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Touring New Zealand 2014 part 1

The last part left us on our way to Christine who, you may recall, lives North of Auckland near Riverhead and has a house on a hill top with views in every direction and very little shelter so we expected it to be interesting times a Lusi went through, even if she had unexpectedly lost some of her power. There was a general tidy up outside and loose items were made secure. The winds were certainly high but there was little rain as far South as Auckland but some towns up North like Paihia in the Bay of Islands were battered by waves and high tides leading to some flooding of the shop on the waterfront.

Bay of Islands The following morning we had an early start to head up to the Bay of Islands to stay with some friends who we originally met on the Queen Victoria. We took the main roads for fear of damage after the storm and crossed on the Opua ferry towards their house.

Russell: We stopped briefly in Russell as we had made better progress than we had expected and did not want to be to early. Russell is an old favourite of ours and is where much of the history of New Zealand started. Russell is now a delightful, quiet town with almost an island character as it is only accessible via ferry from Opua or by long back-roads which until recently were mostly gravel. It however used to be the major port in New Zealand for whalers and traders and was known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific. At one time it had 24 Brothels and 30 Grog houses mostly run by escaped convicts and deserters. Maoris brought their women and pigs for the along with other goods to trade for primarily tools, and above all muskets, of iron. The expanding lawlessness was one of the reasons why the missionaries, based the other side round Kerikeri influenced the Maori to seek the protection of Crown and Great Britain which eventually and reluctantly sent Hobson and set up the Treaty of Waitangi, which was closely based round the Magna Carta.

The lawlessness in the area was far from restricted to the new immigrants; the missionaries had bought large tracts of land for a few dozen axe heads on paper but with less well documented agreements to provide muskets and other weapons and to arrange for transport of major chiefs to the UK with the prime purpose of obtaining weapons. The Maoris had always been a warlike race but the introduction of muskets led to an imbalance and slaughter on a previously unknown scale. We were to see further examples on our friends property

The Pompallier House was where the French Missionary Pompallier set up the first printing presses to produce bibles and other books in Maori. The fears of an increasing French influence were another factor in Britain eventually agreeing to an increasing involvement in New Zealand. The Pompallier House is now part of the Historic Places Trust and has a tannery providing demonstrations of how hides were turned into high quality leather for bookbinding and upstairs has demonstrations of printing and bookbinding. There is a lot of associated history in the exhibits and information on the methods used for building the Pompallier house, a typically French method of highly compressed mud walls giving a result not far from concrete in hardness but without the resistance to weather hence the wide overhanging eves to keep rain from the walls. We only had time to look at the outside and a brief walk round town before starting out on the backroad to our friends.

Waipiro: It turned out our friends house and land lies between a couple of our regular anchorages in Waipiro Bay and Te Uenga when we have sailed in the Bay of Islands. The land has been in the family for many years and they have built lovely house which blends in perfectly with the land in a very sympathetic way, unlike many properties. The surroundings are clothed in native forest and they have planted many additional native trees including Kauri and one can walk down on tracks to several beaches. We started with a walk up to the top of the hill behind their house which gave us excellent views out over Uenga Bay and then right out over the whole Bay of Islands. We dropped back down another track to Te Uenga and scrambled along the rocks to the beach below their house before walking up the path to the haouse - perfect for a swim in the mornings.

The morning was spectacular with the initial mist leading to stunning views both from inside and on the decking with the bush glowing as the sun rose. Even our pictures harly do justice to it.

Urupukapuka: Jenni had arranged with a friend Malcolm to sail over to Otaio Bay on Urupukapuka where they wanted to remove some more of the Australian Bottle Brush they had discoved, an unwelcome and very invasive visitor. Malcolm prefers to have some help now on his 40 foot yacht so Jenni often goes out with him. We just hope we are still sailing at his age. It was almost a flat calm so we just motored over but it was very pleasant and it was a beautiful yacht. During conversation about some of the less usual rigging (removable back stays) Malcolm let on that he had sailed her round New Zealand twice. Once we got to Urupukapuka we were sent off to look at the Centennial Dam Lake and Hide DOC had created to provide a habitat for Brown Teal, some of New Zealands most endangered wildfowl. - unforunately none were present! We got back to find Jenni and Malcolm pulling weeds off the cliff face. It was then time for a walk over the headland to Paradise bay where we have moored several times. Once more we had excelent views and we diverted to look at the Pa (old Maori fortification) at the tip of the headland - it was much more extensive than we had expected with many levels of fortifications still visible. In the old days when the palisades would have been in place and before the advent of muskets in would have been virtually impregnable.

