WEDNESDAY, 21st Sept.
Another day packed with attractions. This time I had to be at the ferry terminal before 9 a.m. The sky was clear and it was very busy on the jetty. I could imagine how busy it can get in summer there!
All the seats on the top deck were taken, so I found a seat on one of the lower decks and I didn’t have the best view. Nevertheless, I started taking photos soon after we left the quay. A crew member saw me and other photographers and said he would show us a better place for taking photos. He took us to the bow, the very front of the boat! It was windy and with a high speed getting quite cold, but I missed being on water, so I didn’t care how cold it would get.
And it was a great spot to take photos of dolphins! They were our first attraction in one of the bays. First I noticed them under another tourist boat, but then they started swimming under and near ours!
We passed Motukiekie, a privately owned by some businessman from Auckland Island. In 1976, the Queen stayed in that little chalet during the Olimpics in New Zealand. There are more buildings by the beach, guest houses, a golf course etc. Wouldn’t you want an island like that for yourself?
Some people got off the boat at one of the islands on the way back to walk around and return to Paihia with the next tour, but I was pressed for time, because I wanted to visit Waitangi, so I didn’t join them.
But we all had to got off at Russell and we got a complimentary ferry ticket to Paihia. That’s a clever move to help local business, because almost everyone stayed for an hour or two to have lunch and look around. And so did I.
Russell (Maori name Kororareka meaning “How sweet is the penguin”) was the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand. The town was also know under the name “Hell Hole of the Pacific”. You can imagine why it had a bad reputation and it forced British government to regulate some laws between the first settlers and Maori. Plus there were some French buying lands on the South Island, so all that led to the meeting of about 40 tribal chiefs and Capt. William Hobson (the first Governor of New Zealand) and other British representatives in Waitangi and signing the Treaty on 6th February, 1840. If not that, New Zealanders would probably speak French now.
Russell had the population of 5,000 in colonial times, now it’s only 800 and it’s a very peaceful nice little town with a museum at York Street. The admission costs $7, but I decided to skip that, eat something and catch the next ferry to Paihia. Smoke fish and kumara pie at York Street Café was delicious.
I was very surprised to see that flower on pohutukawa tree by the beach, because it usually blooms in December and that’s why it’s called Christmas Tree. But my friend said, it might have been rata, which is very similar to pohutukawa, although he wasn’t sure.
I took the ferry at 1 p.m. and went straight to Waitangi. It was about 2 km walk along the beach north of Paihia. The admission to The Waitangi Treaty Grounds was $25 (it was free for New Zealand citizens) and first I watched a 20 min documentary film about signing the Treaty of Waitangi. It was good to do that at the very beginning of my visit there, so I could get a better understanding of where I was.
Then I went to see waka,
Treaty House, where James Busby with his family used to live. His story is pretty sad, actually, considering how much he did for the Crown. But isn’t it so typical?
When it was near 5 p.m. I left the Grounds and remembered that very close there should be the Haruru Falls (meaning ‘noisy’ falls). I went further up the road and I saw the sign saying they were 5 km one way, which would take about one hour. It was getting dark, so I decided not to go. Maybe next time. I was already tired after such a busy day and from the strong wind on the boat.
Going back to the hostel along the beach, I admired beautiful and weird shapes of shells. I felt guilty taking every step and hearing the cracks under my feet.