North to Bay of Islands
Trip Start Jan 13, 2010
26Trip End Mar 10, 2010
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Driving through the hinterland of the North Island gave us an opportunity to see how the land was settled and used. New Zealand's economy is heavily agricultural and export focused. The land is rolling and hilly and was heavily wooded before being cleared to provide pasture for sheep and cattle. Lumbering is still a major industry and stands of pines could be seen on the hillier sections. Most of the central North Island is dedicated to dairy farming, large herds of Jersey and Holstein/Frisian cows gave evidence of this. The farmer here is rewarded more for butter fat than for milk, hence the presence of Jersey cows. Beef cattle and sheep were also seen.
Although not very high by US standards, the hills were steep and the roads often winding as we drove over them
The Bay of Islands is reputed to be one of the high points of a trip to New Zealand. As this is early days for us I cannot judge, but it is a beautiful setting with islands scattered through the bay like green gems in a bright blue sea (at least when the sun was shining).
Waitangi is the site where the initial treaty between the Maoris and the British was signed in 1840. We were given a tour of the house where the treaty was signed. The house occupies a splendid setting looking out over the Bay of Islands towards Russell, the original capital of New Zealand. By 1830 Russell (Kororareka) was full of whalers, escaped convicts, ne'er do wells and drunkards and known as the "Hell-hole of the Pacific". In 1833 James Busby (official British Resident) arrived along with missionaries and the place was slowly restored to the kind of behaviour one would expect from the British! Just kidding.
We then took a catamaran launch through the islands and saw a pod of playful dolphins, much to the delight of all on board. We stopped at Russell to pick up some passengers. We were entertained by two local boys who performed a Maori Haka, a combination war dance and chant made famous by the All Blacks rugby team.
Our destination was the famous 'hole in the rock'. This is a rocky outcrop just past Cape Brett, and hence out in the open waters of the Pacific, where, if sea conditions are good, the boat passes through what seems a very narrow hole - a "natural arch" geographically speaking! We survived the passage which was quite hair raising, there being a sizable swell moving the boat around.