Friday, June 5, 2015

Return to the Northlands

We recently made another trip back up to the Northlands of New Zealand.  It was a lot of road time, but we accomplished all we set out to and enjoyed some special beauty on the way, so we felt good about the trip. 

We drove up to Kaitaia on Friday.  It's a long twisty road to get up there.  (190 miles / 306 kilometers)   As the crow flies it would not be that far, but with all the twists and turns and switchbacks through the bush around mountains, it takes almost four hours to drive it.

Looking at the map from afar it seems pretty simple.

But when I zoom in a bit I get a more realistic view of what the actual drive is like:

Let's just say it's a good thing neither one of us is prone to motion sickness.

On the way up we missed one turn we should have taken at about Kawakawa, so we ended up going the long way around, through Paihia.  We were familiar with the Bay of Islands area from our previous trip up there in April.  This time we were on a bit of a tight schedule and it was pretty rainy, so we didn't do any exploring - but it was still a pretty drive.

We are still struggling to learn how to say many of the place names we come across.  From road names to towns, they leave our tongues tied up in knots since nearly everywhere we go in the Northlands has Maori names. According to census figures, a little over half the population of Kaitaia are Maori, and that is very much evident when we are there. "
Archaelogical evidence shows the Far North was first settled by Polynesian ancestors of the Maori, about 900 years ago. Kaitaia has a long history of Maori occupation and the region still retains a strong Māori flavour today with many interesting structures and sites". (Kaitaia Portal)

The New Zealand Tourism Guide says:

"Today Maori people live throughout New Zealand, and many are actively involved with keeping their culture and language alive. Within any Maori community, the marae provides a focus for social, cultural and spiritual life. The term marae describes a communal 'plaza' area that includes a wharenui (meeting house) and wharekai (dining room).
Maori people define themselves by their iwi (tribe), hapu (sub-tribe), maunga (mountain) and awa (river). Whanau is the name given to family - the term embraces immediate family, in-laws and all those connected by blood ties.
In recent years, the introduction of Maori language nests (kohanga reo) has revived the Maori language. At kohanga reo, preschool children are encouraged to speak in Maori. Primary and secondary schools build on this early immersion by including Maori in the curriculum.
Traditional carvers also help to keep Maori culture alive by creating intricate works that pay respect to the past. Every piece carved tells a story, which can be read by those who know how. The shape of the heads, position of the body as well as the surface patterns work together to record and remember events."
We stayed at the Kauri Lodge Motel, which is very basic, no-frills sort of place.  But it is clean, the bed is comfortable, and like nearly all motels here they have a refrigerator/microwave/sink and cupboard full of dishes and utensils, so we were able to bring food to prepare rather than eat out.  

On Saturday morning we met with Sally Bills, the acting director of the Family History Center in Kaitaia.  (She is officially called as an assistant, but the actual director moved away some time ago.  They've never changed her title but that does not seem to be a big concern for Sally).  She is a delightful lady who we enjoyed very much.  We taught her how to use the snipping tool to create pedigree charts for leaders working on the 15-15 and showed her how to access the online version of the MyFamily book.  We discussed how the My Family 15 in 15 program has been going so far in her stake and gave some suggestions for how she encourage others to participate.  

Sally Bills - Kaikohe FHC 
As we were leaving Kaitaia we  stopped at a local farmer's market and enjoyed walking around looking at all the things that were offered there.

We bought a bag of fresh mandarin oranges and some bbq chicken on a stick and then got back on the road.  We initially planned to meet that afternoon with the FHC director in Kaikohe, but she had a family funeral to go to, so we rescheduled for Monday.

We hit the road again and headed back to Whangarei, a trip of about 110 miles.There we went back to the same farm-stay place where we were in April, "The Honey House" that we liked so much.  Again, the accommodations are very basic, but the setting is  quite lovely there.

On Sunday we attended the Hatea ward.   Both of us gave talks in Sacrament meeting and then we gave a presentation about the My Family 15 in 15 program to a combined Relief Society-Priesthood meeting.  It was very well received and we felt like it went well.   We enjoyed talking with the members and felt a lot of support.  The Whangarei Stake Presidency is very much engaged in this family history effort and is encouraging their members to get on board.  They arranged to have special meetings focusing on the My Family 15-15 goal in every ward.

Sunday evening we got together with friends we met last time we were in Whangarei.  Bruce and Doreen Savill are life long Kiwis and Rosemary Waters is an emigrant from Ireland.  They are not LDS, but the all have deep testimonies of Jesus Christ and they are the kindest people you could ever hope to meet.  Doreen prepared a lovely meal and we had a wonderful time visiting with them.  After dinner we all gathered around the piano to sing which was lots of fun.  We love these good people!

Then on Monday (1 June) we shifted over to a different place to stay so we could have Internet - The Birchgrove Cottage was a great spot for us, with a full kitchen and some nicer amenities like central heating, which we appreciated now that the weather has grown cooler. While it isn't quite as charming as the Greenfields (what we call "the Honey House") with it's farm setting and lovely artwork, in many ways it was more comfortable so for future visits we are more likely to stay there.

That day we headed back to Kaikohe for our rescheduled meeting with Cheryle Sadler, the FHC director. On the way up we did a brief stop at Lake Waro to stretch our legs and scope out the area.  We looked for a geocache that was supposed to be hidden there, but never did find it.  Perhaps with a bit more searching we would have figured it out, but we had a schedule to keep so once more we hit the road!  If we get up there sometime when we are not pressed for time we would like to go back for some more extended exploring.  It looked like a great spot for hiking or a picnic.

The Department of Conservation website had this to say about the place:
"The track through this 7.5-hectare reserve takes you through open grass land around spectacular limestone formations. The track follows the route of a historic horse tramline, built in about 1900.
The reserve is one of the most outstanding examples of a limestone landscape in Northland. Interpretation signs explain the geology of the karst landscape and aspects of the human history.
You can walk around the lake by continuing on a Council track to the Council car park making the entire walk about 2.2 km.
Since this special geological feature is so close to the highway, it is well worth a visit."

Once we got to the FHC in Kaikohe we had a good meeting with Cheryle.  We talked about ways that she could support the 15-15 goal in her area.  In addition to being family history center director, she is also ward primary president.  Because of that, she meets with her ward council.  She said she would be sure the council members there are all encouraged to meet the goal.

Cheryle Sadler

Monday night rather than hitting another restaurant since we had such a nice kitchen at the Birchgrove we just went to a local grocery store and got a few things to make supper there.  We relaxed putting together a jigsaw puzzle that was there in a closet with some games and got a good night's rest before having to head back to Auckland on Tuesday.

 On the way was stopped to make sandwiches on the road at Mangawhei Heads overlooking the beach. That's another lovely area we would like to explore further sometime when we have a bit more time.


All in all our trip to the Northlands was very successful.  We saw some lovely country and had productive meetings.  We accomplished all we set out to do.  We have come to develop a special love for this area.  As much as we enjoy seeing new places, it is kind of nice to keep going back to the same region where we can get familiar with the area and build relationship up over a period of time.   


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