Wairiki Point & Kokinga Pa: It was then time to return as Philip had laid on a visit to his other property, Wairiki Point & Kokinga Pa, across the bay from their house. He has been spending a lot of time preparing for a visit of the which will be the highlight of their conference in Paihia, the first time the conference has been held in the Bay of Islands. They will be brought by ferry to his landing stage below the penisular. The property was purchased by the family trust 17 years ago and originally covered 21 acres and an addition plot was added a couple of years latter. The old homestead was built by a German in a European style prior to the last war - he was locked up for fear he had built it to signal to German U boats. Maori had occupied the site for at least five hundred years and that ended in war and massacre in 1821 when Ngapuhi defeated by force of muskets the local Ngaire Raumati tribe. We were shown the Pa and it would have been impregnable prior to muskets, however muskets could fire down into the Pa and it was then impossible to defend. Thousands of lives were lost. It is alleged that the muskets were sold by the missionaries at a rate of 1 musket per 20 conversions. There are in fact many Pa in the area - it was a very heavily defended peninsular. We first walked along and looked at the old German homestead, now in need of some renovation.

The main interest was however the enormous regeneration work that Philip has undertaken. When purchased the property had a multiplicity of exotic plantings and even more weeds. His lifetime plan has ben to re-establish a native forest largely resembling that prior to human occupation. He believes the range of species now planted is likely to be wider than would have been found in one spot - he estimates there are over 250 native varieties now planted with a total of 100,000 plants over the 15 years. In the last few years a network of walking tracks has been added. He was however concerned whether it counted as a garden as far as the visit of the New Zealand Gardens Trust - an interesting question as it has some aspects of a conventional garden with lawns and rock features round the house but with the flower beds replaced by carefully designed plantings of natives merging into native bush with tracks and access to various Pa and down to the beaches, landing stage and the childrens house. It has been a mamoth task and the results are more than impressive, I am at a loss for a suitable superlative for the overall result and we are sure his visitors will be entranced as we were regard less of whether it is a 'garden'.

The following morning we had a walk through some of the tracks round their own house and the families original headland which comprised 13 acres, mostly regenerated bush with three houses, boatshed and beach. Again some new tracks are being made and all the houses have diffeent but equally impressive views. We understand much use of the houses here and over at Kokinga point is made during the Christmas period by the younger generations.

It was now time to head South and back to Auckland to stay with Christine for the night before the ferry to Waiheke. We took the backroad and stopped at Whangaruru to eat our packed lunch. There was then the manditory stop to stock up at the Dutch cheese shop.

Parry Kauri Park: We were making good progress so we had time for a brief diversion to the Parry Kauri Park and the adjacent Warkworth and District Museum.The Parry Kauri Park is a small (21 acre) area of regenerating bush with many Kauri includes two magnificent kauri called the "Simpson Kauri" and the "McKinney Kauri" which are on the edge of the bush so the size and shape of a mature kauri can be fully appreciated - they are both about 800 years old. The purchase of the bush was organised by the Kauri Bushmen's Association with generous donations from Tudor Collins, the well known bushman and photographer, and Harry Parry with smaller contributions from other local sources. The Kauri Bushmen's Association has provided a number of short walkways, boardwalks and viewing platforms, well labelled by the Forest and Bird Protection Society and provided with a free guide sheet. It is probably the best place to see mature Kauri and have a short bush walk in groves of Kauri within an hour of Auckland. The museum is also well worth a visit with exhibits giving insights into the life and pursuits of pioneering families but was closing when we got there. Seeing the park and big Kauri brought home the importance of the project Philip has started. We stayed the night with Christine before heading for the ferry the following day.

