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Tuesday 21 Jan 2014
Paihia, New Zealand

Waitangi Treaty

I walked most of the way into town with James before heading off to pick the car up from Rent-a-Dent, a cute little Mazda Demio in great condition, despite the rental shop's name.  I loaded the car up and had some lunch before leaving, so I was still in Auckland when Rent-a-Dent rang.  They’d just realised my car would be due its service during the rental period.  We realised it would be easier if I could swap the car now than have to bring it back later, so I finally left Auckland in a bright yellow Honda Fit instead.  This had the added bonus of an aux input to the stereo so I could plug my phone in.  Perfect!

I found the Icebreaker outlet store in Albany, but as with most outlets, they had lots of things in very big or very small sizes but not a lot in between. I followed the main road up to Paihia, recognising a few places on the way and stopping now and then to see somewhere interesting.  The scenery was beautiful, even in the rain, but thankfully that eased off and I rolled into Paihia three hours later in glorious sunshine.

I checked in at the YHA and walked along to the town centre for a very late lunch, then read my book in the sunshine for a couple of hours. 

I started the next day at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds just outside Paihia.  My guide was a Maori girl named Denise.  She was very friendly, but a terrible presenter.  She suffered from verbal diarrhoea, jumping from one topic to the next, saying things in the order they popped into her head, so that it was almost impossible to follow her and understand what had really happened.  I made a mental note to look it up in the guidebook later and just enjoyed the views over the water to Russell. 

In 1840, 43 Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi with the British Crown, agreeing to bring New Zealand under British sovereignty to bring unruly settlers under control and prevent annexation by the French.  Eventually over 500 Maori chiefs signed the Treaty, though there is much debate over what they actually signed – whether the wording in English was the same as the Maori translation that was read out to them – and the manner in which they were persuaded to sign.  Maori understanding differed from that of the English negotiating the treaty and, as the spoken word was so important to the Maori, they probably took more from discussions than from what was actually signed.  These misunderstandings, mistranslations, or deliberate obfuscations, have led to years of land confiscations, wars, and protests.  Even now, there have been over 2000 official claims lodged with the Waitangi Tribunal, an on-going commission set up in 1975 to investigate alleged breaches of the Treaty by the Crown.

(Thanks to NZhistory.net for explaining what I missed from the official tour)

Waitangi Treaty day is marked every year on 6th February with a public holiday.  Maori clans from all over New Zealand head to Paihia to race their Waka, their war canoes, across the calm waters of the bay.  The largest Waka is on display at Waitangi.  It is intricately carved with Tiki warriors, the cheeky character representing New Zealand, as well as koru and other Maori symbols.  It must be some sight to see 70 warriors paddling at once to move this enormous canoe through the water.

I stopped off to see the horseshoe shaped Haruru Falls before driving north to Manganui for fish and chips overlooking the harbour.  I could have driven all the way up towards Cape Reinga, but as I’d been up there last year, I decided to follow the headland around to the west coast instead.  The coast road was so much fun to drive.  It wound and twisted its way up through the tree fern forests with fleeting glimpses out to a stunning turquoise sea out to my right, a little like a driving version of the trails I walked in Abel Tasman National Park last year.  It then descended in similar fashion all the way down to the edge of the Hokianga estuary near Kohukohu.  A mile or so along from the Hokianga ferry, I found a narrow turning into the Tree House hostel.  James came across it by chance when he was touring New Zealand with the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and had recommended it.  This was a family home with an extension on the back, big enough for a few small dorm rooms, a kitchen and a casual area with beanbags and books under the skylights.  I had a 4-bed dorm to myself both nights.  The gardens almost merged into the surrounding forest, with a nature trail that lead down to the ferry.  They’d got an assortment of tents, cabins and old buses dotted about for people to stay in too.  It was a lovely secluded haven and I loved it.

I cooked a huge Bolognese to feed me for the next few days and spent the rest of the evening talking to a German/Kiwi family, typing my blog and looking through the big folder of things to do in the area.  I decided I’d like to do another bone carving as I enjoyed making mine last year.  I’ve worn it for almost a year now and its become one of my most treasured souvenirs of this whole trip. 

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #4 New Zealand and Australia

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I had so much fun in New Zealand and Australia that I'm going back around again! This time I'll see more of the North Island and catch up with friends and family in Melbourne

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