Ooooohhh I’m behind!!! Oops! This is the first of a few posts that should bring us up to date. Apart from the missing Melbourne adventures that I still need to complete!
Still, here’s a bit more of my NZ activities…
So for the next two weeks I’m heading up to Russell, in the Bay of Islands to do a help exchange. Basically I work for bed and board. I have an early start on the Monday morning, say goodbye to the hostel and get a taxi to Sky City to get the bus from Auckland to Paihia then boat from Paihia to Russell.
The bus journey was lovely amazing vistas, wiggly roads and hilly landscapes, sunshine and showers and rainbows disappearing before my eyes and lush greenery and expanses of sea.
After several hours we arrive to Paihia, greeted with lovely sunshine and I hop on the boat to Russell. As instructed I call Roberta, the help exchange person I’m working for and staying with en route and she meets me at the tiny boat stop on Russell. Their restaurant, The Wharf, is on the main street, grandly called The Strand, in Russell.
Roberta has a few errands to run then we head to their house where we are warmly greeted by Bingo, the miniature schnauzer and Roberta and Todd’s 4 lovely children – Isabelle, Annabelle, Isaac and Eli. Cutesvilletown!
I really don’t know what to expect, but they have an amazing house and my room is spacious, with a bathroom en suite and the most amazing vistas!! A far cry from the small, cramped hostel room that has been home for the last week! Wowsers!
Roberta and Todd have a few businesses, one of which is a restaurant in Russell, The Wharf, it’s very nice and right on the waterfront. Fabienne, the chef, puts out top food and they’ve a good selection on the menu, including this stone grill business. That was a pleasant experience when we all ate there on power cut night. More about shortly :-)
So, the first week of being here and I’m learning the routine and the tasks that Roberta wants me to do/help with. It’s housework and looking after children. Weather wise it’s done nothing but rain, rain, rain!!! It’s supposed to be The Birdman festival this weekend (11th, 12th, 13th) but we’re not sure that’ll happen which will be a real shame :-( So far I’ve been doing child minding and entertaining as well as cleaning the house, ironing, that sort of thing. I may be needed to help at the restaurant, probably in the kitchen at the weekend if things are busy with The Birdman, but we’ll see what the weather does. I did have a day off but the weather was so rubbish I had a day pottering about, crochet, reading, planning what to do on my days off next week, that sort of thing. I feel sorry for the bambinos as they’ve been in all week too, they are getting over coughs and colds so torrential rain is probs not the best thing for them at the moment!!
So my first week here has mainly been spent at the house. I did venture into Russell a couple of times, each time I got totally soaked!!! I made it to the FourSquare for a bag of party mix, but that’s about it!
Oh, now, Kat McEvoy, I can’t get solo here! Lovely, refreshing solo! I guess the equivalent here is L&P and I finally tried some…
I can tell you that it’s no where near as delicious as a solo! It’s got a weird salty flavour.. Anyway, I’m yet to find a solo alternative… Still, there are plenty of other beverages available in NZ. It’s not like they make you drink L&P all the time!
Anyway, back to it… There is though a lovely walk through a woody bit and along some boardwalk bits and down Florence Avenue into Russell rather than taking the road. It’s about a 40 minute walk for me, that route and about 30 minutes along the road. It’s such a pretty place, Russell. I’m keen to explore more of the Bay of Islands and I’m hoping to do that next week; I’ve got 2 full days off :-)
Let’s hope the weather picks up. It’s set to according to the long range forecast. Thank goodness! It’s been high drama! We had a power outage, which for us meant no water, as the house is not on the mains, but out of a big tank. So the rain is good for that at least!! The power outage only lasted a couple of days, but that was enough!! We took the kids down to the restaurant for tea, as they’ve got a generator down there, and just as we were finishing, the restaurant started to fill up. So, Roberta and Todd sprang into action while I took the kids to wait in the car. It was a whooshy, rainy night and the car was doing a fair bit of wobbling! The kids we so good though and were really patient while we waited for Roberta to clear the bulk of the rush and then come back home with us. What a night! Im so pleased I had my head torch!
The power comes back on the next day so we start to get back to normal, although there were a few light flickers…
The coming week I’ve got Tuesday and Thursday off. I’ve decided that on Tuesday I’m going to do this; hole in the rock and dolphin boat trip, where you can swim with dolphins!
Cool or what?!
