Wednesday 17 February 16, 2010 to Russell the slow way, Culture North Show at Waitangi
Sun rises late here. 6:45 am and we are awake so I spend a little time admiring the sunrise over the ocean from the chairs on the balcony. Then hubby has a great idea. How about we walk down to the beach. He’s been reading the information book and knows where the path is.
We head off to the western side of pacific rendezvous. There is a fabulous wood bbq with table and seats overlooking Tutukaka harbour.
We skirt the bbq area and head down to a paved pathway that takes you steeply down the hill. There are a couple of seats along the way for a rest if you need it. It’s steep but not that long a walk and we emerge onto the beautiful secluded beach we were admiring from the boat on our way past yesterday.
We wander along the sand down to a pohutukawa growing out of the rocks. A green strappy plant has taken up residence in the crook of a branch. Hubby sits on the rocks under the canopy of the tree.
The sand of the beach is virtually free of footprints where the tide has wiped the slate clean. The gentle lapping of the waves has created tasteful ridges across the beach. There are plentiful shells, and small black volcanic stones, even a large branch of driftwood. I snap some décor close ups. I paddle in the water and wish I’d worn my togs. The water is a lovely temperature with not much difference between water and air temperatures. Perfect for a swim.
Wandering down to the far end of the beach near the rocky promontory another pohutukawa has shed leaves around on the rocks and sand. There is a beautiful array of coloured leaves. I marvel again at how beautifully Peter Raos has captured these leaves in glass. I spend a while collecting and photographing the leaves. I’m thinking they might look pretty good displayed next to my leaf art glass.
Meanwhile hubby does a few laps up and down the beach and finally we are climbing back up the hill. It’s a wrench but we need to pack up thismorning and head north. It really would have been nice to spend some time swimming and relaxing on this little beach.. an impulse that is most out of character for me I have to say! Before we head inside I can’t resist a snap of the monochromatic light show over the ocean.
It is a winding road to Matapouri following the ridge tops with occasional dips into the intervening valleys fronted by bays and beaches. At Woolley’s Bay we find a beautiful sandy surf beach. A flock of small birds is foraging by the road. As we pass I see they are actually California Quail! Not a native bird, but a new bird for me nonetheless.
It’s only a short skip through to the Sandy Bay were the surf is more impressive and this is reflected in there being many more cars and surfers. It’s a pleasant drive through farmland to Hikurangi , a small and modest town where apparently it is garbage day. We are surprised to find that the garbage is placed on the side of the road in official rubbish bags. Don’t local dogs and vermin rip the bags up? I guess it can’t be a problem or surely a system of hard rubbish bins would have been adopted. .. I guess they must supply special bags that break down in land fill… but who knows. Funny, but it is often these little aspects of difference that provide so much interest to travelling!
We are back on SH1 for a while before we make the turn to take the slow road to Russell. The road is very slow and winding and passes through farmland and forestry plantations. It’s all a pretty familiar type scenery and fairly similar to some regions of rural Australia. We are seeing some of what turns out to be extensive forestry plantations.
After a time we pass a tiny glimpse of ocean and arrive at signs for the Helena Bay Hill Gallery and Café. We could use a break and this has been recommended. The Gallery is full of beautiful objects in all sorts of media. Lava Glass, pounamou, ceramics, paintings, sculture, furniture, jewellery. A bit of everything and everything good quality. I particularly admire the mobelus ribbons carved in jade, they are awesome, but no one offers to pay the $950 to give me one. LOL.
When we are done in the Gallery we move across to the café and settle in at the tables which have a beautiful view across the hills to the ocean. Don’t ask me how I managed to get a fly in the photograph of the view! Hubby indulges in a big breakfast. I sample the lemon and coconut slice. Both are delicious. The slice especially so. We are moved to share a slice of German Apple Pie with Caramelised almonds. Superb. Ah, it is so rare to find really first class German cakes and pies. We buy another couple of slices for ron (ie later on) and pop them in the “esky”.
Moving right along we are into country even heavier with forestry plantations. We pass a stand of eucalypts and the scent of them is strong in the air (ah.. lovely). The countryside continues to be rather like home and with the eucalypts around you’d have to pinch yourself to realize you’re actually somewhere else. The road is very winding and hubby is starting to look a bit strained.
Somewhere in the mix in this early time after Helena Bay we made a little detour to see a couple of beaches. One was Teal Bay which I believe is what is in the photograph above.
Another very nice beach was just next door. Flanked by a community of modest dwellings. This name of this spot escapes me. However the sign I’ve photographed says Mimiha Recreation Reserve. Pretty spots.. not too developed.
Later in our trip our guide on the Spellbound tour said that travelling around Australia you learn two things 1. You can get sick of the sight of gum trees (LOL well, I don’t know about that! If I’m in Australia I can’t get enough of them.. there’s hundreds of different sorts of gum trees to discover LOL ) and 2. You can get sick of the sight of beautiful sandy beaches..that one I generally agree with.. so I hope people understand when I say I’m fairly hard to please and quickly sated when it comes to beaches really. My father was beach obsessed.. salt water in his veins…so as a kid we NEVER did ANYTHING else… so yeah.. maybe I struggle to do beaches justice really… I do a bit better with wilderness beaches that are free of feral weeds and human development…
We eventually reach some sections where there are very brief glimpses of beaches and water. There’s a lot less opportunity for coastal views than we expected. The first, which a sign proclaims is Taupiri Bay, is oh so very like the coast near Port Macquarie NSW. There’s nowhere obvious to pull over, and before we’ve had time to really think about it we’re coming onto Elliott Bay where an enterprising landholder has set up a rough car park opposite a walk to the beachfront. Pay $2 to park and you can see the beach. It’s not much, but yeah, we’re just not into it. We’re not accustomed to having to work that hard to see coastal scenery.. and it’s not something we are short of at home! We are really keen to reach Russell.
