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           Home >  Regions  > Northland  :

Highlights north of Auckland - Part 2 - Paihia to Cape Reinga
- an interview with Roger Murdoch

Dorothy -- 17/09/2007

The group travels further north

Thursday, 6 April
Time to leave Paihia
We began with a half hour drive to Waimate North where we visited the Te Waimate Mission House. Rod Burke's guided tour of Te Waimate Mission House was a high point on the tour.

The Te Waimate Mission House

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Te Waimate mission station
The Mission House is the second oldest building in New Zealand and is built in the Georgian style of architecture. It was originally part of a mission station with many buildings. It was built in 1832 for the family of George Clarke. It is furnished with period furniture and items related to the mission and missionary families.

Missionary familiesí» furniture and spinning wheel
Missionary families'furniture and spinning wheel

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I actually touched Henry Williams' wife Marianne's spinning chair at the Mission House. (Incidentally, her Letters from the Bay of Islands, edited by Caroline Fitzgerald, published by Penguin in 2004 makes marvellous pre-reading.)

This is where the earliest inland farm was developed in New Zealand. It had a two-fold purpose - to teach local Maori farming techniques and to produce food for other missions. It flourished for a time. By 1832 there were three houses, probably designed by George Clarke, a church and schools for Maori, a water mill, and blacksmith's shop.

When Charles Darwin visited in 1835 he was impressed by seeing "an English farmhouse and its well dressed fields" after travelling through many miles of uninhabited country.

Maori labourers began to develop their own plots and expected to be paid more. The land was not really suitable for the crops grown and after a few years the farm failed. However the mission station was important for a few years for other purposes.

In 1840 Governor Hobson and Maori chiefs gathered on the lawn to sign the Treaty of Waitangi.

In 1842 George Clarke left to take up a government position.

From 1842 to 1844 Bishop Selwyn lived there and the farm focus was changed to a theological training centre.

The church of St John the Baptist near the house was built in 1871. The mission house became the vicarage for the church.

The church of St John the Baptist at Te Waimate

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On to Kerikeri
An hour later we departed for Kerikeri where we visited the Kerikeri Basin to view Mission (Kemp) House, NZ's oldest building, and the Stone Store.

Here we saw two of New Zealand's oldest buildings beside the Kerikeri Inlet. They are the only surviving buildings of a mission station. The building of Kemp House was started in 1821 as a home for the Butler family. The Kemp family lived there from 1832 to 1974 when it was taken over by the Historic Places Trust.

The Stone Store was built in 1832 as a store for mission supplies and wheat from the Te Waimate mission farm.

Kemp House and the Stone Store

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To complete the day we travelled north around the Matauri Bay-Mahinepua-Whangaroa scenic loop road, and through to Taipa in Doubtless Bay, arriving about 4.30pm.

Why did you choose to stay at Taipa?
The return trip to Cape Reinga from Paihia takes eleven hours. From Taipa it's only a comfortable distance - 265 km return.

Friday, 7 April
Of the numerous highlights, our morning at Lindo and Laetitia Ferguson's Butler Point garden, historic cottage and whaling museum has to be tops. The graciousness and warmth of their welcome and the significance of their property overwhelmed our group (despite a rather borderline entry road!).

The Whale Boat

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The old whaling port of Mangonui, adjacent, with its crafts, eateries and lovely old buildings, is also a delightful spot to spend an hour or two.

We had an unexpected and enjoyable experience in the evening. We went a short distance inland to Oruru to a showing of a film at Swamp Palace. This reminded us of the movie theatres of our youth. To relive that experience some of us bought Jaffas - but did not roll them down the floor!

Saturday, 8 April
This was the day for the drive up to Cape Reinga.

Ancient Kauri Kingdom, Awanui
En route we visited this remarkable enterprise. Established in 1992, Ancient Kauri Kingdom is a multi-award winning business that has pioneered the commercial extraction, milling and manufacture of Ancient Kauri wood. We were awed by the 30,000 -40,000 year old kauri logs recovered from the bog.

Ancient Kauri Kingdom

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Cape Reinga/Te Rerenga Wairua
The Cape itself is an impressive place where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. It has special significance to Maoridom as in Maori tradition the Cape is the final departing place for the spirits of the dead on their journey to the underworld. Te Reinga means "the leaping place of spirits (souls)".

Everyone valued being there and felt the spiritual significance of the place.

While we were at the Cape there were prevailing westerly conditions, so quite rough weather was coming in from the west. It was quite dramatic and you could see clearly the two sides - the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean - and the rough turbulence between them.

The merging of the oceans
The merging of the oceans

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Looking down at Cape Reinga
Looking down at Cape Reinga

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Here, from high up, we watched a lone kayaker make his way around the rocky outcrop into a heavy westerly swell. We met up with him, as he returned to the little bay where we later had lunch. (Because the Cape is a place with spiritual significance visitors need to remember that it is insensitive to eat in the area.) He was a kayaking instructor from California in this country for a conference. The journey we had witnessed was not for the faint-hearted. His advice, "Don't try it unless you know what you are doing".

Kayak which traversed the Cape
Kayak which traversed the Cape

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The lighthouse was built in 1941 961 ft above sea level. - the last manned lighthouse to be built in New Zealand. It was automated in 1987 and the keeper was withdrawn. The flashing light is visible for 31 miles and guides shipping from Australia as it passes between the Three Kings and Cape Reinga. On the lighthouse reserve there is a radio beacon for shipping and the Cape has been an important weather-reporting station. Every year many thousands of photos are taken of the lighthouse and the signpost giving the direction to many places including London, Sydney, Tokyo, the Equator, Bluff, the South Pole, Vancouver, Los Angeles and the Tropic of Capricorn.

Cape Reinga Lighthouse and the much photographed signpost
Cape Reinga Lighthouse and the much photographed signpost

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This was the most northerly point on our journey and time to head south. We returned to our accommodation at Taipa.

Photos for this article were supplied by three members of the tour party - Ted Pryor, Roy Service and Frank Thomas.

Part 3 of this interview will cover the rest of the Northland trip.

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