Then on Thursday I’m going to head up to the tippy top of the north island to Cape Reigna. I did look at hiring a car to the this trip, to the point where I’d booked and paid the deposit for it, then I got an email from the company saying that they couldn’t fulfil my booking because some of their fleet is stuck in Auckland because of the flooding, oh and yes, did I mention this, a couple of roads have collapsed :-/ One South of Kawkawa quite significantly it seems. I hope I can get back to Auckland on my bus on Saturday for the arrival of sister Tor Illingworth!
So, there goes my hire car plan out the window! It’s ok, they do an organised trip up there, but I wanted to make my own way, stop at places of interest to me. Stop for a wee when I need one, eat when I want to to, that sort of thing. Still, that’s not happening so I’m going with the organised tour, which on the plus side means I just have to turn up! It’s going to be a long day! I’m excited though, the very top of New Zealand! Ooooooohhhhh! Cape Reigna is said to be where the Maori believe our souls leave the earth when we die. It’s also the point where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. Amazing. I think we also go along 90 mile beach, which isn’t actually 90 miles, but 64 or something like that! If the weather is ok then we get to do sand dune surfing! Alice Prevett recommends this, so I reckons it’s going to be fun! Let’s hope the weather holds so I can do it! Other activities on then itinerary are kauri tree forest stuff and again, weather dependent finding pipis on the beach…
So, at weekend, The Birdman activities planned for Friday didn’t happen but Saturday went ahead. However, I stayed at home to look after the kids and Roberta and Todd took care of the activities at the restaurant, as they were quieter than expected because of the crazy weather. Still I’m glad they managed to do some stuff. It would have been a real shame it the whole thing got cancelled… I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t be part of it, but I had fun with the bambinos instead. A perfect example of being able to be flexible and adaptable to changing plans :-) I can totally do that!
I worked on Sunday all day and then Monday, for a few hours. For the afternoons I had a lovely walk into Russell and up flagstaff hill for some wonderful vistas of the bay. Russell is a very compact, seasidey, little town. You’d never believe it was once known as a ‘hell hole’, with drunkeness and prostitutes and violence and general debauchery… It has got the oldest pub in New Zealand. The first place that was granted a licence, to an ex convict that had been transported to Australia.
Today, I know I’m here off peak, but it’s a sleepy little seaside town, very picturesque, but what a lot of history! It was just across from Russell and up from Paihia in Waitangi where the treaty of New Zealand was signed and the British claimed yet more land as theirs… More on that shortly.
Tuesday I had a whole day off and was up early to walk into Russell to catch the boat to go on the hole in the rock and dolphin spotting boat trip. If we find any dolphins there’s the option to swim with them, wetsuits provided, so I was keen to do that. The department of conservation ( DOC) the dolphins, and the sea however had other ideas though!!
It was a glorious weather day, the sun was shining, it was warm. A perfect day for being out on a boat. We chugged off with our captain telling us stories about the different islands we were seeing, 14 out of the 144 that exist!
Motu means Island in Maori and my favourite one was Motuarohia, which roughly translates as the island of desire or love island :-) There is also a little cluster called the sisters, which reminded me of the three sisters I’d seen in the blue mountains in Australia and in turn of my sisters Illingworth :-)
The sea was beautiful, glistening and sparkling in the sunlight. Me and two other Brits, that have made New Zealand their home, Ruth and Ian, took to the front of the boat and pretty much stayed there for the duration! It was so fantastic. Uninterrupted views of the sea and the islands around us. We saw some seals hanging out, basking in the sun on one rock. We delivered post to two other islands.
Now, this sounds like a cool job, but I’m not sure if I’d go crazy after a while!! You can work as a caretaker of an island. Usually this means maintaining the house and grounds, so you have to be a bit of an all rounder. The other stipulation is that you have to be a couple. The first island we dropped post off to we were greeted by the dog, Molly. I’m awful, I can’t remember the name of the lady! She came down the jetty, her 5 month old well wrapped up, to receive the post.
Off we went to another island, the house on there looked as though it was a James Bond villain lair! All hidden behind a row of line trees. The dog that greeted us at this one was called Basil. I’m not sure how you’d go about getting a gig like this, but if you’re a couple, with a dog and can do all the things to maintain a property and land and like being in beautiful, yet remote surroundings then this could be the job for you!!! I’m not sure what happens when the families come to use the house, but I’m sure there’d still be a place for the caretakers. Modern day servants!
