Day 52 - Paihia, Kirikiri & Russell, Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand


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January 9th 2014
Published: January 19th 2014
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Thursday January 9th, 2014. Paihia, Kirikiri & Russell, Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand

We breakfasted at the Youth Hostel and then loaded the stuff in the car as we are staying somewhere else in Paihia for the next two nights. We booked it and went in and paid for it yesterday afternoon. Paihia is nestled between rolling green hills and tranquil blue harbours with yellow sandy beaches in the Bay of Islands.

We headed out of town and rejoined the Twin Coast Discovery Highway (TCDH) and headed north to Kerikeri. Kerikeri is known for its orchards, wineries, subtropical gardens, artisans an art and craft galleries. It was one of the first places to be settled by Europeans in the early 19th century and is the site of New Zealand's two oldest buildings. We headed straight for the Historic Quarter which was well signposted from the TCDH. Because of its rich history Kerikeri is known as the "Cradle of the "Nation". THe first European to visit the area was (surprises of all surprises) James Cook who named the entire region the Bay of Islands in 1769. Until the founding of Auckland and Wellington, the Bay of Islands was the centre of European activity in NZ.

We found a parking spot and decided to visit the old church first. St James church was opened in December 1878 with a service conducted in Maori. It is loated on the site of an earlier place of worship. The building is important for its links with the development of the Anglican Church. It also encompasses one of NZ's oldest churchyards, which includes 19th century buriels, gravestones and the probable buried remains of an 1829 Chapel. We wandered around the churchyard, reading the tombstones, before entering the little church. There were two lovely stained glass windows.

We walked down to the Stone store where we purchased tickets for a tour of the two oldest buildings in NZ (Kemp House and the Stone Store). We met our guide in the shade of a tree outside of Kemp House. She explained how an Englishman called Samuel Marsden had started to trade with the local Maori. On his return to London, a decision was made to set up a mission in NZ. Marsden and his mates arrived back in the Bay of Islands on 23 December 1814 and anchored just outside the Kerikeri inlet. Here Marsden held NZ's first church service on Christmas today. Our guide explained that there was a cross on the site of this first service to commemorate this event.

Kerikeri Mission was founded by the Church Missionary Society in 1819 under the protection of Ngapuhi Chief, Hongi Tika. The terraced pa (stronghold) site overlooks the Kerikeri basin. When the missionaries lived here in the early 1820's it was sthe site of an unfortified vilage where some of Hongi Hika and Rewa's people lived. The Church Missionary Society bought 13000 acres from Hongi Tika and Rewa in 1831. This is the land on which Kerikeri stands today.

After this introduction to the history, the guide unlocked the front door of Kemp House (the Mission House) and we went inside. The house was built by Maori sawyers and English Carpenters in 1822, and is NZ's oldest building. The house is a treasure trove of furniture and personal items owned by the missionary families and the Maori who lived with them. One of the most interesting items was a bone china teacup with a moustache protector inside to prevent the gentlemen from getting their moustaches wet when taking tea. The house is named after one of the families called Kemp (more of them later). We had already seen their graves in the churchyard (although we weren't aware of their significance at the time). The Europeans brought muskets to this area which armed the local Maori tribes. This allowed the newly armed Ngapuhi war parties to make devastating raids on other tribes which changed the course of NZ history. The house stood throughout all of this. The Mission set up a school to educate the local Maori children and the school slate of Hongi Tika's daughter is on display inside the house.

We went around the gardens of Kemp House which are still yielding plentiful vegetables and fruit today. There is also and old "Long Drop". This is an outside toilet which is now not used. The long-drop, was a practical solution to a difficult problem, and is basically a large, deep hole. Usually it has a concrete lid with a small hole in it. The idea is that you squat over the hole. Your excrement has a long drop to the bottom. We've no idea what happens when the thing fills up, but we suppose that it's covered over permanently and a new one dug. M sat on it for a photo.

Next we strolled over to the Stone Store where our tickets entitled us to go upstairs to the museum. The Stone Store was designed by Wesleyan missionary John Hobbs and built in the 1830's by an Australian ex-convict, William Parrot, and the local Maoris. It is made out of local basalt and sandstone imported from Australia. It is NZ's oldest stone building. The building initially housed and traded mission goods. After the Mission Station closed in 1848 it was bought by ex-missionary James Kemp whose fimily traded in Kauri Gum an later leased it as a general store until 1876.

It stayed a general store and even a 4 Square Dairy before being bought by the NZ Historic Places Trust in 1975. The ground floor operates as a store today selling authentic trade goods and classic Kiwiana products.

