Whangateau to Whangarei; (Parua Bay) North Island 09 to 11 July 2008
3 Aug 2008
About 8 miles along the coast road, just north of Cape Rodney, is Goat Island which is our first stop of the day. There are about 14 Goat Islands around New Zealand and there must be loads around the world. In the old wooden sailing ship days goats were placed on islands where they would get on with being randy goats and a ready meat source for passing ships; a sort of meals on heels. Strangely enough there are no records of goats ever being kept on this ‘goat island’ though pigs were once placed here. They were left to graze but not fancying being served up for lunch escaped by swimming ashore.
We were actually at Cape Rodney – Okakari Point Marine Reserve but just about everyone calls it Goat Island or its Maori name of Motu Hawere. A Marine Reserve is the ocean equivalent of a National Park or Scenic Reserve. Snorkelling, scuba diving or kayaking are major activities in this area. Although it is illegal to feed the fish some scuba divers will gather food from the underwater rocks and encourage fish to come near to them for the food.
The dry way to see the marine life of the reserve is by glass bottom boat, and as today is a nice calm day, this is our choice. Once again we are in a main area of Maori history. This small bay infront of Goat Island was the landing place of the ancestral waka Moe Karaka, commanded by the rangatira Tahuhunuiarangi of Ngai Tahuhu from the north. Today the relevant Maori tribes exercise principles of management over this area. We were surprised to learn that the first European Settlers came from Nova Scotia in Canada in the 1850’s. Canada? We were to find out more of this later.
Our 45 minute glass bottom boat journey took us over reefs and right round Goat Island. The rocks on the exposed north-east part of the island are hard and about 180 million years old. The rocks on the sheltered south west side are only 15 million years old and are softer, gritty sandstones and pebblestones into which the waves have cut a number of deep caves; our boat poked into some of the caves. Unfortunately, the rocking motion of the boat at this time, on what has been our most gentle sail to date, caused Sylvia to feel a bit queasy. The sea was very clear and the captain/guide was a constant source of interesting information; I though our time on the boat seemed to sail by. Once back on shore we took a walk along the rocks where fish and Eagle Rays could be seen in the clear water.
The onward journey north was along unsealed roads until 9 miles from Mangawhai Heads, and once again our leisurely journey amongst the hill farms was very enjoyable. In the town we found a computer and internet shop which will open at 11am tomorrow, so that will be our first task. Again our camp site was by a beach so we had a walk along it before the day light faded.
On awakening we found the weather was showery and not too warm, though compared to Scotland I can’t describe it as wintry, even if the New Zealanders would. It wasn’t worth completing the long walk to the Reserve so we had to spend our time with coffee and heavily filled fruit muffins until the computer shop opened.
Whilst trying to uplift pictures for the blog site, (it wasn’t working very fast), we asked the computer man to look at a programme we had purchased which was supposed to speed up the workings of our laptop. The man worked hard and eventually, after a good portion of the day had gone by, we left and drove to Waipu Beach; another lovely spot. Tomorrow, just up the road is a Scottish Museum which we have been told is a must for us to visit.
Another day and more showery weather is in store; a good day for a museum.
For the minimal cost of £1.10 each we spent an engaging two hours learning about Norman McLeod and his followers. At the time of the clearances in Scotland Norman set off with his group to Nova Scotia. The settlement didn’t work out due to the harsh climate and Norman and many of his followers set off for New Zealand via Australia in large wooden sailing ships built by them. The Scots were a pious bunch and were not too keen on the lawlessness of Australia when they arrived their at the time of the gold rush, and were keen to move on to New Zealand and start a colony in the Waipu area. More emigrants followed from Nova Scotia.
Norman McLeod ruled his followers with a rod of iron and would publicly humiliate transgressors. Despite being regarded with derision by those outside his community, he was a charismatic preacher and people would travel many miles to hear him preach. A new church holding 1,200 people was not big enough – people spilled into the isles and on to the stairs. It is thought that Normans strong leadership and many skills represented the continuance of the tribal leadership they had once known from their Clan Chiefs.
There are many people in the Northlands of New Zealand and further a field who can trace their ancestry to these settlers. The ‘Highland Games’, started on 1st January 1871, (two years before the start of the British Open Golf Tournament), is the largest event of its kind in New Zealand. By 1887 many pipers were demonstrating their abilities and since then Waipu has produced some of the finest pipers in the world.
The ships and passengers were all documented and photographs displayed with several video’s bringing to life the history of this settlement. This museum is clearly a labour of love for those who presented and care for it.
Our journey onwards was not as interesting. We branched off the main road to follow a tourist route of 14 miles which took us past the only oil refinery in New Zealand. It seems we were wrong to think everywhere in New Zealand is scenic, but this may be the only place that isn’t. After travelling alongside an industrial estate we drove along flat uninspiring countryside, infront of a few houses by the sea, (the best bit of the drive), and then were directed round a new complex being laid out which will eventually have expensive posh houses with their own nearby marina. We didn’t bother looking round the oil refinery; just headed back to the main road in the belief the ‘tourist route’ sign had been put up by the housing estate developer.
Back on SH 1 we drove north to Whangarei, (pronounced Fangareye). After attending at the Visitors Information Centre on the way into town, we travelled down to the river side and found a two hour free car park not too far from an internet office. The building was more like a big shed but the service was homely and excellent with pictures being loaded onto our blog site at the rate of 40 seconds per picture. Mostly, since we have been away from home, pictures have taken between 2 and 4 minutes each to up load. The cost of $3 an hour was the cheapest yet; we will definitely be coming back here when we have looked around the neighbouring coast line.
Once more the evening was coming upon us so we drove east down the peninsular to spend the night by the sea at Parua Bay. Am I in danger of becoming a beach bum, or just a bum? Answers on a postcard.
NB. During our journey to Kawau Island the excessive use of my camera took its toll and the on/off switch broke off. We are now down to the one camera which Sylvia uses. The debate in our van is still raging as to whether this will enhance the overall quality of our blog pictures or not.