Bay of Islands

Trip Start Sep 15, 2008
Trip End Jan 20, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Thursday, December 11, 2008

After three days of city life we were ready to move on and eagerly drove north, exclaiming all the way at the lovely scenery we were driving through - not dissimilar to the English Lake District, but without the Lakes and more of it!!!!  Our destination was a little town called Russell, perched on one side of the Bay of Islands.  Russel1, formerly Kororareka, the first British settlement and Capital in NZ and initially a den of iniquity. We booked into a very pleasant little motel (one of the many benefits of travelling around N.Z. out of season is we have been offered very attractive rates on some excellent motels etc.) and were directed to a bistro restaurant in the town.  Quite apart from gaining fame in the Lonely Planet for its scrumptious fish and chips we quickly discovered its other claim to fame was the owner was a direct descendent of Fletcher Christian, leader of Mutiny on the Bounty.  No prizes for guessing the restaurant's name - The Bounty.
The following day, keen to learn something more of the history of N.Z., we took the ferry over to Paihia and walked the short distance to the Waitangi Treaty House, set amidst attractive gardens, which we explored.  Here in 1840, the Waitangi Treaty was signed between the U.K and the United Tribes of New Zealand represented by a number of Maori leaders.  This Treaty is considered the founding document of modern day N.Z. and guarantor of Maori rights, but there has been ongoing conflict regarding what the treaty really said and breaches of Maori rights, which continue to this day.
After the history it was time to enjoy something of the beauty of the place.  All the guide books told us the only way to do this was get out on the water and see for ourselves just why the Bay has got its name.  So the next day saw us eagerly climbing aboard an impressive 'tall ship', the J Tucker Thompson, for a fabulous day sailing around some of the islands, landing on one for a short walk to a view point and then returning to the boat for lunch. For a large point of the journey John Boddy was recruited as helmsman (help!)!!  We thought we'd had enough treats for the day.  We were wrong.  After we disembarked we drove up to Flagstaff Hill, a historic viewpoint above Russell and were reading the wording at the base of the impressive flagstaff which stands there telling of the various occasions when Maoris opposed to the British (who were only stealing their land!) cut down the flagstaff in the 1840s.  Standing next to us, it turned out, was the great, great, great grandson of the Maori chief Kawiti, who led the cutting down of the flagstaff.  He was visiting the site for the first time in his life.  For the next few minutes he was able to give us a personal and fascinating history lesson.  It should be said that he was for peace and reconciliation now.  He was a lovely man and we felt extremely privileged to have met him.
Sadly the next day we had to turn our back on the Bay of Islands and retrace our route as far as Auckland.  It was then new territory as we continued on our way to the Coramandel Peninsula, our destination being a small town on the east coast called Whitianga.
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