Monday, February 22, 2010

Pt 3 NZ - More Devonport, Navy Museum, and north to Tutukaka

6:45 am. Overcast. Street lighting is still on as the natural light increases. Already the motorway over the bridge is heavy with traffic snaking jewel eyed into the city centre.
We pack up slowly and lethargically, we’re still struggling with adjusting to the time zone after our ridiculously late arrival from Sydney and continued late nights.

After 9 we walk over to Europcar in Shortland Street. It’s not a long walk but it does involve walking up and down some reasonable inclines. Good for us after all the fine dining we’ve been doing. There’s a bit of a wait as others ahead of us collect their vehicles. Time to go out to the vehicle and we are surprised to find a sporty silver Toyota Aurion awaiting us, complete with spoiler. Oh. Ok. I check my paperwork. We definitely booked and paid for a Mitsubishi Lancer. This upgrade is a bit of alright! It’s a very easy trip back to Quay West to check out and then we are retracing our steps of last night and heading towards the Northern Motorway. We have decided to stop past Devonport again this morning seeing as our visit on Saturday was shorter than we had planned.

Devonport is comparatively quiet today after the buzz of the weekend. No trouble parking. I make a call to the glass bottom boat people at Goat Island. Turns out the conditions there today are not good and the lady rings back to advise that she thinks it would be a waste of time us going up today as the wind is coming straight in and it’s very rough with the boat closely resembling riding a bucking horse. This being the case we feel free to spend as much time as we like here in Devonport and surrounds before making our way up to Tutukaka for tonights stay.

Our first stop is the puzzle shop at the wharf which hubby had been admiring on the weekend. The lady in the shop is really friendly. She sounds of Scottish origin. She tells us about the various games and puzzles and has a teaching game with hubby of a cool game called Pentago. This game is apparently taking the world by storm. Looks seriously cool but we think we can get this and another cool New Zealand invention called Tantrix at home. What we can’t get at home is a hand made kiwi invented game called Cathedral. Made from New Zealand woods in batches of 50 at a time this game of strategy looks fair to contribute to the hefty weight of the souvenirs for this trip. I also cannot resist a cribbage box which opens to show compartments for playing cards, dice and tray and crib pegs..such a reasonable price too. I can see us coming back to the puzzle shop when we make it back to Auckland. Great shop. Great friendly service. Top stuff.

Next, as we’re running out of time on our parking spot we drive down the road and make our way into the Navy Museum. This museum will be moving to new premises around on North Head, hopefully opening on 1 August 2010. At the moment they are crammed into a fairly small space. The displays are dominated by photographs but there are other interesting artifacts also as well as small information boards telling the story of various ships and individuals. Along the way more or less covering NZ naval history. We read many fascinating and inspiring stories. We read of penny trails held at schools all over New Zealand to raise money to buy the ships bell for the first HMS New Zealand… we used to raise money like that for the Far West Childrens home at Curl Curl in Sydney… I remember the teachers used to drum up support saying how these poor children who live in the inland had never seen the sea and so we had to bring them out for a beach holiday. Although I was only 5 or 6 yrs old, I clearly remember feeling quite resentful as I had never seen the other side of the great dividing range, or for that matter even the mountains.. no one was offering to take me for a holiday! I think perhaps there must have been more to the Far West Children’s home than our teachers ever explained to us!

We read of the second HMS New Zealand commissioned on 19 November 1912, one of very few ships to participate in all three major fleet actions of the Great War: Heligoland Bight on 28 August 1914; Dogger Bank on 24 January 1915 and the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 1916. In action the Captain wore a Maori Puipui and pounamou tiki that had been presented to the ship.

Tales of valour too. Lieutenant Commander W E Sanders VC RNR. A Takapuna local. Given command of a Q ship HMS Prize in 1917, on his first patrol a submarine was encountered and engaged. HMS Prize was badly damaged and almost sank. This engagement has since been described as one of greatest minor naval actions of the Great War. The sub sank and some survivors were rescued. W E Sanders was awarded the Victoria Cross “in recognition of his conspicuous gallantry, consummate coolness, and skill in command of one of HM ships in action.” The only VC ever to be awarded to a New Zealander serving in the Navy.

It took a while for the Prize to be repaired and three months later she took to the waters again and once again another sub was encountered, engaged and sunk. This time Sanders was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. In their third engagement Sanders and all the crew perished. There is a memorial to Sanders in Sanders Ave Takapuna. A local boy to be proud of. One wonders what else he was involved in as his war diaries were classified as “secret”. Grant Howard’s biography of “Gunner Billy” will be a treasured souvenir of our visit here today and a worthy addition to my collection of military titles.