Waiheke: This was the time we had hoped to do some sailing on Kev's boat, a Piver Lodestar 37' Trimeran but fate was against us. Firstly Pauline sprained an anklevery badly leaving Ajadz's Indian Restaurant virtually the first evening in Waiheke. The whole area in the precinct round the restaurant had been under reconstruction and all the pavements had been dug up and covered with groundsheets which hid some chunks of wood. The crash when Pauline fell was heard by Pete 20m away round a corner. Fortunately it was not broken and we had two Doctors with us in Jenny and Kev wiith us but the sprain was about as bad as one could get and the whole foot ended up black underneath and it was 6 weeks before it was comfortable for major walking. Combined with a technical problem with Shanti it meant we got very little sailing although we did have a short sail with Kev and Pete had a very enjoyable day sailing with David Bott on Penguin, another Piver Lodestar trimeran. Otherwise the highlights were watching round the island race from Waiheke and evenings rewarded with typical Waiheke sunsets with the whole sky on fire with the sky tower in the far distance.

Tounson Kauri Park: We left Waiheke somewhat earlier than we had intended to head North towards the Kauri Coast. Our first stop overnight on our way North from Waiheke was at the Kauri Coast Top Ten Holiday Park overnight They run trips most nights into the Trounson Kauri Park giving one of the few opportunities to see kiwis in the wild. The chances are about 50:50 but we have been three times without every seeing one. It is however a very nice holiday park with excellent facilities and cabins right on the doorstep of the Trounson Kauri Park. We knew the previous owners quite well and the new owners seem to also be looking after it well and have improved and extended the lower areas. There is a good swimming hole but it was a bit cold for even Pete.

We went into the Trounson Kauri Park as soon as we had unpacked. It was the first of the DOC " Mainland Islands" which seek to undo some of the damage done to the native flora and fauna by creating a secure environment in particular, the reduction of the impact of pests. Trounson was chosen to be the first of such experiments as it is literally a forest island surrounded by a sea of farmland; it is isolated from other forest patches and is the home to a number of endangered species such as the North Island Brown Kiwi, Kukupa (NZ pigeon) Pekepaka (bats) and Kauri snails. We had an excellent walk round the Trounson Park - it is not on the tourist route and it was very peaceful. We have always considered that it is one of the best areas of Kauri we have seen and arguably one of the best medium length bush walks we have been on - the competitors are those in Goblin forests round Egmont.

DOC has set up an information area and there is a lot of information indicating how successful the concept of a Mainland Island has been with full and alarming information on the number of pest caught or poisoned. The number of Kiwi reaching a "safe" size of a kilo rose from 5% to 30% after the first two years of poisoning rodents and Possums and has now climbed to 70% since they have been eliminating stoats and cats by trapping. Feral cats do untold damage to bird life and they are trapping several dozen every year. Dogs are perhaps worse and one single dog killed nearly 200 Kiwi in a six-week period in the past. Unfortunately the statistics have not been updated since about 2000 so it is difficult to know whether the progress has been maintained.

We looked at the small DOC camp site at the edge of the park - it was almost deserted although it has much better facilities than most DOC sites including showers and a fridge freezer and in 2009 is only $10 a night. Campers are now permitted to explore the park independently at night, to look for kiwis, and there are pieces of red cellophane and elastic bands provided with which to cover torches so the light is subdued. We always intend to return at some point although the Top10 with its better facilities, river and swimming hole seduced us again this year. We did three batches of laundry and set up the Red Devil next to our basic cabin for a BBQ.

In the morning we went to Nelson's Kauri where we had bought a huge piece of Swamp Kauri last year to take back to the UK to make a table. We packed it into an extra large suitcase with a small bit of padding and kept it in our cabin on the Queen Mary 2. It is still not turned into a table and we bought some extra pieces which we will use to make a base. We will finish them off next year and bring them back if we have the luggage allowance. They always have some beautiful pieces of furniture made from the swamp kauri

Tane Mahuta: On the way north through the winding forest road we stopped for a brief walk to see Tane Mahuta (the God of the Forest) which is so close to the road that it is a big tourist trap with many coaches stopping - even so it is a magnificent sight which even the presence of large numbers of other people can not detract from. We were fortunate this year and it was early and quiet so we could admire in silence the magnificent Kauri which is believed to be about 2000 years old and has a girth of 13.8 metres and a trunk volume of 244.5 cubic metres and a height of 51.5 metres and the boards claim it is the largest surviving Kauri. There are a variety of different lists of large kauri which have them in different orders, we suspect that size is sometimes based on volume, sometimes height, sometimes girth and sometimes convenience for publicity.

