Friday 01 April 2016 – Northland, New Zealand.
Wanting to stay away from the main tourist hubbub of ‘downtown’ Paihia, I booked El and I a room in a small B and B in Haruru Falls, a couple of kilometres inland. The room was very comfortable, (it had the nicest chairs ever !) had nice views and good wifi. Perfect for a down day on our small road trip, and a welcome opportunity for me to not be driving all the time. El does not have a drivers licence so we could not share the driving. We had expected that the day was not going to break like yesterday with a great sunrise followed by clear a clear sky, so we were not surprised to look at the window at a grey old view. It is still a damn good view!
After a very nice breakfast in the B and B we headed out to see Haruru Falls, and maybe get a short walk in before the forecasted downpours arrived. In the very early 80s friends and I hitch hiked up here from Auckland over a couple of summers for the new year celebrations in nearby Russell, we used to stay in the campground near the falls and it was pleasing to see the old campground is still there, looking a bit run down mind.
We were lucky in that there had been a little bit of rain over the past few days as this meant there was some water passing over the falls.
We spent a bit of time around the top of the falls, I was waiting to grab a photo without other viewers, something I always try to do. We didn’t have to wait too long mind.
The rain that was due to come had not materialised so we decided to do a short walk along the path to Waitangi. I had originally planned that with good weather we could do the full three hour return walk, but with heavy rain forecast we decided against it. We did get down to the water edge and through a small section of mangroves, before turning back as rain drops started to fall. Naturally the rain stopped before we got back to the car.
The walk we did was nice enough, we got to stretch our legs a bit and saw some interesting flora along the way. This is a very unusual and spiky plant, it looks quite n nice, but it is wild ginger and is an imported noxious pest and one of the most invasive weeds in the world. I have never seen it flowering before and was not sure what it was until I looked it up.
The owner of our guest house told us to visit Mt Bledisloe; at a mighty 105 metres high it is hardly a mountain, not even higher than the hill next to it. It does have a big view over Paihia, Waitangi, over to the Hen and Chicken Islands and up and down the coast. On a clear day I am sure it is spectacular. I liked the useful sign at the start of the track.
Bledisloe was the governor general of New Zealand and presented this ceramic plaque on the top of the hill to the nation in 1934. The plaque was made by 11278 miles away in London by Doulton and is fabulous.
We drove down to Waitangi to have a look at the treaty grounds. The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of New Zealand and is (in theory) the guiding principle by which the government make and change law. It was signed in 1840 as a treaty between the British Crown and a group of north island Maori chiefs and was the document that made NZ a part of the commonwealth.
The treaty grounds are now part of a large new museum which now attracts an entry fee of $40 each, which is far too expensive for us. I was really unhappy that all the museums we wanted to visit had what we considered an exorbitant entry fee. Maybe we are just too used to free museums in London, or low cost museums elsewhere. I was particularly disappointed by the fee here as this location and its history is fundamental to New Zealand’s history and should be made as widely and freely available as possible.
Carrying on to Paihia we stopped near the very cool ‘wee’ public toilet.
We had a bit of a walk around, and stopped for coffee and a cake, but as a tourist centre there is not a heck of a lot in Paihia itself. Especially on such a grey day.
There is a a lot to do and see nearby, but apart from eating, drinking and sleeping Paihia holds limited attraction. So we drove up to nearby Kerikeri instead.
Like Cape Reinga I do not recall ever having seen the Stone Store since I was a child. It is one of the classic north island tourist locations, but I just never had cause to go there as an adult. Showing El around was a good excuse to check it out.
The Kerikeri mission station was founded in 1819 and was the first European settlement to be built under the blessing and protection of local Maori chiefs. It was part harbour, part safe haven and part mission site.
The stone store is New Zealand’s oldest stone building. It was built in 1832. Living in the UK, I do find the fact that it is so new, but still the oldest stone building, quite laughable, but in a cute and loving way!.
I recall the church at Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight that was REBUILT in 1070, and it is so insignificant that hardly anyone has even heard of it, ‘old’ is very subjective.
Kemp House (or the Mission House) is the neighbour of the stone store and is New Zealand’s oldest building, it was completed in 1822.
One of the things I find amusing in an angry ironic way, is that the early European settlers decided to bring little bits of home to New Zealand, the church at the mission station has a lovely old English oak tree growing next to it.
While the oak is fine, what the settlers also brought with them were pests; rabbits, deer, possums, rats and mice. These animals have devastated the New Zealand countryside, destroying native vegetation, birds, insects and reptiles. With very few exceptions, New Zealand had no land based mammals prior to European visitors. The early Maori bought pigs with them from Asia, and prior to that there were only bats and sea based mammals. The native birds and insects had no chance.
I loved these epiphytes growing on the branches in this tree, I have seen these on a few occasions before, there is small one in my sisters garden, but I have not seen one this massive, or close to the ground. An epiphyte is a plant that grows on another plant without harming it.
On the way back to Haruru Falls we stopped in the Cottle Bay Winery for a small tasting, I was driving so needed to be very careful. They made a really unusual walnut liqueur which was really nice, so we ended up buying a bottle of that and a white port to take back to London, as well as a bottle of wine to drink later on.
I ended up driving a lot more than I wanted to today, but the weather sort of dictated what e could do, but it was good to get too a few places I haven’t seen, as well as show El some more of my lovely adopted homeland!