Published: March 23rd 2008March 21st 2008
Part of the Treaty Grounds marking the site of the signing of the treaty of Waitangi on the Bay of Islands
After leaving the caves at Waitoma, we stopped off outside of Auckland to break up our trip to the Bay of Islands (a vacation hotspot a couple of hours north of Auckland). We stayed in a Top 10 Holiday Park in Manukau. In the past this chain of parks has been a very good value, with simple, but clean accommodation with a kitchenette and laundry facilities. At this particular location we actually stayed in a trailer home. It was fine for the night, but it is hard to imagine how families live in these modest accommodations. I tried to emphasis the kids how blessed (and frankly gluttonous) we are to live in such relatively posh accommodations in North America. It was along the same lines as: “You have to finish your dinner! Don’t you know they are children starving in Africa?”. I don’t recall this particular speech having the desired effect on me as child, so I don’t know why I would think that our children would be any different, but somehow the parental gene kicks in and I just can’t stop myself.
In the Bay of Islands, we ended up staying in the little sea side town of Russell. It was at one time the capital of New Zealand and is reputably home to the oldest church in New Zealand. We explored a very old graveyard there and found, among other markers, the grave of the first woman of European descent born in New Zealand. It was certainly picture postcard beautiful. I gather that many Aucklanders flock here on the weekends and I can see why.
Avery, Adrianne and I did some scuba diving on the subtropical reefs, while Astrid and Josh went parasailing. The coral reefs in this area are not as spectacular as those in Caribbean, but they are also less fragile. I am embarrassed to say that I was thrilled by “patting” the fish swimming by. There was a particularly friendly wrasse that followed me around and seemed to enjoy the handling. Perhaps I was knocking off parasites. Adrianne enthusiastically touched every creature our guide offered her. Avery was a little more tentative. She held a star fish but was having no part of handling fish or urchins.
Before heading back to Auckland, I felt compelled to stop by the site where the Treaty of Waitangi (NZ’s founding document) was signed in 1840. While the rest of the family sat in the truck, I dragged Avery out to see this historic landmark. The Treaty was made between the British Crown and about 540 Maori rangatira (chiefs). I would have liked to spend more time here, but it was evidently not a big draw for the others, so after a quick tour we got back in the car and headed South for Auckland and our last weekend in New Zealand.