Blog Six – Paihia – Bay of Islands
Monday 28 May 2018
We woke and had the car packed and ready to go right on 8:00. Anne come out to say goodbye and we were on our way complete with a box of citrus fruit from the orchard. It took right on the hour to get through the hills to the roundabout and take our way back to highway one which was only a short distance. From here we headed on the one with only two short stops – one to sort out the toll roads with Hertz on the phone and another at a servo to use their facilities.
In no time we were headed via the city, over the bridge and then through the tolls and into the Northland. It’s probably the best piece of road we have come across since leaving Wellington. We managed 80 to 100 most of the time and after another stop at Whangarei to pick up brochures at the Info Centre we hit a detour at Kawakawa, There had been a slip from the surrounding mountain a couple of months ago and the route into Paihia was completely closed today.
So we had to go back to maps and look at alternatives and quickly found the way around and we hit the outskirts of Paihia around 2:00 which was good going considering the stops and the closed road. We drove along the waterfront which looked very appealing and it wasn’t long until we reached the end of the esplanade, rounded the bend, up the hill and into Binnie Street to our AirBnB apartment. Peter was home and showed us around the apartment and gave us a few tips and trips about the apartment and the area.
We soon unpacked and moved everything downstairs and we were off again into the small town centre. Here we had a walk around the shops and Ju sussed out a nice pair of earrings but needed to have a think – there were very nice but a bit more expensive then the ones in Napier. We found our way to the Info Centre to ask a few questions and then we headed to a waterfront bar/restaurant for a quite refreshing bevie or two – the Alongside.
We settled in at the end over the water in comfy chairs and Wuzz had a Montieths Pilsner and Ju had an Arrogant Frog rose. Both were great and we decided to have a small plate of salt and pepper calamari which was one of the best we tried. It was so good that we had another couple of drinks and another plate of the calamari! Wuzz also booked the Bay of Islands cruise through the Info Centre while there and managed to get a 10% discount in the process – nice. After finishing our bevies we headed back to the car and drove back to our apartment where we headed straight out to the spa on the top landing. It was very nice with a full moon in the sky and a temp about 39 – just perfect.
We spend about 30 minutes in the spa headed down to the apartment where we tried Netflicks for the first time! We found a series Wuzz had been wanting to watch for some time – Luther. What a show. Very conflicted main character and no doubt a couple more episodes will be watched over the next couple of evenings! This was our day and we turned in for the night.
Tuesday 29 May 2018
Brekkie done and a 15 minute walk into town to the local Countdown to pick up a couple of supplies before heading to the wharf and boarding our cruising vessel. We also booked our next day tour – 90 Mile Beach, This would be our first bad experience in the tourism sector with the cow behind the counter less than helpful. If we leave from Paihia the 90 Mile Beach tour is $150 but if we drive to the pick up area it is only $60. Needless to say this wasn’t put forward and our stop at Whangarei paid huge dividends as the very helpful lady behind the deck pointed this out to us. She needs to get a life and just retire.
Irrespective we were done and at 9:00 we were on our way out of the harbour on a truly spectacular day with completely blue skies and a little bit of a breeze – but not too bad. We started by picking up a few more passengers at Russell and then heading out of the harbour proper and towards the Kerikeri inlet in search of the pods of dolphins that call the area home.
While the crew did indeed spot a pod they headed into the protected area of the Kerikeri inlet where dolphin cruises aren’t allowed to go or follow so this was as good as it got the whole cruise as far as sighting the marine mammals went. That said there was heaps of other interesting sights and commentary as well with the bay very pivotal in native and European history. The highlight would have been the hole in the rock on the outskirts of the bay. This is the third one we have seen after the one at Trollfjord and the other at Bonaventure Island at the Gaspe Peninsular in Quebec. The cruise was about three hours and we saw the other side of Russell where there were quite a few very large houses include one owned by a former Aussie tennis star and some of the other islands were either occupied or were in trust and the commentary was informative with relevant stories attached. We spent time all over the boat – inside the second deck, outside the second deck and on the open upper deck. The boat docked back at Paihia wharf at midday but we stayed on and headed over to Russell to have a look around. This was a bonus as we were headed over anyway and this way we had a free trip!
