What trip to the Bay of Islands would be complete without a visit to Waitangi? Obviously not ours because we went. Unfortunately we forgot to take our New Zealand passports along – New Zealanders can get in free but visitors from other countries must pay the entry fee which, for an adult, is $25.
There are guided tours available, which do cost more – we listened into one of the tours that walked past us at one stage and, if you are not up with the history of the area and Waitangi, I would suggest paying the extra. You also get a live Maori cultural performance.
Once inside the entry there are a number of things to have a look at.
Our first stop was the canoe house and the Wakas (Maori war canoes) –
Within the grounds is a large covered structure, the canoe house, which houses two wakas (Maori war canoes). One of the wakas, called the Ngatokimatawhaorua, is 35 metre long and is one of the largest canoes in the world. The canoe is carved from kauri trees (a native tree of New Zealand). I think it gets launched on Waitangi Day each year to commemorate the signing of the Treaty. Wow, that would be a sight to see, with all the Maori warriors dressed in their traditional gear.
Next we visited the Treaty House and Treaty Grounds –
The house is one of New Zealand’s oldest buildings. Beautifully refurbished back to its near original state it is now a museum about the Busby family with some of the original furniture from the time, the local Maori tribes, the signing of Treaty of Waitangi and the history in the Bay of Islands area. Very interesting and a must see.
It is in the Treaty grounds where the Maori chiefs and the English met from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 – "the birthplace of the New Zealand nation". You can wander around this vast area on picture perfect lawns, past a small beach where the English officer, Hobson, came ashore to sign the Treaty, past the flag pole that was notably chopped done by a Maori chief Hone Heke – he was once in favour of the signing of the Treaty but later opposed English Rule – this is when he chopped down the flag pole. There are also picturesque tracks through bush areas – great for catching a glimpse of native bird life and maybe a weta (a large brown spiky bug, sort of like a cicada, but without wings, not the prettiest thing) if you’re lucky – look at the specially located posts with hinged doors you can live – they’ve got fern spiders living behind them but we also found a of wetas.
This is a short history of the house from a leaflet I picked up – "It was built in 1834 for James Busby – in 1846 war erupted and Army officers moved into the house during the land wars with the Maori - in the 1870s the state of the house declined and the estate became a farm and sheep camped in the house – in 1932 that the Governor General, Lord Bledisloe, bought the house and grounds and gifted it back to the nation."
Followed closely be the Maori Meeting House –
Not far from the house – to the right of it if you approach the house from the flagpole – is a large Maori Meeting House, Whare Runanga.
You are allowed to wander through this beautifully decorated building but you must remove your shoes at the door - as per Maori custom. You think the curving on the outside is good well the inside is fantastic. Beautifully traditional carved panels are set apart by decorative traditionally woven panels, in the traditional colours of black, red and white, along the walls – each New Zealand Maori tribe has its own carving depicting in their own unique style/figures/area. The central curved poles extend to an equally ornate ceiling. Just to the right hand side of the doorway is an ornately curved throne presented by the South Island tribe. Wow.
This is a brief history about the meeting house - It was built in 1940 to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty and stands as a "monument to the nation, its people and ancestors". The panel carvings and woven panels within the meeting house were presented by each Maori tribe within New Zealand and the large throne was presented by the South Island tribe as their panel was not ready in time to complete the building.
And lastly we went on the Haruru Falls walk –
About 50m from the entrance to the Waitangi Grounds car park there is a sign post pointing to the Haruru Falls walkway. The Haruru Falls are located along the Haruru River and at the base of the falls the freshwater from up-stream mixes with the salt water often trapping freshwater fish. They reckon you can see the shags diving for the fish when the water is clear.
We had already decided before venturing out for the day that if we had the time we would do this walk – it is about a 4 hour round trip. It was about 2pm when we had finished roaming around the Waitangi Grounds so we thought what the heck, let’s do it.
The walk took us along a well-worn track through the native trees and ponga (tree ferns), across narrow walking bridges, down through the mangroves and mangrove swamps and through more picturesque bush to the Haruru Falls.
Now be warned – these falls are not known for their height – the drop is only about 6m or so – but they are shaped in the form of a crescent, pretty cool, and, wow, what a noise, you couldn’t hear yourself talk let alone anyone else who was with you – a blessing in some cases. It had been raining quite heavily the day before so there was more water than usual rushing over the edge. Unfortunately that also meant that the water was very dirty – in fact it was brown - from the soil/dirt washed in from the rain and we wouldn’t have been able to see anything let alone a shag diving for fish.