Saturday 20 February 2010 – Te Waimate Mission House; Clendon House Rawene and on to Opononi for Tane Mahuta at night
It’s another late start today. I finish my journal from yesterday while hubby sleeps in. I’ve never had so much difficulty adjusting to time zone before. I’m usually a morning person so I am finding this frustrating. It’s a last minute scramble showering and checking out. It’s a beautiful day in Paihia. As we pass the water it appears the churn of the last few days is settling down, there is no swell only gentle lapping of the water on the sand. The bay is looking very pretty.
Today we need to end up in position for pick up at the Opononi Resort Hotel by 5:45 for Tane Mahuta with Footsteps Waipoua. .. we toyed with heading up to Mangonui for the famous fish and chips, but with the other things we want to do doubt we’ll have sufficient time without rushing things. We head towards kerikeri and made a spontaneous decision to follow the signs to the Mission House. The road takes us through a pretty rural area. Well above average. Then the sign for Te Waimate Mission House comes up on the left.
There is a very pretty little white timber church complete with lychgate and quaint cemetery. A lady has just arrived with a bucket of flowers. I think she must be doing the flowers for tomorrows church service but she heads off into the cemetery.
Having noted the wooden gravestones dating from 1845 protected within the lychgate and the dedication to Samuel Marsden (so many historic figures active in the history of both Australia and New Zealand - he's one of course!) we head into the mission house itself.
We buy a passport to historic properties in the Bay of Islands area and head on in for a tour after a brief run down from the lady looking after the place today. There is an outstanding collection of historic artefacts in the house and we potter about enjoying ourselves reading the information panels describing the various significant pieces in each room. Among the collection they have a christening gown used in 1815 for the christening of the first child born of European parents in New Zealand. The house reflects the smaller stature of people in those days. The stair rail in particular being quite short. The stairs are quite steep and considering the small stature of one of the women residents, climbing the stairs must have been quite a pain the neck!
The whole area around the mission house is lovely, and the history very interesting. There is a huge magnolia planted in the 1850s and In the shade of a couple of large native trees in the garden there is a beautiful perfume. I think this is the tree that we saw on Tiri Tiri Matangi that Sue said the pigeons like. Always has both fruit and flowers at the same time The flower is a rich pink red. Could this be the karaka? I have photographed a name plate of the karaka on Tiri, but I don’t recall the fruit of this tree being what I would describe as bright orange…..
Next stop back to the stone store and house at Kerikeri. These were both built as a consequence of the Te Waimate Mission being established, so it makes sense to see the Mission house first if you are interested in the history. We were late the other day and I‘ve decided to get the interesting pavlova book I was browsing there.
When we pull up there are coaches and people everywhere. Big groups going through the house on tours. I complete my errand, and also pick up a little book with excerpts from the diary of Rev Burrows that I’d meant to get at the Mission house, and we are on our way. Just a quick stop for petrol and a better road atlas, and of course to introduce hubby to the wonderful Memphis Meltdown family.
We’ll head over via some smaller roads to Opononi. As always it is pleasant taking the route less travelled and pretty soon we again make a spontaneous choice to turn up to check out the Hone Heke Memorial in Kaikohe. Even the parking area we are glad we made this stop. There are lovely views across the district.
Wandering up through the gardens we find another of the nice perfume trees we saw at Te Waimate Mission.
Finally, at the top of the hill the memorial is positioned. it's a beautiful location for a memorial.
Hitting the road again, our next stop is Rawene and Clendon House. This house belonged to the Clendon family until it was sold to the government with many of the historic family furnishings etc intact. Like the Te Waimate Mission House they have a whole stack of extraordinary pieces. It really is an outstanding historic house to visit. We head into the reception room and pay the modest entrance fee. The guide gives us a run down on the history. He is extremely knowledgeable and of course so much of the history of that time involves New South Wales as that was the more established British colony and as such the more senior administrators stationed in Sydney had a role in providing oversight to to government officers stationed in New Zealand.
I also bought a book called Follow Me Back In Time: Memories of WWII in New Zealand 1942 - 1945 by Joan Ellis about her experiences in Wellington during the second world war. This lady received a grant from the US to help her record her memories of US servicemen who passed through the area. When I showed serious interest in the book, the guide mentioned that the author is actually his mother! Looks like an interesting book, and I will get extra pleasure having bought it here where we've had such a lovely time chatting with the author's son.
Finally we wander through the house and admire the views across the hokianga. The house was strategically positioned to be able to observe comings and goings in the strategically important Hokianga. Now of course the trees planted so long ago obscure the view. If memory serves one of the trees in the garden was planted by Governor Grey.
It’s getting late, we’re pretty hungry and so we make a dash the last 12 or something kms to Opononi. We check in, order a couple of pizzas, chowder and some speights distinction then it’s an all too brief rest before pick up time. The little townships of Opononi and Omapere are nestled along the coast of the beautiful Hokianga. Sitting at the table at the Opo pub it is a beautiful view across the water to the sand dunes and in the distance some quite high peaks.
Our guide for this evening is Tarfiri (phonetic spelling) we spend some time chatting together when he arrives before jumping in the bus and heading on to collect other people for tonights wander around the forest. It is an almost but not entirely international group. It appears a popular thing for people to be on a trip or weekend away to celebrate an anniversary. A couple of us are 25 years (albeit in our case we’re tardy in getting away.. so actually have been married over 26 years now!) and a couple from Canada are celebrating their 45th.