We were a bit on the hungry side so we headed to the recommended Duke of Edinbrough for lunch and Ju had a burger washed down with a Monteith’s pear cider (very nice) and Wuzz had fush and chups with a Monteith’s beer which was also very good. To walk off our lunch we headed for a walk up to the lookout with a view over Russell and back across the bay to Paihia. The trip was nothing like the East Cape lighthouse walk but it was good to do a bit of exercise and also see the sights. We had a walk through town as well but there wasn’t much to see and we ended up taking the 3:00 ferry back to Paihia where we went to a bakery and back to Countdown before our feet magically found their way to the Alongside bar where we ordered a bottle of the Arrogant Frog rose bubbly and another plate of the calamari – just a fantastic place to relax and chill. Chilly it was as the sun went down with not a cloud in the sky the temps dropped rapidly and we eventually started the trek back around the corner and up the hill to our apartment, with lots of stops along the waterfront for Ju to take the odd hundred or so photos of the full moon over the water.
It was only about 15 minutes again and very soon after arriving back home we headed straight for the spa where we again had the moon for company while kicking back and relaxing even further. Back to the apartment and we sat down to watch another couple of episodes of Luther before hitting the hay in preparation for an early start to our 90 Mile Beach full day excursion.
Wednesday 30 May 2018
Definitely an early morning for holidays! We were up about 6:00 and we headed off at 7:00 up the top of the Northlands to Ka Uri Unearthed where we parked the car for the day and waited (with a coffee). The drive took just under an hour and a half and while painful at the start following a tanker for some time we were soon passed it and on a more favourable road with less twists and turns so the drive wasn’t too bad all things considered. Our four wheel drive bus duly arrived about 9:15 with Selwyn Svorzki as our tour guide and about another 12 passengers.
Selwyn gave us his life story which was pretty interesting, being Polish and Maori heritage and being a school teacher and retiring from it to become a tour guide due to stress and some not so enthusiastic students. He can trace his heritage back six Maori generations and back to the arrival of his Polish ancestor’s arrival in New Zealand about four generations ago. Very interesting fellow.
Introductions made we headed off up to the top NZ towards Cape Reinga and the lighthouse. We travelled along the bitumen on the way to the cape and our first stop was at a tourist park that showed one of the inlets into the Northland area and the water was crystal clear and the whole area very picturesque. It was a large tourist park and all the facilities, but at this time very empty. We are told that this changes significantly in the summer monthly and we have no doubt this is the case as it would be a great place to stay.
A short drive further and our next stop was the one of the thousands of beaches all along the coast. Very nice but probably no better than any other beach in Aussie. Our next stop was a great little shop that sold a mirage of things including one of the nicest ice creams we have had anywhere – a passionfruit and macadamia double scoop waffle cone – mmmmm very good and the shop is one of Selwyn’s relations (as a lot are up here no doubt) so we were helping them as well. Wuzz had a chat to Selwyn here and the buildings up the slope were the medical centre however no dental chair. The Kiwis do have dental vans and there are the big variety by all reports with three chairs – it would have to be very crowded and steri would be interesting.
On from here we then headed up the road towards the top and we turned off the main road and settled under the view of the lighthouse for what could only be described as a pretty ordinary lunch. We paid $60 each for the trip and we would be more than happy to pay another $5 or $10 to make lunch a more palatable affair. A bread roll and cheese doesn’t cut it as salami that hasn’t been under ice isn’t a goer. The price was good but it has to provide more than the current fare.
