We all know and understand that Britain (with or without Scotland included) is the centre of the known universe; so we probably shouldn’t find it surprising that key events in British history are taught in New Zealand schools – you know, Kings and Queens, how we beat the French (several times), how we built and lost an empire, that sort of thing. So how much do we Brits know about New Zealand’s relatively short history? Not much if my meagre store of knowledge is anything to go by.
Anyway, all that was put right today by our visit to the very beautiful Waitangi Treaty Grounds where we were given an excellent summary of ‘everything you need to know about Kiwi history but were afraid to ask’, followed by a very enjoyable ‘cultural experience’ which included, among other things, half a dozen scary looking Maori boys and girls sticking their tongues out at us and threatening us with clubs and spears.
Not your usual welcome, admittedly, but really well done and very effective. In point of fact it would probably have been even more effective if it hadn’t coincided with a powerboat race taking place on the Bay of Islands and passing within 400m of where we were stood. Sadly, when it comes to volume even a Maori Haka can’t compete with forty or fifty 350HP Mercury outboards at full chat and a slack handful of low flying helicopters screaming overhead!
Our drive up the coast from the Bay of Islands took us to the beautiful Matauri Bay where we swam and explored yet another practically deserted, fabulous beach. Overlooking the bay is the monument to the Rainbow Warrior which, those who remember the 80s will recall, was sunk by the sneaky French Secret Service in Auckland Harbour – need I say more?
Hot Water Beach on the eastern coast of the Coromandel Peninsula is apparently rated as Number 4 among the world’s top 10 ‘bathing experiences’ – I shudder to think what the other nine may be, or for that matter even to imagine how the judging was done and on whose evidence. I do, however, remember a club in Hamburg many years ago where members of the audience could sit in a tub and have their backs scrubbed on stage if they were brave enough (no, I wasn’t – but I could name names if pressed) – that must surely rate as one of the ten?
Anyway, Hot Water Beach is a totally different experience; all you have to do there is stand on the beach at low tide and the volcanic gases bubble up through the sand at 60oC, which is hot enough to broil your toes if you stand still long enough. Those who know the score come along with shovels and dig their own Jacuzzis whilst the waves do their best to spoil the fun. Another unique Kiwi experience not to be missed.
New Zealanders really love their tractors. I’m not entirely sure, and haven’t done a count, but reckon that every adult male Kiwi must own at least one tractor. Big tracked ones, small grey antique ones – it doesn’t really matter what your particular penchant may be, there’s a tractor to suit each and every one in New Zealand. On our travels we’ve seen them just about everywhere: in fields (obviously), on the roofs of buildings, even as ornaments in gardens – a sort of gnome substitute. In a couple of the towns we’ve visited it seemed as though the only thing you could buy was tractors and things to fit on your tractor – you know, furry dice, seat covers, go faster tractor stripes, that sort of thing. When we get home, perhaps I should get a tractor?
A flat tyre in Whangerei almost marred today’s drive from the Coromandel up through Auckland to the Bay of Islands – fortunately the spare was serviceable, the jack worked, I avoided having a heart attack and the guys in the local tyre repair shop were really helpful . Ninety minutes and a little perspiration later and we were back on the road.
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and an occasional account of goings-on in the Ewbank household