We returned to the car and set off in search of the Rainbow Falls which are just outside of Kerikeri. We found them easily as they were very well signposted and there was a huge car park. The Rainbow Falls is a spectacular waterfall that tumbles into a pool surrounded by untouched native forest. The falls are 27 metres high. We walked up to one of the viewing platforms which looks down onto the fall. The locals consider this waterfall to be one of the best in the Northland area. We continued along the track to the Weir where there were families enjoying the shallow rock pools. We
retraced our steps and D went down to the pool at the bottom of the falls to take some snaps and to watch the people taking a dip.

Once back at the car we decided we would check out the replica Maori village back on the other side of the river to the Stone Store and Kemp House. We parked and checked it out. It all looked a bit touristy and fake for us so we decided to give it a miss - we were also a bit peckish. We took some good photos of the Stone Store from this side of the river though. We drove back into town where we knew there was a McD's and had our usual $12 lunch. We had to wait ages for it though!

We drove back towards Paihia we turned off the road to Haruru Falls. These falls are located 5 km to the west of Paihia and cascade in a rare horseshoe shape. The water flows down the Waitangi River. There was a family there and two boys were enjoying jumping from the side into the river below.

We returned to the car and went to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This is described as "New Zealand's most important historic site" - the Nations birthplace. We parked and as it was tipping it down M stayed in the car while D went to investigate with our only umbrella. He returned incandescent - it was free if you were a New Zealander but $25 if you were from anywhere else. It was the British that signed this treaty after all!!! We gave it a miss and went for a drive in the rain instead. We took some snaps of the Bay of Islands.

We returned to town and checked in to our new accommodation which was called Centabay Lodge. The room looked OK and it was very conveniently located in the centre of town. Only problem was that there was no parking and all the street parking was restricted to 40 minutes. The guy was singularly unhelpful when we asked where we could park "I don't make the parking rules" he said. We unloaded the car and then we found a place to park about 5 minutes walk away by good luck.

We went down to the harbour and caught the next ferry over to Russell. We went straight to the museum and picked up the Russell Heritage Trail leaflet for $1. Unfortunely the museum was closing in 5 minutes so we couldn't go inside. The weather was still iffy but it wasn't raining. We started at the Christ Church. The chequered history of this church is evidenced by the musketholes that are still visible in its walls. It has lovely stained glass windows and tapestry covered cushions. It is the oldest existing church in NZ, built in 1836. Outside the fence there is a stone memorial commemorating the Battle of Kororareka (11 March 1845) which left the church largely unscathed. The stone was placed there in 1995 to mark the 150th anniversary of the battle.

Next on the trail was Russell school. The original part of the building dates from1892 but schooling started in Russell much earlier than this at Pompallier Mission in 1839. Continuing on we came to New Zealands oldest operating petrol station. We continued on to the Russell Methodist Church which was built in 1913 by Wesleyan Missionaries. There have been services held here since the earliest days of European settlement. The last church service was held here on 21st April 2013.

Opposite the church is the last group of 5 Government-owned immigrant cottages. These prefabricated cottages were erected in 1875. The one in the photo was occupied by the signalman at the Flagstaff. We walked around the corner and back to the waterfront. It started to chuck it down so we dived in to the Duke of Marlborough Hotel.

This is the 4th hotel on the site (earlier ones were sacked our burnt). The current building was shifted here in 1931 from Cable Bay where it was part of the Cable Station that linked NZ to Australia. We were there some days ago. The pub holds New Zealands Number 1 licence dated July 1840. The first licensee John Johnson, a time-expired convict, established a grog shop here in 1827. Inside the pub were loads of old photos relating to big game fishing. They were really interesting
and we spent quite some time looking ant the pictures and reading the descriptions while we waited for the rain to subside. When it stopped raining we went out to the Wharf to wait for the ferry.

This wharf was built by the Government in 1879 and replaced two earlier jetties. Before road access to the town, visiting steamers tied up here as they brought supplies. Even today, most visitors like us, arrive by sea. The remodelled wharf copes with ferries, tour boats, gamefishing launches, charter craft and a host of private boats of all shapes and sizes. Fishing from the wharf is a year-round activity. Gamefish are now infrequently weighed at the weigh station, as we had seen in the photos in the pub, as a result of the tag and release conservation programme that is now in place. The ferry arrived and we returned to Paihia.

We went back to our new hostel and D discovered that there was no way he could cook in the kitchen as it was filthy and busy. We waited a few hours but it was still not possible to cook so we decided we would go out. Unfortunately everything was shut so we had a few vinos and went without. Tomorrow we are going on a boat trip.


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19th January 2014

Your blogs are most interesting and informative and I love your photographs. I know I said some time ago that I was coming out of Facebook but now I am glad I didn't.
19th January 2014

Glad you are enjoying them
Hi Hallette, Hope you are well and glad you are enjoying my blogs. I am about 10 days behind with them but now we are in Sydney visiting a friend so hopefully I will catch up soon.

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