walk out along the marina pontoon.
The Tiriti O Waitangi 1840
is the writing over the door of the Maori Marae or Meeting House at Waitangi.
Waitangi is the home of the Treaty Grounds, the place where the 1840 Treaty between Maori and Europeans
guaranteed land rights and British citizenship to the Maori people . . . it's a long story . . . read more here
We parked up in the Treaty Grounds car park prior to an afternoon trip in a Maori Canoe.
In the car park were two of what was to become a familiar sight.
These were "Wickedcamper" hire cars (they also did camper vans) which were brightly painted with non-pc slogans. These two had:
"Couldn't fix the brakes so I made the horn louder" and " There are two theories to arguing with women - neither one works"
Dramatic colour on some a road-side Flame Tree (beloved of the nectar eating Tui birds)
as we walked back to start our Ngapuhi Cultural Waka (Canoe) Tour
Sony introduced us to Maori history, culture and beliefs and was an exceptionally good guide for the tour.
It was early season and mid-week so it was just three intrepid tourists who set out onto the high seas in search of enlightenment.
Small numbers for a canoe that held 50 but it meant we had almost one-to-one personal service today.
Tomorrow there would be a cruise ship in, and they were fully booked for the tour.
We headed downstream and round the bay to the Treaty Grounds.
There was the classic wooden Waka (Canoe) used in all the important Maori ceremonials.
We had our own personal guide to the importance of these vessels and the part they have played in Maori history.
This would have accommodated over a hundred fighting warriors in battle
who would have paddled standing up in the Waka whilst travelling at full speed.
From the information board, a picture of the boat in use.
It is often thought that the greeting is rubbing noses.
In actual fact it is the act of gently touching forehead and nose in a gesture of peace, trust and respect.
We journey on . . . out to one of the nearby islands to hear more Maori stories
Click on the 2 minute video to enjoy a brief view of the event.
The offering and acceptance of the gift was a sign that we had been accepted
into membership of the Ngapuhi, New Zealand’s largest Maori tribal group.
Our fellow traveller Stephanie, also from the UK.
Ngapuhi family photo.
A great trip, courtesy of Taiamai Tours Heritage Journeys
So after three nights and two busy days it was sadly time to take our leave of Whangarei, and of my cousins, Marjorie and Colin.
Our thanks for your wonderful hospitality.
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Technical note: Pictures taken with either Ann's Fuji Finepix T300 or my Canon G10 digital camera.
Resized in Photoshop, and built up on a Dreamweaver web builder.
This site best viewed with . . . . family in far-away places.