New Zealand: Entry 2

28 February 2003: Auckland, New Zealand

Subject: New Zealand

Paihia and the Bay of Islands

I have spent the last couple of days up in Paihia in the Bay of Islands; a nice bit of coastline with good beaches and lots of surfers. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain for a lot of the time I was there but somehow I managed to not get too wet.

The Rainbow Warrior Memorial

My main reason for going there was to visit the memorial to the Greenpeace boat Rainbow Warrior which was blown up by the French in Auckland harbour in 1985. The remains of the boat were sunk in the bay of islands and a memorial was built on a cliffy headland above Matauri Bay. It's not an easy place to get to, but after five hours on a coach, 60km hitch-hiking (which seems to work quite well here), and a short walk I eventually got there. The memorial has the boat's propellor and a "rainbow" of stones:

Not surprisingly there were not a lot of people around and I had just enough time for some peaceful contemplation between rainstorms...

The Waitangi Treaty

Having gone all that way I couldn't just come straight back to Auckland, so I went to see the Waitangi Treaty site just outside Paihia. The Waitangi Treaty was the agreement by which the Maori ceeded sovereignty to Queen Victoria in 1840. They have preserved the house where the British Resident lived - he was an interesting chap by all accounts; he was the first person to grow grapes and make wine in New Zealand and wrote books about it. You can also see a huge Maori war canoe that was built for the centenary in 1940; it is vast, built from three enormous hollowed-out tree trunks spliced together. They did most of the hollowing-out where the trees fell, but it still took a team of 22 bullocks to drag them out of the forest!

Unfortunately some of the historical information is a bit hard to understand unless you know some maori. I suppose that the New Zealanders learn some at school, but for us foreigners it is not easy to understand things like this: "Each iwi within Aotearoa today traces it whakapapa to an ancestral migratory waka." To be fair they did translate whakapapa as geneaology and many visitors will have worked out that Aotearoa means New Zealand, but what this display panel was trying to say is still quite a mystery to me.

Next stop Waitomo to see the caves.