The gentleman on the desk helps me out with my confusion about the establishment of the kiwi Navy. At some point rather than being referred to as HMS ie British Royal Navy vessels, the kiwi ships became HMNZS – as they are today of course. The boards around the walls don’t explain it. (No doubt a problem that will be addressed in the redeveloped displays). Turns out the Royal New Zealand Navy was formally created on 1 October 1941. However this was not the first of the NZ Navy. New Zealand had long had their own ships, paid for by the kiwi taxpayer and controlled by the NZ Naval Board, but operating with/within the Royal Navy. In 1921 this administrative arrangement was not changed by the seagoing elements of the NZ naval forces being retitled as the NZ Division.. all very confusing really, but I think I have it clear now.. though it would be interesting to examine the relationship of these events to the national expectations re foreign policy. I know for a time Australia contributed to empire defence but had no independent voice on foreign policy. Just one of the stages of assuming real independence from the “mother country” was realizing that British and Australian (or New Zealand) interests do not always coincide.

Having spent an hour or two in the Museum, as a steady trickle of international visitors also drifts through, we make our donation and buy the book and request a few free fact sheets.. Navy in the Korean War, Navy and the Napier earthquake…and pick up some great free editions of “The White Ensign” which is the Navy Museum Journal. It is a very classy freebie magazine I have to say …. better donate a bit more…. We say our farewell with a promise of a return one day to the new premises.

We have decided our next stop is O’Neills Point Cemetary. This to pay respects to one Mrs Emily Burrows. Mrs Burrows own son was killed when he was lead stoker in HMS Irresistable when it struck a mine in the battle for the Dardanelles in the Great War. It seems this kindly lady satisfied her maternal longing and her grief by becoming “the mother of the Navy”. Every Sunday she visited the ships of the NZ Division and bought them fruit, flowers, sweets ad cakes in her basket. She was universally loved and known to everyone in the Navy from the highest ranks to the newest recruits. When she died in 1933, men of the navy lined the streets from Devonport to her resting place at the ONeil’s Point Cemetary. Her coffin draped in the NZ flag and carried by 5 sailors and 1 Royal Marine.

It’s only a short drive before we pull up outside the ONeil’s point Cemetary and wander in. It is a lovely place with mature trees lining a central walk. The roots of the aged trees uplifting the nearby graves. It’s a much bigger place than we expected and we’ve got buckley’s of finding Mrs Burrows grave. Maybe she knows that our visit here is in her honour. We note the graves of a NZEF veteran the headstone erected in the early 1920s. Did he die slowly of wounds or gas? Or was it an accident perhaps. May all those here rest in peace.

We have collected a pamphlet from the i-site on the North Shore literary walks. I’m not familiar with most of the listed authors (and there are plenty of them!) so we think we’ll just try to find Frank Sargeson’s place and leave it at that. However first we decide to head down for a quick squizz at Takapuna beach. This is easily accomplished and on this weekday, no problem parking in a side street. We walk past what appears to be a mother and son deep in impassioned argument… well… the mother is deeply into it at any rate. She’s “not happy Jan!” The views from the beach across to Rangitoto Island are lovely… it’s quite a long surf so pretty safe for swimming. It’s a very pleasant spot.

Turns out that Frank Sargeson’s Bach is in Esmonde Rd.. these days this is a major arterial route and it’s just too hard to pull over to look around. We are caught in a tide of traffic heading for the motorway to the north. Ultimately that’s where we need to be so we give the hunt for Mr Sargeson away. He’s a hard man to track down on all fronts. I’m wondering if perhaps many kiwis don’t really know about him despite his significance to kiwi literature.. why else would he be so hard to get?? Maybe he’s significant for leading a shift but his own stories just didn’t hit enough of a chord in the national psyche…
Our next detour is to the coastal township of Orewa. Driving in we pass many new developments. Something of a building boom seems underway here. The town centre is an upmarket beach resort. Nicely landscaped beachfront.

A tui is hopping about from pohutukawa (?) down to the grass and back up. We explore a little. Buy a bottle of ginger beer from the bakery and decide to finish off our picnic supplies. I spy a lookout on the map which seems to look down over the beach and gulf. When we get there we can’t turn in from our direction so we are obliged to keep going. This turns out to be a boon and we end up at the delightful Hatfields Beach Reserve. A picnic table beautifully placed overlooking the water and where we can park right next to it. Perfect. This is right up our alley.

We sup again on our smoked fish and mussels. Ferndale cheese with gourmet wafers, blueberries and plums. We’re almost done and hubby is putting the rubbish in the bin as I exercise the camera’s super zoom on what I think might have been a juvenile black backed gull, when it starts to rain properly. We’ve stuck it out in very light drizzle off and on, but this is a bit beyond a joke. As a couple of ladies mosey on up the beach from their leisurely swim, we dive for the car. Phew. Just in time.

Back on the main route north we are struck by the great similarity of the countryside around here to northern NSW and in particular the northern rivers area around Taree. There’s even gum trees in about the same density. It’s almost 4:30 when we take a turn to have a look at Puranui Falls. AH Reed memorial Kauri park is how it’s billed and the kauri must be more impressive than the falls we conclude.. but given the time and the fact that we have allowed a lot of time on the itinerary for exploring Waipoua forest, we clear off pretty quick from this site.

