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Culture and Nature Combined

Wednesday 30th September 2015

sunny 18 °C

We were on the move again today, travelling west and southwards to our next port of call. There were a couple of sights near to Paihia that we hadn't yet seen and I was keen to visit them before we left the area completely. Once we had checked out of our accommodation we drove the short distance across the river to the Waitangi Treaty Ground. We knew we wouldn't be able to spend long there but we just had time to see a cultural show as well as being able to explore the grounds. The show started on a serious note with a Maori man acting as chief offering the visitor's representative (a volunteer) a symbol of peace. Once that element of the ceremony was completed we were welcomed in the traditional manner and then having removed our shoes were allowed to enter the Te Whare Rūnanga (the House of Assembly). This is a traditional carved meeting house which stands facing the Treaty House, the two buildings together symbolising the partnership agreed between Māori and the British Crown, on which today’s New Zealand is founded.

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Once the more serious elements of the ceremony were over, we were entertained with some Maori singing and dancing, with explanations as to the meaning of the songs and the instruments used. Although there was a fun element, I also found the whole show quite moving.

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Once the show had finished (it probably only lasted about half an hour) we were able to take more photographs and have our photographs taken with the dancers. Nigel and I then went and had a look at the highly contrasting Treaty House built in a very English style, with a traditional English garden. The Treaty Grounds are in a lovely position overlooking the Bay and have a lot of plants (a few familiar but most not). Once we had finished looking round we took the opportunity to have a coffee before getting on our way.

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Our next stop was at some nearby waterfalls. There was a significant amount of water flowing over them, and what was unusual was how close you could walks to the top of the falls. In fact you could walk across the rocks at the top and go as close to the edge as you dared. I went close enough to get some good photographs without running the risk of falling over the edge!

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From the Haruru Falls we detoured south to a place called Kawakawa for no other reason than to visit their public toilets. One wouldn't normally go over ten miles out of your way to make such a visit, or at least not unless you were desperate. These toilets were different as they had been designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser for his adopted home town of Kawakawa. I don't make a habit of taking photographs as I sit on the toilet but I made an exception in this case although I did refrain from photographing the men's. Apparently they have become the most photographed toilets in New Zealand and although this isn't a great accolade I can understand why.

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It was now time for the 'serious' part of our trip as we still had a lot of miles to cover before we got to our lodge for the next couple of nights. We were starting to struggle a bit with our sat-nav as it sometimes selected the shortest route by trying to take us over gravel roads. We didn't mind having to do this in an emergency as we had done the other day, but we didn't want to make a habit of it. It is hard to tell without scrutinising Google Earth what the surface is made of, and that isn't practical once a journey is underway. Today was one of those days when we had to retrace our steps in order not to have to drive miles on dirt tracks. Eventually we ended up driving further north than we intended to. The advantage of this was that the metalled road took us to a place called Omapere which had a huge estuary/ harbour and spectacular sand dunes.

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We stopped and had our lunch, a little late as it was by then about 3pm. We also went into the visitor centre where we were given some travel advice and were able to buy a compact road atlas.

We continued south on the westen coast road, stopping only to look at Tane Mahuta which is an ancient and giant Kauri tree.

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We arrived at Wai Hou Oma Lodge just before it got dark. Ruby checked us in, and we unloaded all of our bags. The accommodation was a little disappointing. The setting and the lodges were great, but it did not offer the luxury promised. Our lodge was just a little grubby; the cooker hot plates rusty, months worth of crumbs under the glass topped dining table, dirt in the wardrobe from other people's bags, thin tatty towels. All things that could so easily be remedied. She also said that she no longer offered breakfast despite the fact that I was pretty sure this was offered on our booking form. It was also slightly concerning that there was no means of locking up when we went out, which wasn't a major issue considering how remote we were but still not ideal. Still the location was lovely so we settled in and had something to eat, determined to make the best of our stay.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 00:11 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches new_zealand waitangi

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