We begin the evening taking the walk down to see Te Manua Ngahere (tay ma –noo –a nah-hiri) the father of the forest. We stop a number of times along the track to learn some particular things. Stop one is about small, medium and big. From this spot you can see the three layers of growth in the forest. The low bracken, the taller shrubs, and across, right where the sun is obscuring their detail is the tall crown canopy of the Kauri.
At each stop there is a particular point emphasized. At one an illustration of without the small there is no big. We examine the seed of the kauri, see a 6 year old seedling, which is tiny, and the male reproductive organ and some remnants from the explosion of the ripe female cones. Each tree produces both male and female and so is self pollinating. The mighty kauri starts out very very slow growing then after about 6 years they accelerate.
As we wander deeper into the forest we stop and admire some mighty trees. We stop and hongi and hug one majestic tree that abuts the path and feel and sniff a slight exudation of gum on its trunk. The scent of the gum is wonderfully fresh like pine sort of but lighter and nicer.
Kauri shed their bark. It comes off in hard plates like scales. Tarf tells us the story of the whale who on coming into the hokiana saw a mighty kauri standing on the shore. He says to the kauri, “mighty kauri, you look fantastic standing there a giant on the shores. How would you like to come into the water and be a giant of the water with me. The kauri replies “I’d love to whale, but I have not got the appropriate skin for living in the water.” The whale removes his scaley skin and gives it to Kauri to enable him to enter the water. However as the kauri is readying to leap into the water and become a giant of the sea, he turns and sees his “farno” ie family and friends on the land and he realizes he must stay a giant of the land. So he apologises to the whale and says. “Whale, I am sorry but I am not going to join you to be a giant of the sea. I am a giant of the land and on land I must remain.”
On another stop we learn some uses for things of the forest. Tea tree, or manuka. I am surprised to find that not everyone is aware of the healing properties of honey generally, or manuka honey in particular. We talk about that. We crush some manuka leaves, they smell great. Fresh and aromatic. Hubby says he now needs a steak to put them on. this pleases Tarf as the Maori use this herb as a flavouring.
There is another plant and Tarf asks if anyone knows what its name is. Ah. This is an opportunity to test something were told on the walk at the treaty ground.
The guide at Waitangi had been telling us about kawakawa and it’s uses for deadening pain, cleansing tea and antiseptic properties. Then he had pointed out this other plant and said, “this is the same plant. Just older.” I thought at the time this did not have a ring of truth to it. We’d learnt about kawakawa and a heap of other medicinal plants on our Maori tour with Maurice in Kaikoura and this seemed at odds with what Maurice had said.
I hesitantly ask if this kawakawa…no…not kawakawa…. Hah! I knew it. The guide at Waitangi was bluffing his way through making stuff up. I mean we’re just ignorant know nothing tourists. We’ll never know will we!
Our final useful plant is a northern version of the bushman’s friend. A toilet paper plant. It’s quite different in shape to the one we saw on Rakiura…. And bigger, but similar in that one side is soft and flocked… you wouldn’t want to get the sides wrong as the other side is rough.
As we walk deeper and deeper there are more and more kauri, bigger and bigger specimens. We pause as we approach Te Manua Ngahere. The protocol is explained and Tarf sings as we walk the final distance to stand in the presence of this mighty elder of life on earth. Estimated at 4000 years old. Not a relic, not a human made structure, this is a 4000 year old living entity.
When maori speak of things of great importance the importance is emphasized by song. Having spoken of important matters in relation to te manua ngahere a song is called for.
Te Manua Ngahere is 16.8m circumpherence. Not as tall at Tane Mahuta. Much shorter in fact but he is a mighty elder statesman of the forest. As the darkness of night intensifies the craggy features of his trunk seem like an old face. He looks like an ent. Peter Jackson has seen Te Manua Ngahere!
We spend some time in respectful silence contemplating. Torches are distributed and we make our way single file along the board walk to the vehicles. The signs say this walk is about 50 mins return. With all our stops and things of course our walk takes at least double that.
There is a bright crescent moon as we head back to the vehicle. Our next stop is Tane Mahuta. It’s a short drive and a short walk. Only 10 mins return from the road. It is very dark by now. People are flashing their torches around willy nilly and there’s nowhere to look to avoid someone’s torch shinging in your eyes. Aggah. I wander a short way into the darkness of the path to wait, but this makes Tarf a bit nervous. Finally we head in a short way before again our indulgence is requested and the song is commenced for the approach to this forest god. The distinction between the physical representation of Tane Mahuta and the spirit god Tane Mahuta has been explained before we set out.
When we arrive spotlights are used to illuminate this comparatively young, magnificent giant. 2000 years of life. He looks half the age of Te Manua Ngahere too.. He is much taller, but not as broad. 13m circumpherence but where Te manua Ngahere is only 10 m to the first branch and 30m in entirety. Tane Mahuta is 17 m to the first branch and 50 metres tall. He is magnificent.
For the benefit of those who have not heard the story of creation, of Sky father and earth mother and Tane Mahuta’s prizing apart of his parents by resting his shoulders on the earth and pushing sky father upward with his mighty legs, this story is imparted. Tane Mahuta and kauri generally are considered by maori to be the pillars holding up the sky. A possum crashes and screams in the forest behind us. We sit in respectful silence as a prayer is sung.
Finally we move off. It’s after 10pm before we start the trip back to deliver everyone to their accommodation. 11 before we are heading inside to hit the sack. It's been a great way to explore Waipoua Forest. Highly Recommended.