It’s a very short distance to Whangarei Falls and this does not disappoint. I enjoy watching the kids swing on the rope and drop into the river above the falls. Admire the very tastefully designed facilities and finally down at the viewing platform down hill from a pleasant picnic area, admire these beautiful falls. A better view would be had from the picnic table down at the base of the falls. There is a walk down and around the area. It’s too hot to be tempting now, and we’re too tired, but early one crisp morning it looks like it would be a delightful little spot.

Driving on we pass through an area where dry stone walls line the roadside. It’s a striking and distinctive feature. The dry stone walls behind us we’re back in NSW…then not far from Tutukaka we come to Ngunguru. We’re still in NSW here. The similarity is striking. This could be any one of a dozen NSW coastal villages bordering a tidal inlet and apparently not much else around but all things aquatic. …perhaps a little less developed than many of those NSW villages these days. A bit like a time machine perhaps..

The spell is broken as we climb a hill to Frying Pan Corner and the lookout there which looks down over a coastline which is more distinctly New Zealand. Away to the east is that Pacific Rendevous we can see? ... and look there, is that the Poor Knights Islands? Spectacular view. We’re close to the end of our drive now and looking forward to going to sleep!

Much sooner than we expected we make the turn at the sign to Pacific Rendevous and snake our way past many a beach house. Should call them baches? … but many of these are mansions and not in the least consistent with the small dwellings for single men that originally inspired their colloquial name! Beach Houses fits rather better as a description I think.

Pacific Rendevous is neatly kept with playground, fish and car cleaning spot, mini golf and of course spectacular ocean views that look down into the intricate little bays around the headland. We check in and sus out our one bedroom apartment. Modestly kitted out, but more than adequate for our needs and the balcony and the views are awesome!

We waste no time heading down to Tutukaka to get something for dinner so we can hit the sack. The pizza joint isn’t operating and although we have a booking for Schnappa Rock tomorrow this seems the sensible spot to eat tonight as well. It’s not 6pm yet, but we are offered a seat and a menu and simply informed that our order can’t be taken until after 6. The building is quite unique. It seems like it has been cobbled together from construction debris. Recycled window frames, but old beams. Brushwood panels. Unique, and largely open to the air. It would be impossible to lock up wouldn’t it?

Hubby has been entertaining himself with another delightful local drop called Weka Native Lager. By the Moa Brewing Company which is apparently in the Marlborough region. ..[it] shows an array of smooth velvety characters on the palate but also has a refreshing floral nose..” I can’t comment on the palate, but it definitely has the floral nose!

Time comes to order and having considered the daily specials hubby opts for chowder and I go for the entre special. Whole prawns with crispy tortilla and lime and watermelon salsa. Hubby is loving the chowder wherever he’s had it. Each version has been quite different but all delicious. My prawns are simply outstanding. Generous serving and incredible value for only $16.50. Light fresh. Delightful for summer.

Our mains follow. Hubby has gone for Nahm Jim prawns with rice fettucine. The gluten free menu option. I have gone for the vegetarian option. Spatzle accompanied by vegetables and tomato sauce. Both are beautiful. We LOVE the fact that the chef has come up with meals that include plentiful vegetables, light, summery, pretty healthy by the look of it. Simply outstanding. Outstanding quality. Outstanding value. Brilliant.

Hubby orders another weka. They are all out of Weka. What a shame. Another perusal of the beer menu and our waitress is delivering a Summer Ale by Monteiths Brewing Co. “ A fresh bright and lively beer made with lightly kilned malt and a touch of rata honey… .delivers a truly refreshing taste experience…savour ice cold with a wedge of orange.” We have no wedge of orange, but I swear it smells a bit like lemonade. Hubby tries it and sniffs. Yeah it does. It’s a bit like a shandy. Definitely refreshing. Nice. We’ve been doing well. Haven’t struck a beer hubby hasn’t liked yet. I belatedly figure we want a photograph to remember this meal….

Would we like to see the dessert menu? I’m about to reply to the negative, but hubby gets in first. “Definitely!” Oh no. Coconut and Feijoa panna cotta. I’ve never had a feijoa.. I could try that tomorrow, but tomorrow I want to have that one with the Russian blini… Hubby goes for the chunky chocolate mousse with berry coulis. Yes, both desserts were delicious. We pay our very reasonable bill ($121 NZ) and waddle towards the door. We admire the nifty boat near the entrance and head back to the car.

As we pull out of the car park I exclaim "hey! check out the bearded trees…” we pull over again and hop out to look at the thick pads of what look like aerial roots hanging from what we would have thought might be the ubiquitous pohutukawa. On closer inspection the trees seem to be infested with some sort of epiphyte or parasitic plant and these “beards” are mats of roots hanging down from them. Interesting.

Nearby there is a tower and very large screw. The plaque indicates that these must have come from HMNZS Tui.. sunk in February 1999 as an artificial reef somewhere offshore. There is also an American naval vessel listed on the plaque.. and thanks for generosity to the USA… my visit to the Naval Museum impacts my interpretation of the plaque…was HMNZS a recommissioned Naval vessel acquired from the US?

Back to our apartment and journaling before collapsing into bed. Looking forward to a late and slow start tomorrow. There’s nothing shabby about the view from our accommodation with the Poor Knights Islands visible in the distance!

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