NZ Land Logs 31, Year 2: North Island–Opua, Pahia, Russell, Kerikeri
Date: Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Weather Today: The Perfect New Zealand Day
Location: Kerikeri, New Zealand
This morning it was “rise and shine” as we got up early and started our trek north. Our first stop was in the town Kawakawa where we wanted to make a bathroom stop–not because we needed to go the bathroom, but because this little town has public toilets commissioned by Austrian artist Friedrich Hundertwasser. This was his last project before he died and the work has put little Kawakawa on the map. The whole town has adopted the theme set by Hundertwasser with colorful columns sprinkled here and there throughout the town. These toilets made going to the bathroom a truly artful experience this morning. I especially loved the handwashing sink that was part of a whale. You’ll have to see the pictures to understand.
And speaking of pictures, I have not been able to get the pictures ready to post each day when I put the log on the website, but I have now gone back and posted pictures at the end of most of the logs covering our New Zealand land travels. The pictures from today will probably be posted in a day or two, so go back and check this log then if you are interested in seeing Hundertwasser’s work. When you see a picture at the end of a log, just double click on the picture and you will automatically be taken to that file of photos.
Now back to Kawakawa. It is the known as the Gateway to the Bay of Islands, so shortly after passing through this town we arrived in Opua. That is the port we came into when we arrived in New Zealand in November, so it is our gateway. We wanted Alan and Helaine to see Opua and we wanted to look up our good friend Doug of Windcastle. His boat had been moved since we last seen him in November, but we searched for his bronze-colored mast and soon tracked him down. Sylvie is not back from Mexico City yet, but Doug arrived back from the US a couple of weeks ago. It was great to see him and we look forward to seeing Sylvie when she returns on April 4. Our other reason for stopping in Opua was to hop on the car ferry that runs from Opua to the town of Russell every ten minutes. The Bay of Islands area has an interesting history, once being known as the ‘hell hole of the Pacific.’ In its rough and tumble days when it was populated by whalers and former prisoners from Australia among other undesirables, Russell was known as Kororareka. This name came from the Little Blue penguins who would arrive each August and September to nest. Kororareka is a beautiful name, but in an attempt to erase the bad memories of this town, the British changed the name in an attempt to change the face of the town. Today it is a truly delightful seaside town. Mark and I had visited Russell in December, but it was good to return and see things for the second time. We walked to one end of the town to see the Pompallier Mission home. This is known as the only truly French building in Australasia. It is built of rammed earth panels, or pise de terre, in a kauri wood framework or pan de bois. We did not tour the home, but rather just enjoyed our walk and the little peak we got of the home. From this end of town, we walked along the waterfront known as The Strand in search of a place to have lunch. We chose Sally’s Restaurant and enjoyed watching the school children on a field trip that were swimming just off the beach. They were very much enjoying their time out of school. After lunch, we visited the Russell Museum and toured the grounds of Christ Churst, New Zealand’s oldest church. This church has a fascinating array of needle-pointed pillow kneelers. These intricately designed pillows depict local plants and animals, all sorts of sailing vessels, and detailed pictures of the buildings of Russell. Our last stop in this town was Flagstaff Hill and lookout where we got just absolutely stellar views of the Bay of Islands from Opua all the way out to the North Cape.
The car ferry delivered us back to Opua and we drove on to Pahia. We did a little shopping and then went to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. It was on these grounds that the Maori and British signed a treaty stating that they were now one people, “He iwi tahi tatou.” It took many years and much bloodshed for those words to begin to really mean something. In the 1930’s, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds were given to the people of New Zealand by Lord and Lady Bledisloe. A Maori meeting house was built to stand beside Bledisloe’s European house to symbolize a nation of one people. Today we visited the treaty grounds, toured the Maori meeting house as well as the Bledisloe home, and enjoyed walking the length of the 300 metre or 900 foot waka or war canoe. It is named Ngatokimatowhaorua and it quite a beauty.
The last stop for today was Kerikeri. There are only two Makana Chocolate Factories in New Zealand and we have now visited both. We got to Kerikeri with only minutes to spare before Makana closed its doors for today, but in those few minutes we got to taste test today’s specialties and Helaine purchased a few more items to take home. We checked into the Top 10 Holiday Park and stayed just long enough to get our things put into our room. We then went to see the Stone Store built in the 1830’s and the Kemp House built in 1822. This house was known as the Kerikeri Mission Station. There are lovely gardens attached to the house and we enjoyed a late afternoon garden walk and took lots of photos. Dinner was calling, so we ended our day in the Cafe Jerusalum where we had a great dinner. Dinner was topped off with Yoffie’s Yummy Chocolate Cake, and that it was!
Tomorrow we make our pilgrimage to the most northern tip of land in New Zealand and wind our way back to Whangarei through kauri forests. We can only hope that today’s weather extends into tomorrow. That would truly be a gift.
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