We sailed into the Bay of Islands near the northern end of New Zealand before sunrise on Monday, February 1. Captain Cook, the first European to visit New Zealand in 1769, named it the Bay of Islands after climbing a nearby mountain and counting more than 100 of them. Today the number given is 144. The American writer Zane Grey came here to fish in 1927 & made the area famous in his book “The Angler’s El Dorado.” Although we got up early to see the sail-in, the lack of sunlight made it difficult to see much.
Of course, the Maori (“Mow-ree” with the first syllable rhyming with “cow”) had been here for hundreds of years before Cook’s first visit. They called this area Aotearoa. Today New Zealand is an officially bilingual nation; signs are usually written in both languages. After sunrise Amsterdam began running tenders to shore.
At breakfast we enjoyed “Waitangi Rolls,” just like the Panama Rolls distributed when we were in the canal, but with a delicious Kiwi filling. Then we tendered to shore and walked to the Waitangi treaty house. This is a national preserve that contains a small museum, the Treaty House, a Maori meeting house & some Maori Wakas, or war canoes. Here is some of what we saw on the way.
The Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840, is considered the founding document of New Zealand. The treaty was signed by a representative of Queen Victoria & a large number of Maori chiefs. It is a continuing source of controversy because there were two versions of the treaty, one in English and one in Maori, and they are not entirely consistent. It seems the Maori thought they were only accepting British protection and would continue to govern the islands independently, while the British viewed it as giving them sovereignty over the entire country. The British quickly moved to institute their rule, leading to a war with Maori some years later before the matter was settled. The anniversary of the signing on February 6 (just 5 days after our visit) is a national holiday with commemorations at the site of the treaty. They were expecting some 60,000 visitors this year, and there are always Maori protestors.
The house where the treaty was signed was built in 1833 for James Busby, the first British agent in New Zealand. It is a fairly small white wood building with extensive gardens full of beautiful flowers. The Brits seem to take their gardens with them wherever they go. In front of the house is a large lawn leading to the shore, with a very tall flagpole & three flags: New Zealand, Great Britain, & Maori.
We walked over to the whare runanga, a traditional Maori meeting house built by the Maori in the late 1930’s in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the treaty in 1940. It is richly carved with Maori faces and designs. You will notice in the carvings the Maori intimidation face, with tongue out. You have to take your shoes off to enter these meeting houses.
We walked down to see the 3 Wakas (war canoes) in a shelter house. built in the late 1930’s, the biggest one is about 35 yards long, reportedly the largest in the world. It is launched every Waitangi Day, with 80 warriors to paddle it. Our bus driver later in the day told us that Maoris would call the Amsterdam “Waka Nui Nui,” a big big boat.
These war canoes are made from giant Kauri trees, which live 800 years or more. Below you can see Mary standing next to the stump of one of the trees cut in 1937 as part of the construction of the large waka. It’s really big.
Having seen the sights here we walked back to the pier to catch the shuttle bus into the nearest town, Paihia. The treaty house grounds were quite beautiful.
Paihia was founded in 1823 by missionaries. Today it looks pretty much like a conventional beach community & is a center for the water sports & hiking that bring vacationers to this area. There are only a couple of downtown streets, so we walked up one. Soon we came to the Paihia Library. It is in a very old house that belonged to the family of the missionary, Rev. Williams. The library was closed the day we were there but there was a crowd of people using the free wifi. It also has extensive grounds with colorful flora.
Our last activity for the day was a walk to a viewing point above the town of Paihia. It was only about a mile but it seemed (not really) to be all uphill. The walk led us through woods with a lot of trees with multicolored bark that looked painted. We think this was probably done by lichens. And there were more nice flowers too.
Fortunately, at the top of the hill was an excellent view (it would have been irritating if there hadn’t been one after all that climbing). The ship visible in the harbor is not ours but the Azamara Journey, which had arrived after us and anchored nearby. You may think there are too many pictures in this section, but we worked hard to get up the hill for this view so they are going in! We returned down the path (much faster) & returned to the ship. On the way we had our second taste of New Zealand cuisine: Hokey Pokey ice cream. Actually, ours was gelato & it was called “Wicked Hokey Pokey” & it was very good!