After our postal deliveries, (handed over in a net!) we made our way to Motukokako, the hole in the rock. This is exactly that. A hole in a rock. It’s said to be lucky if you get dripped on while you pass through the hole, but this was not our lucky day, There was a real swell on the way to Motukokako which made for a very rolling ride, I was clinging on for dear life but loving it at the same time! My stomach felt like it was being left in the air as the boat went back down into the swell. So, the captain decided it wasn’t a good move to try and go through the hole. I totally agreed! Disappointing as it was, it looked proper choppy and it’s only a smallish space for the boat to get through. So we just had a bob about in the boat and looked at it! Here it is…….
That was the second sort of disappointment of this trip. The first was the announcement that we wouldn’t be able to swim with the dolphins, if we ever found any, because of the crappo weather that we’d had. The department of conservation, DOC, had put a temporary ban on getting in the water for fear of the water being contaminated with stuff after the heavy, heavy rains. So no swimming with the dolphins… At this stage in the trip, we hadn’t even seen any dolphins!!!
I was still have a wonderful time though, taking it all in, amazing vistas from the boat, a lovely sense of freedom as we whooshed over the water and really nice to chat to Ruth of Ruth and Ian :-)
Oh before I move on to the next bit of the trip, I must mention the lighthouse and tiny house on the a Cape Brett Peninsula. The lighthouse became automated in the 70s and the little house, where the lighthouse keeper and his family lived is still there, perched on the side of the peninsula. You can stay there if you like for just $30 a night! It would be either totally romantic and idyllic or totally dramatic and maybe even a bit scary!!! Weather dependent of course. I might look into that if I make it back up here before I come home, but I think that’s one I’d like to do with someone else! Maybe when Joe is here over Christmas and New Year…I’ve already said we should get a boat to go with our small holding when I get home :-)
So, let’s get back to it. No boating through the hole in the rock, no swimming with dolphins, no actual dolphins… Yet!
We make our way from the hole in the rock to another motu to stop and have a little walk and a break from the boat. Just for 20 minutes or so. A quick paced walk up a sheep lined hill reveals more amazing Bay of Islands vistas…
We hop back on the boat and Ruth gives me her contact details. She’s so lovely. It’s been so good to chat to her. She and Ian live in Wellington so I’m defo going to get in touch to go for a beer or something once I get sorted in Wellington. Hurray for lovely people and wonderful adventures!
Back on the boat and it’s tense, as time is running out and we’re yet to spot any dolphins! One lady has already announced that she will be pissed off if we don’t see any dolphins. I bite my tongue, but wish I could speak up to things like this. Yes, it would be disappointing if we don’t see any dolphins, but in real life, they aren’t here to entertain us. It’s not like we booked the dolphins to do a show for us! Flips! To my relief, this is pretty much what the captain says!
Then, good news! The captain gets a magic call to direct us to where there is a little pod and in a short time, lo and behold, dolphins!
I totally get why people are fascinated by them. Even from a distance they are leaping out of the water and when the boat gets closer they swim around us, underneath us. We spot a mum and baby swimming along and they look like they are smiling when they come up for air. I love the sounds they make when they come up for air. It was ace to experience that again, after the whale watching our of Sydney harbour, where we saw dolphins too. I try to get a couple of pics, but there’s a bit of jostling on the deck, this is the best I did! I know Isn got some good leaping ones, I might email them and ask him to send me a couple! Cheeky!
It would have been totally wonderful to swim with them, but it’s not meant to be this time. Captain calls time and we have to head back to Russell and then Paihia. I’m very pleased I decided to come on this trip. I loved it. I decide to stay on the boat and go to Paihia. Ruth and Ian get off at Russell for an explore and in search of fish and chips :-) we say goodbye, for now :-)
I get off at the end of the line, Paihia, which is about a 15 minute boat ride across from Russell.
It’s lunchtimeish when I get to Paihia and I decide to take the short walk, about 20 mins, to Waitangi to do more learning about the history of New Zealand. What a lot of history in such a small space! Waitangi is where the treaty of New Zealand was signed by the first Maoris, Hone Heke, along with James Busby and William Hobson.
The Waitangi Treaty grounds are made up of a visitor centre which introduces us to the treaty and it’s significance with a short film. The timeline that takes us through the visitor centre is also a good overview to key events that took place from when the British arrived to when the treaty was signed.