With “lunch” done we headed up the windy road to the lighthouse carpark. The paths and infrastructure have been done extremely well with an eight foot wide path leading from the carpark to the 20 minute walk to the lighthouse. There was also a detour off the main path to a hill which provided better views to the south. Videos and photos was duly taken and we went down the little foot trodden path down to the lighthouse and back to well paved paths. This is where the Tasman meets the Pacific but is actually not the northernmost point of New Zealand. This is the point to the east which we could see in the distance and is a couple of kms further north than our current spot. We took quite a bit more video and quite a few more photos under a fantastic blue sky before walking back to the carpark where Selwyn was waiting and we were on our way again.
The next stop was interesting as we turned off the paved road and onto a gravel road before turning into a shallow waterway and stopping at the foot of a sand hill. We debated about our role but in the end our lack of planning regarding clothes and footwear meant we watched but did not take part in the sand dune slides. It looked like a lot of fun but we were unprepared and all came back very sandy and some were a bit wet so it was probably for the best. The setup is a bit strange as there is a very narrow piece of sand at the bottom of the hill before it turns into water from the stream so if you don’t pull up in time by digging your feet into the sand on the way down you are going to land in the water – which a couple did. Maybe we are just getting old!
We continued down the stream for about 15 minutes before we reached the open beach called 90 Mile Beach, although in reality it is only about 70 mile! One of those anomalies. From here we were given a 360 degree view of the area by Selwyn doing a circle and we headed down on the hard sand the length of the beach. We stopped once to have a better view and get a better appreciation of the area and Ju wrote our names in the sand – very romantic! It was also informative with Selwyn providing quite a bit of commentary including about the fishing tournament run each year along the beach and worth $30,000 for the heaviest snapper fish. About 3:30 we turned off the beach back onto the road and after only about 15 minutes we were back at the car park. We had another look at the shop including the Kauri tree that had been hollowed out and a set of steps carved into it which we walked up. Quite amazing to consider the size of the tree and how this was possible. And so just before 4:00 we headed off back to down the road to Paihia.
Ju was able to make a call to Karuna and book an appointment near mine and just before 5:00 we arrived at Kerikeri where we had a stop at Makana – the chocolate shop! It is our NZ favourite and we bought chocolate covered macadamia shortbread and some macadamia chocolate brittle – devine! Wuzz doesn’t think any of it will make it back across the ditch but time will tell.
And so with the fuel light fully on and the Sportage very thirsty we headed the short distance back to Paihia and into the Waitomo service station with no service and filled up for what we think is the last time – cost $110! Let’s hope it is the last! Another five minute drive saw us home and into our apartment. No spa tonight as it’s been a full day but we did watch another two episodes of Luther – one more to go to end series one – what will happen!
Thursday 31 May 2018
Our last day in the Bay of Islands and the weather has been glorious. Clear sunny skies and hardly any wind today, perfect for visiting the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to explore the split history of the Maori and European settlement. It was just after 9:00 that we arrived at the grounds and only about a five to ten minute drive from our apartment.
After the $100 note was handed over we headed upstairs initially to view the current display which showed tribal leaders with and without their tattoos and ink. From a photographic standpoint it was interesting and possibly there could be and underlying feeling of trying to visualise whether there would be a difference in meeting each version of the photographs but it just didn’t grab us with the enthusiasm that perhaps it would had we been NZers. That done we headed downstairs to the museum proper to view the displays and read the history in preparation for our guided tour of the grounds at 10:00. And it was very informative and detailed the Maori’s coming to the islands, the Dutch, French and English all sailing into NZ waters but only the English staying after Capt Cook’s 1769 visit. There was also an interesting 13 minute video of the lead up and signing of the treaty itself. In some parts it was a little amateurish but it did provide a good picture of what happened so it did its job.
It was then time to join the guided tour and with us was another eight people and one take away was the ability to walk backwards! Our guide did not walk forwards once and while this was quite strange he did explain it as not wanting to offend and to try and informative as possible. We had little ear pieces that we could him better through however half way through Ju’s packed it in so she was reduced to the normal anatomical audio. We started near the gates and worked our through the exquisitely maintained grounds to the area where they (now) kept the big war canoe. This can hold upto 120 warriors but 80 is a more reasonable and practical amount. The last time it was used was in the 1980s when Di and Charles visited and Chucky wanted to see it and be in the vessel out in the sea. This was duly done but the three ton canoe made out of three kauri trucks doubled in weight when it soaked up the water from the sea and it was not possible to return it back up the hill so the Maori left it much nearer the water and a shelter was built over it to preserve it and leave it in its current location. Very sensible!
