So we headed off up north, swapping Hannah for my Mum – seemed like a fair enough swap at the time….
We went to Paihia, over on the ferry to Russell and visited Waitangi. This is a part of the country that is steeped in history – Russell was once New Zealand’s capital city and was referred to as “The Hell hole of the Pacific” back in the good old days of sealers, whalers and missionaries. Hard to believe now. Although it does contain many gorgeous old and historically significant buildings.
Waitangi is often called the birthplace of our nation as this was where the founding document – the Treaty of Waitangi – was signed in 1840.
We have had many discussions about the history of the Treaty over the years we have been homeschooling. Usually equivalent to a complete Social Studies unit, over a few hours of intense questioning, reasoning, querying and disbelief at what happened. So it was awesome to visit Waitangi and for the boys to see where it all happened. We had plenty more questions to discuss.
Charlie was horrified at the treatment of the Maori by the Europeans and spent the next day designing a true New Zealand flag, with no trace of a Union Jack on it!!
We stayed up at Puketi Forest where we had once lived in our bus (see “the bus trip”). There is a great D.O.C hut there which we had booked. (Department of Conversation). The trip did become a bit of a “Oh do you remember that?” and “this is where we…” Mum was very tolerant!
Keri Keri is a cool little town, well worth a visit. We had a lovely walk along the river and a picnic by the Stone Store, the iconic building there.
Two nights in Maitai Bay followed, a beautiful golden arc of a beach with a DOC camp right on the beach. We walked to the end of the peninsula, Charlie decamped to the beach with spade in hand and spent hours making defences against the sea.
Then away and up to the very top of Aotearoa! Cape Reinga now has toilets, parking, lovely landscaped walkways and information boards – oh and a post box!
Heading to our next camp we stopped for a spot of sand dune boogie boarding – is there a technical name for this? It was as though we had stepped into another world, a desert landscape at every turn. It was stunning and surreal and heaps of fun as the boys surfed down again and again.
Spirits Bay – KapoWairua has great significance to Maori as it is the launching place of Spirits as they leave on their journey to the spirit world. I have been there a couple of times before and find it an incredibly alluring place that draws me back. A huge and totally stunning beach, made up mostly of tiny orange and pink shells – I have a bottle of them from previous visits in our bathroom.
And another wonderful, large DOC camp right there. We managed to climb up onto an island at low tide and had views right back along the sweeping beach.
Opononi was famous in the 1950’s when Opo, an incredibly friendly dolphin decided to spend everyday playing with the locals who would ride him, throw balls for him, pat him and generally delight in his presence. The museum there has a very entertaining film from the summer, very dated now and quite amusing to watch for various reasons. Worth a trip. While at the museum we learned that the statue of Opo has been removed and amid much community debate is going to be re-cast in bronze.
Have a look at this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSTozayartQ
We stayed in a “real” camp there, right on the beach still and had the most gorgeous sunset, I seem to have very few photos as was more concerned with the excitement of doing a load of washing!
I need to also mention that for the duration of the trip Granny was self appointed “refuse officer”. This meant while camping she sorted the rubbish – recycling, compost, landfill and then was responsible for getting rid of it. She took her job very seriously, as befitting for a “R.O.” and Charlie made her a badge…
Just have to mention Goat island! Very cool part of the world, out through twee and funky Matakana, and “music-central” Leigh, the end of the road takes you to Goat Island which is a marine reserve. A tiny island, only spitting distance from shore, which you can snorkel around, take out kayaks (even glass bottomed ones!) or a boat tour, all of which, along with hostel, and labs belonging to Auckland University are found at the road end.
Moving on we had hot thermal swims and slides at Waiwera, pizza and kebabs at Orewa (sounding a bit like a song isn’t it…?) then a last night with our big kids in Hamilton.
It is always so inspiring to hang out with them. Dane is managing the temporary ice rink, so the boys all went ice skating. Kim took the night off work from Chim Choo Ree to hang out with us.
It seemed at though we were away for ages as we did so much. It took a day of feeling resistant to getting home and all that entails, then I felt thrown back in to our life and our lovely community, like a big warm embrace. And that was a good feeling.