Tuesday, July 9, 2013

To the Treaty Grounds and Beyond

Whare Waka and Ngatokimatawhaorua
After breakfast in the morning we popped over to the Krumbz Bakery to check out what they had in the cases, and decided we had to get back there for lunch. We drove over a single track bridge to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. For my American friends, this the equivalent to Independence Hall in Philadelphia which Michele and I visited last year. Huge historical and cultural significance.

Hobson's Beach
After extreme lawlessness of the whalers, sailors and sealers in nearby Russell grew too much to bear, the local Maori chiefs sent an appeal to the King of England in 1831, and he responded by sending his envoy, James Busby, to restore order in 1832. The Maori chiefs were eager to increase trade for technology with the Europeans, and to forestall foreign adventurism (especially by the French), Busby's successor, Hobson, worked to draft a treaty which would give the British exclusive rights, and guarantee the property rights and sovereignty of the Maori people. The treaty of Waitangi was signed on this location, and there is a huge celebration here every February 4th.

Maori Warriors
If you come to visit - and folks, I can't stress this enough - spring for the extra bucks to take the guided tour and experience the Maori Cultural Presentation. I almost skipped it, having already seen the MCP at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The young lady at the counter wasn't really all that convincing, simply saying that different tribes had different dances and songs, but for some reason my normally frugal instincts failed me and I whipped out the wallet. This is a "must-see" if you are ever here.

Revered Ancestor
You can enjoy a short movie about the Waitangi Treaty in the Visitor Center, and enjoy a beverage or a snack while you're waiting for your tour to start. Our guide, whose name I can't hope to pronounce, met us just outside the center, and we began our tour at Ngatokimatawhaorua, the 35 meter waka, or war canoe, which was built for the centennial celebration of Waitangi Day in 1940, and which is taken out annually by 80 rowers and 40 spares, so paddle at a maximum speed of 13 knots around the harbor with other, lesser craft. It is a high honor to be one of the paddlers, and our friendly guide confessed that this privilege has so far fallen to his older brother, and he has not been able to row it himself, though he has trained for it arduously.

Having arrived early in the morning, our group consisted of ourselves, a nice family from Victoria Australia, and a pair of lovely ladies from Cork, Ireland. As we interacted with our guide, with us questioning him and him returning the favor, it was fun to see the diverse perspectives...except on one subject, the economy. The consensus from around the world is that there's a recession going on.

View from the Treaty Grounds
From the Whare Waka (Canoe House), we walked a short way to view Hobson's Beach, where the new lieutenant governor strode ashore, the treaty in his grasp, eyes flashing, boots polished...well, you get the gist. Onwards to the treaty house, where Busby and his family lived, and thence to the Whare Runanga (Meeting House) which was built as the spiritual, historical and artistic repository of all the Maori tribes. Traditionally, each Maori tribe maintains its own meeting house (used strictly for tribal functions, they lived in simple dwellings the rest of the time), but this one was commissioned by one of the Maori members of Parliament for all his people.

Through no fault of my own (though some may claim it was due to my obvious girth and evident prosperity as a provider for my people) I was selected to be the "chief" of our visiting tribe, to stoicly endure the martial challenges of the resident tribe, and to accept from them a peace offering and invitation to join them in the meeting house. I crossed something off my bucket list in pressing noses with a Maori chief, and had to deliver and off the cuff thank you speech to respond to his welcome. We were then regaled for about a half an hour with awesome displays of Maori song, dance, games and martial prowess.

Meeting of Chiefs
Michele and I then wandered the grounds for another hour or so, getting a better look at some things we'd breezed by, and checking out the luscious forested grounds. We popped back into town after that, grabbed a couple of meat pies from the bakery (mine was smoked fish, and hers was steak and mushrooms) and ate our lunch at a picnic table overlooking the Bay of Islands, with our guardian gull to keep the rest of the birds from bothering us.

We drove up to Haruru Falls after that, only about five minutes away. While pretty, and reasonably photogenic, it's not enormously impressive, but would be a good spot for a picnic at the park below, perhaps, and it appears they rent kayaks there in the summertime that you could take out on the river below the falls for a better view.

From there, we took a drive up to Kerikeri, Along the way, we stopped at a roadside mandarin orange stand and picked up a kilo of fresh picked, spray-free, ripe fruit. Kerikeri proper was very similar to the main drag in San Clemente (or probably any coastal tourist trap around the world), and so we poked about in a few of the stores, including one where we had a nice chat with the proprietor, a woman whose farm had been confiscated for redistribution by the government of Zimbabwe, and who came here to start her own woolen clothing shop. The merino/possum/silk blend is wonderfully soft and and soft on the eyes as well. Evidently possums are a huge problem predator here in New Zealand, and...well, making lemonade out of lemons and all that...

Haruru Falls

Just north out of the city, we arrived just at closing in the historical area, and had to settle for outside pictures only of the Stone Store, Mission House, and old Anglican Church there. Didn't get a chance to explore the Maori Village and pa (fortification) at all. Again, a marvelous park area for a family picnic, a footbridge across bubbling falls, and sailboats drifting at their moorings complete the scene.

Back to the motel, with a stop at the supermarket along the way for a few minor items, like toothpaste. Do you know how hard it was to avoid all of the Colgate-Palmolive brands? They own the world. Finally settled on a South African brand, MacLean's (probably a subsidiary after all). Relaxed in our room for a bit with wine, bread and cheese, then walked down the coast to the wharf, and popped in to 35 Degrees for a meal at a window table overlooking the harbor. We weren't terribly famished, so we settled for sharing a smoked fish and spring onion pate over toast and a pot of green-lipped mussels, steamed to perfection, with still more bread and butter, and a small basket of fries, accompanied by their homemade tomato sauce (a very delicate cocktail sauce).

Back to the room for a dose of CNN, a Calippo for dessert, and a quiet good night.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Sounds like you two are having a wonderful time! Chief Jon, indeed(!). And, well, it sounds like you found some nice yarn (was it Zealana?) Nice stuff....