As we get to Pakehiri Bay we start passing mangroves and I again I am struck by the similarity to a drive at home out to St Albans in the north west of Sydney. Mangroves are an important part of the ecosystem no question, but I don’t find them particularly good as scenery. The water everywhere is a very pretty blue, in many places the health offshore is reflected in the shoreline detritus of seaweed, the aroma of which hits in wafts from time to time.
All along the way the access to the waterfront seems restricted and we don’t see anywhere that looks particularly safe to park. At Te Uenga Bay there is an obvious boat ramp, with very limited space for cars and trailers. At Waipiro Bay a sign that says access to beachfront is walkers only…. We look around and once again see nowhere to park..
At long last, as we are within a short distance of Russell, hubby lets me know why he’s been looking strained. All the winding of the road is making him sick. Who would have thought he’d get through a day on the water just fine, but the road is turning him green! If he’d said so earlier we might have made more effort to get out of the car, but I think he just wants to get to our final destination asap.
In Russell we head straight up to Flagstaff Hill. The views are beautiful all around the bay and out to sea. The bay is a brilliant sparkling sapphire blue. It’s a popular spot and although there’s not many people when we first arrive but then a small tour bus turns up with 6 or 8 tourists keen to take in the sights.
We head first up a path heading south and admire the survey marker and it’s mural. Some signs of vandalism here, but nothing too drastic.
We move across to the flagstaff and spend some time reading the plaque and admiring the views from a bench seat that has been conveniently positioned.
It’s about 1:30 and pretty hot in the sun. There’s not much in the way of shade up on Flagstaff hill. We have a nice icey drink of water from the esky and head down to the township to find some lunch.
We find a parking spot right near a beautiful gallery which is full of stunning art glass from all over the world. It is mostly very expensive but very lovely. There are some truly first rate glass paper weights with marine scenes in them. All lovely but the most expensive ($570) incudes a beautifully executed sting ray floating in the clear glass. Many of the pieces are many thousands of dollars, but there are also some great smaller hermit crabs (approx $200??) and a fabulous glass octopus (approx $600). Well worth the time for a look.
We explore along Marsden Street and along the beautiful waterfront walk admiring the heritage buildings and checking out the eating places. Russell is a very lovely place indeed. We can’t summon any enthusiasm for a major dining event today and hubby is not keen having eaten breakfast late and now not feeling fabulous . Back along Marsden St we come across The Bakery. I sneak a peek inside and notice they have mini pies. These seem to be known as "savouries" in New Zealand. They look good. I decide to sample a couple of mince pies ($1.50 each ?) and hubby gets a ginger beer. We have a quick chat with the friendly lady serving and head outside to try the wares. Excellent. A truly excellent little pie. The pastry is perfect. I could go another one of those. Hubby wants a neenish tart too….
This time we walk out with a couple of the smoked fish version of the little pies… like chowder in a pie. Very nice. A second little mince pie goes down a treat too. I think hubby thought the neenish tart a bit weird. I’m not a fan of neenish tarts so didn’t try it, but the custard square (we call them custard slice in Aussie) was nice.
Next stop the Russell Museum. Entry price $7.50. It’s only a small museum with some Moa Bones and various Maori artifacts. A very large model of the Endeavour, a river canoe found in a swamp and used locally. There is currently an exhibition on the flagpole which consists of fragments of various of the poles cut down. Some are just chunks of wood, some are walking sticks made from remnants with good provenance.
We spend 10 min watching the video on Russell and find this quite interesting..but it’s hot in the Museum and we’re uncomfortable. We step back outside into a cool breeze. Ah, what a relief. My favourite part of the museum was actually the whale boat, which you can see for free outside at the rear of the museum.
I had planned to visit Pompelier but we’re both feeling hot and tired so we head for the vehicular ferry. We are puzzled by some luxury apartments that are immediately next to the ferry point at Opua. What a strange place for a luxury apartment. Wonderful views of the ferry from that big deck I should think. Vehicular ferries are always a bit of fun and pretty soon we’ve navigated the short and winding road into Paihia and have checked into Sea Spray Suites. Having not checked our email for a couple of days we arrange access and log on and chill until our pick up for the Culture North sound and light show.
Some anxious minutes when the bus is nearly 15 mins late, are we waiting in the right place?….but it all works out and in no time at all we are across the river and alighting at the Waitangi Treaty Ground. We spend some time learning protocol for the evening, assigning chiefs and so on, then it’s around the corner of the building and we come into sight of the magnificent carved Maori building. What a venue!!
The challenge proceeds and our chiefs do their bit, taking care not to look away or down or step back when facing the warriors and picking up the token greenery. The young performers are excellent and every one of them is making a great display. Shoes off and elders first, we take our seats inside for the show to commence. The show uses the device of a grandfather talking to his granddaughter to flick back and forth from the past to present to tell the story of Waitangi, of Kupe and the first Maori and their skills and games and songs and the interaction of the Maori people and the British Crown, whalers and missionaries. It’s all well done.
As the lights cool enough to be removed (all seating and lighting etc has to be set up and removed every night) we have opportunity to get photographs with the cast or talk to them. I’m entranced by the carvings around the interiors they are fantastic. How sad that a misinterpretation of the meaning and purpose of the panels was misunderstood by the missionaries and most of these treasures destroyed as idolatry as Maori became Christians.
Back on the bus there’s some questions and some more discussion of Maori life, the journey of chiefs to England and the first written Maori undertaken by the Cambridge University. Our host, Kena, is friendly and funny. By about 10:30 we are dropped back at Sea Spray feeling pretty buzzy and in need of a slow wind down before sleep.
A great end to a long day!