From here we wandered the grounds and up to where the treaty was signed under the flag staff in front of the original Governor’s residents. The view was one of the best and the explanation of the treaty and how it was signed was very good. Our guide was very good and it seems that with the treaty now being more enshrined in the legislation there is a sense of equality in what was originally intended and what was signed. The most interesting thing about the treaty is that it was written in English and translated into Maori. The problem with this is that there are some words that do not mean the same thing or have no meaning in the latter language and were written in a way so that signing the document would be more likely, but that obviously meant that both versions were different with different meanings. And to make matters worse the Chiefs only signed their version (as expected) so to them it was crystal clear, while to the English, the slight of hand didn’t really matter. This however appears to have resolved with the Maori now being given what was provided for in their version of the treaty so hopefully things will continue in the same manner.
After the tour we were then guided to the meeting place of the traditional owners and “welcomed” in the usual way, although, and as expected, the welcome was a very tribal one and involved weapons in close quarters to those being welcomed so it is not very surprising that the original Europeans found this less than welcoming and took it as an assault and took military action as a result. Ahh the best intentions. Nevertheless we did go inside unharmed and were treated to a variety of dance, signing and information about what occurs inside the traditional meeting houses. It was pretty good and also involved a version of the haka and an explanation of what it meant, all in the traditional attire. After it was finished we were allowed to look around and ask questions. We did ask a few and one was when the Maori landed here from the eastern Polynesian Islands. After much consideration we were told 800BC. This came as quite a surprise so Wuzz Googled afterwards and it turns out that their history lessons needed a bit of work as they landed about 1250 – 1300 AD. Just a little difference!
We then walked the short distance to have a good walk through of the Governor’s residence and also learnt that it was actually designed and built in Sydney and disassembled and shipped to NZ before being rebuilt according to a numbering system imprinted on each piece of timber. Quite a feat and given it is still standing (although with a lot of rebuild in the mid 1900s) a testament to the process. The other outstanding event was the intervention of Lord Bledisloe. When the land was put up for sale (not sure why but the thought is that the owner needed money) he bought the estate, poured all his own money into a restoration process that sees it as it is today and donated it to the government to be preserved as site of significant cultural history. By all reports he and his wife were one of those exceptional people who actually cared for the people of the country and did the right thing at their own expense. Where are they today?
After a quick look at the shop and a quick spin back around the museum we headed out of the grounds back to the car. From here Ju took a few pics at some statues we saw on the way to the grounds and a spot of Thai at a roadside van and then to the XX Falls for a short visit. They small but it is easy to see why they would be very popular during summer as they are very accessible just down river near a camp ground and it’s only a short distance from Waitangi. Back into town and a quick visit to the local Countdown and back into town for a quick walk through to buy a nice set of earrings Ju had been eyeing off a couple of days ago. Those in hand we headed back to the Alongside bar to our favourite spot at the end of the deck looking straight out towards the bay. A couple of Arrogant Frog Roses and a couple of Monteith beers to wash down a calamari and we had to say a very sad farewell to the establishment. This one is hard to beat with the views, the weather, the drinks and the food. One of the best spots we have come across. We did however have an interesting conversation with the waitress about an absolute dickhead that was there earlier and some of the crap she has had to deal with from all sorts including both whites and Maori’s with the latter mainly due to the fact that she comes from Rotorua! Very bizarre.
And back up to the car and up the hill to home and a pack for an 8:00 start in the morning. We cleaned up a bit of food with nibbles for dinner and watched the last episode of Luther’s series one – what a show and it left us on tender hooks having no idea where it is headed. Definitely have the get the DVDs. And from here it was bed with the Bay of Islands now done.