Hokianga harbour and Opononi: We then worked our way across towards the Hokianga harbour. We had lunch looking onto heads of Hokianga harbour and continued to Opononi where we stopped for an ice-cream alongsidethe bronze statue to Opo the dolphin

Clendon House: We diverted to Rawene where there is a ferry and hoped to go into Clendon House which was unfortunately closed.

Waimate North Mission We worked our wayacross towards the Bay of Islands and first visited the Waimata North Mission House which has links with Lichfield. The mission and associated church was set up as a largely self-contained farm unit, a model farm to reduce the dependence of the mission from dependence on Maori and to train Maori to farm in a civilised way. The remaining building, the second oldest in New Zealand, has recently been restored back to the original layout - it is well worth a diversion to look round. This time we also visited the nearby and associated Bedggood buildings that preserve the ruins of a cottage, a reconstruction of the blacksmith's shop together with archeologically features and historic trees in a pastoral landscape. They were part of the village and home and workplace of John Bedggood, missionary, wheelwright, blacksmith, miller and politician. Nearby one can admire the first Oak tree imported to New Zealand, probably for oak barrels. The missionaries also built the first road to link the Mission Farm to the Stone Store at Kerikeri where they planned to store the produce.

The Waimata North Mission House is an integral part of the Historic Places properties in the Bay of Islands, namely the Mission and Bedggood buildings at Waimata, the Kemp House and Stone Store at Kerikeri and the Pompallier House at Russell. They all played important roles in the early days when it was the most important area of contact in New Zealand culminating in the signing of the treat of Waitangi. We stayed at the Twin Pines Tourist Park camp site at the Haruri Falls - we have often stayed in the past in their A frame cabins. The next day we visited the Kemp House at Kerikeri and had lunch looking over Bream bay

Sandspit Motor Camp: Our final night was spent at Sandspit, where we always try to get one of their waterfront kitchen cabins. The Holiday Park at Sandspit, or more correctly Lower Matakana used to be a farm and was turned into a campsite in 1930. Many of the old buildings still exist. A few years ago the owners created a "pioneer village" with shop windows full of cameras etc and a cinema doubling as a TV room for children. It is a very friendly place with free kayaks and dinghies at the waterfront and fishing rods and flounder spears at the house. The toilet blocks always had fresh flowers and were adorned with the most fantastic seats with shells and Starfish cast into transparent plastic. It looks as if they have been closed now that a very nice new block with kitchens, open air seating as well as toilets is just being completed.

Bay, the cabin we were allocated in 2007, was right on the sea front with its own tiny private beach marked off by low breakwaters - it started life as one of four ex American Army cabins and was obtained locally. The old schoolhouse from the 1870s forms the games room and library. The first cabin we had many years ago, Willow, started life as the chook house, then became the shower block and finally a cabin. For those who are unaware what chooks are, they are a NZ chicken that does not cluck but goes chook, chook, chook, Eh! Two years ago we stayed in Nikau that was the home of Uncle Jimmy and built just before the turn of the century. The wood is now suffering on one corner which will need some repair soon. Since our previous visit there has been a lot of investment, with the addition of six brand new self-contained units, some of which are on the waterfront and there is the intention of converting one or two of the larger old kitchen cabins to become en suite. Last time we stayed in Norfolk, named after the huge Norfolk pines that tower over it. Norfolk is one of the biggest cabins and has a huge deck which has only a couple of feet separation from the wall which drops vertically to the sands and is lapped at high tide. It has now been made ensuite and we stayed in Kauri which is next to it and also has the sea lapping the decking. Asthis was now approaching the end of our time in New Zealand it was time to scrape and clean the Red Devil fit ready to put it away, always a very long and tedious and messy task for which Pete usually strips down to the minimum as the black grease seems to be attracted to any valuable clothing. After cleaning it is sprayed with a high temperature barbeque paint before putting away. That and cleaning and oiling the fishing gear are always Pete's final tasks. Pauline spent much of her time completing her OU work whilst Pete did the cleaning up.

Auckland and Waiheke - We had a day with Christine North of Auckland before returning to Waiheke via Bucklands beach and Musik Point for final packing and the journey home.

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