My understanding is that while we weren’t as crap and awful and hideous as we were to the aboriginals in Australia, we were still pretty crap and awful to the Maori. By all accounts, this Busby fella wasn’t the best mediator ever and so things could have been better… But the result of him being there was this treaty, which the Williams chap translated into Maori. Eight of the nine copies were in Maori.
Out the other side of the visitor centre you can walk through some lovely mangroves and then you come to a ceremonial waka (canoe); Ngātokimatawhaorua. The waka is quite a significant part of Maori history, it’s purpose, it’s meaning. This ceremonial war canoe is launched every 6th February as part of the Waitangi Day celebrations. From there you can walk down to Hobson’s beach, so a called because that’s when he landed when he got here. It was called something else before then, as per the Waitangi Treaty website details:
‘The original name for the beach in front of the waka house is Te Ana o Maikuku (Maikuku’s cave). Maikuku is a female ancestor of the area. The name Hobson Beach came from its being the landing site for Captain William Hobson, the British representative responsible for negotiations with Māori and for organising the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi. Today, the beach is used to launch the ceremonial war canoe every Waitangi Day.’
- See more at: http://www.waitangi.org.nz/treaty-grounds/#hobsons-beach
In fact, to see more about all the things at Waitangi their website http://www.waitangi.org.nz
There’s also some stuff about the key people involved in the treaty that will give you a bit more background…
Ok, just a little aside… Kat McEvoy and I had this conversation when we were learning about the Melbourne at the Melbourne story bit in the Melbourne museum. All these people that just turned up, took land and then decided to call it something else, usually after them just seems such a crazy notion. I mean there’s already people there! Doing their thing, on the land, etc. Goodness me! It’s no wonder that there’s such a hoo ha about immigration today. As a nation if you’re going to go around the world and take people’s land, write treaties that declare the people you took the land from are now equal to British citizens, then what do you expect?! You’re giving them the right to be British citizens as part of the deal of taking the land, then surely that means you’re giving them the right to come to Britain if they want? If they’re part of the commonwealth created?… Flips. History is essential for understanding the now hey. I need to do more history to understand more about it too and I’m making comments based on what I’ve learnt from being in Australia and New Zealand. I’ve no idea about how the treaties here compare with those of other commonwealth countries from when they were first colonised. Another bit of learning to do :-)
So, back to the Waitangi treaty grounds… Once you’ve had a mooch on Hobson’s Beach you can take the path up to the lawns where they had the marquee pitched for the treaty to be discussed and signed and to Busby’s house, the treaty house itself. That’s an interesting one from a building/architecture/conservation perspective. Then there’s a Maori meeting house; Te Whare Rūnanga, little further along with some wonderful carvings. This house was added retrospectively of course. The Maori didn’t have one at the time the treaty was drawn up. From the treaty house you can see the flagstaff on the lawn to mark the approximate spot where are the treaty action happened. Did you know that New Zealand has 3 official flags? Well it does! The first is from 1834 and is of the United Tribes. The second is the Union Jack from 1840 and the third is the current New Zealand flag from 1902.
Now, a couple, Lord and Lady Bledisloe bought the Waitangi Treaty land back in the day to restore it and gift it to the country as part of it’s history. Nice one fancy people :-) You can learn a bit more about them and their vision when you have a look around the treaty house as well as about treaty man Hobson and his family.
It’s here that you can also cast your eyes over a copy of the treaty. Read it. See the signatories. Make of it what you will. It’s all there.
Once I’d taken it all in, I meandered back through the mangroves, had a little perusal of the gift shop. Love a gift shop and then made my way back to Paihia to catch the boat back to Russell. It was getting dark by the time I got off the boat and the half hour walk back to the house in the dark was none too appealing I can tell you! The roads aren’t lit and when a car comes toward you with it’s full beam on, it’s pretty blinding and I had several moments of feeling like a rabbit in the headlights! Still, I made it back without incident and took a little time on the walk back up the massive hill to the house to appreciate and wonder at the twinkly stars in the night sky. So clear, so magical, a good end to a lovely day of freedom on the sea, hanging out with dolphins, the most beautiful vistas and learning. Bonus time when I got in, Roberta had made tea for me too :-)
I’m working just for a couple of hours on Wednesday then I might do one or two of the little heritage trail walks and get ready for my big adventure to Cape Reigna on Thursday :-) Whoo! Whoo!
Russell and Waitangi…