Thursday, 29 January 2015

The Land of the Long White Cloud

Our seventh new country and our first of 2015. We flew into Auckland, the sprawling commercial heart of New Zealand, and immediately headed for the exit. Not because of the city or its miles of spreading suburbs but because we had a prior engagement with Fletcher and Mel. These two were the linchpins of the Tropical Research and Coral Conservation (TRACC) organisation we supported for 6 weeks in Borneo during April and May last year. This was their home and we were dying to see them and this beautiful area of New Zealand’s north island. It was great to see them and catch up, they were extremely hospitable and we even got to sample some of Fletcher’s parents’ wine from their Artisan vineyard – highly recommended! The coastline around Auckland is truly stunning, with aquamarine seas, golden beaches and quiet coves. We had expected a temperature drop from Australia and were surprised to find ourselves baking in the fierce New Zealand sun.

After a few days reminiscing and relaxing amongst the native Kauri trees on the coast we headed north to explore the northwest peninsular. At Waitangi we visited the treaty grounds where the first signatures on the ‘Treaty of Waitangi’ were signed between the British and the Maori Tribal Chiefs in 1840. This was the starting point of the New Zealand nation, and whilst there have been multiple disputes regarding interpretation of the treaty and issues over translation it is still regarded as the first step to producing a Pakeha (European)–Maori nation in Aotearoa aka The Land of the Long White Cloud.

The Maori arrived in new Zealand around 800AD, Polynesian sailors exploring the South Pacific from their mythical home of Hawaiki (possibly Hawaii) lead by a great navigator Kupe and his wife Muturangi, who gave New Zealand its Maori name when they first spotted clouds on the horizon. Legend has it they circumnavigated the islands before heading back to Hawaiki to inform others of their discovery. Maori have since been established on both islands for over a thousand years, and all Maori’s can trace their lineage back to one of seven boats that first arrived on these shores, five in the north island and two in the south.

From Waitangi we travelled to the northern most tip of the north island, Cape Reigna, via the strangest highway. A stretch of flat beach named ‘ninety mile beach’ (but actually only 63 miles long) which is a public highway with speed limits and other driving regulations. It’s a surreal hour or so cruising up the strip of hard sand with mountainous sand dunes to the right and the rolling surf of the Tasman Sea to the left. At the end we sand boarded down some of the bigger dunes before heading to the cape.

On the way back down the peninsular we sampled the local fish and chips and were pleasantly surprised. They surpassed the Australian attempt by a country mile and were exceedingly pleasant, although there was no curry sauce, gravy or mushy peas available – always room for improvement!!

Artisan Wines vineyard owned by Fletcher's M&D - fantastic!

That box won't last us long Fletch

The coast around Auckland is simply stunning - far more tropical than we'd expected

This Gannet Colony sits on the Tasman Coast south west of Auckland

The chicks are growing fast and will be ready for their first flight in a few weeks

What a cracking view

Ah the joys of the open highway - pass us that jack will you Sarah....Sarah...Sarah...??

We meet up with Mel at her family's hideaway on the Pacific coast north of Auckland

That breeze is refreshing - southern softies!!

The best light show on earth down at the beach

Native Kauri tree bathed in the moonlight

This carving depicts Te Aokapurangi, a chiefly woman of Ngati Rangiwewehi in the Bay of Plenty who was captured by Hauraki the leader of a Ngapuhi war party and became one of his wives up in the north near Waitangi. Some years later the war party returned to the Bay of Plenty area to seek revenge for further deaths from other conflicts. Te Aokapurangi went with them and when her own people were threatened with attack she pleaded with the expedition leader to spare them as they had not been involved originally. He agreed but only on the condition that those who had passed between her legs would be protected. So Te Aokapurangi climbed onto the roof of the village meeting house, stood astride the ridgepole and called her people to enter the house passing below her, saving many people and initiating an enduring peace between the two settlements.

The first New Zealand flag

Treaty House at Waitangi outside which the first peace treaty between Maori and the British was signed

This tree was planted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 - its done pretty well since then

The Marae or meeting house at Waitangi

It contains carvings from all the tribes that signed the treaty of Waitangi

Its a picturesque setting at Waitangi overlooking the Bay of Islands

This Waka is the Imperial War Canoe built in 1940 to celebrate New Zealand's centenary. Waka's are traditional war canoes, this one is 37.5m long and requires over 60 warriors to paddle it. It is constructed from 3 huge Kauri trees

The town of Russell, across the waters from Waitangi was formerly known as Kororāreka, was the first permanent European settlement and sea port in New Zealand. Kororāreka developed as a result of trade but soon earned a very bad reputation, a community without laws and full of prostitution, and became known as the "Hell Hole of the Pacific", despite the translation of its name being "How sweet is the penguin"! Christ Church shown below was partly funded by Charles Darwin who visited the town aboard The Beagle during his famous expedition.

90 mile beach - the strangest highway ever!

Sand boarding the great dunes

Cape Reigna - New Zealand's most northerly point - oh look only 18,000km to home

The great Kauri forests are no more, the timber trade in the 1800s has eliminated the majority of this once sprawling, unique ecosystem. The tall, straight trunked trees were perfect for boat building, particularly masts. Kauri belong to an ancient family of firs and are some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world, often living beyond 1500 years. Some pockets of forest remain, these are in the reserve at Mangimangina north of Auckland.

Our guide treated us to a welcome song followed by a Hakka - we were very privileged. We had to return the compliment by singing God Save the Queen on the raised walkway built for her visit in 2000


  1. Looks exectly like my collection of photos from Waitangi. Brings back good memories!

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