Day 31. Wednesday 6 December.

Today it was time to touch base with some historical matters, so a short drive to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (the birthplace of NZ). A cultural tour gave us the overview and the context for slower exploration of the site and the story. It was hardly surprising to learn that the melding of Maori and European cultures has involved pain, compromise, pragmatism, leadership…. and time. It was fascinating to learn of the linguistic variation between the English and Maori versions of the Treaty that led to bitter conflict and that still resonates today in the area of ‘land rights’. The Museum presented a clear chronology of the Treaty and was supplemented with a video re-enactment of the signing. The restored house of James Busby and the beautifully crafted Marae, the flagstaff and the grounds provided us with several hours of quiet information.

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Inside the Marae not all members of the group of visiting high school students were engaged in their excursion. The teacher told the students to touch the carvings, absorb them for ’they are your story’….a couple of boys muttered and went outside, presumably they had better things to talk about.

With a few hours to fill we then set off to Kerikeri, a ‘normal’ working town 25 kms up the road. What a difference! Unlike Paihia (totally tourist), Kerikeri is productive: food, wine, engineering, fabrication, medical facilities, lingerie shops etc etc

We had been told about a walk/drive in a kauri forest just out of Kerikeri, so with minimal signage we headed in a rough direction. Found it and the boardwalk of 5 mins took the best part of a most enjoyable hour while we marveled at nature and those magnificent tress – and practiced our newly acquired photographic tecniques.

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Kauri trees are being attacked by a die-back caused by a virus or parasite that gets into the root system and then kills the trees. Apparently many national parks/forests are now closed to bushwalkers, who are not happy, and those that are open require visitors to shed their footwear before entering. Our walk of 390 metres was entirely on a raised boardwalk.

Back into town to meet up for dinner with the first of the Duntroon contingent, 2 of whom we had run into in the Countdown grocery aisle yesterday afternoon, who had in turn met the next two at a coffee shop across the bay in Russell. A lovely meal was shared at Charlotte’s on the wharf – we all chose the deep sea fish, which was lovely, washed down with NZ wines. The reunion has officially begun!

 

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