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Journeys : Dec10 Jan11
16 December 2010 / January 2011 Destinations All points north New Zealand’s spectacular Bay of Islands and Northland Chris Viney As our speedboat skips across low Pacific Ocean swells towards the steep-sided island cut through by a deep sea cave, it’s impossible not to think about the many other craft that have made landfall here in the Bay of Islands, near the far northern tip of New Zealand. From a rocky landing opposite the island – Piercy or Motukokako to its Maori guardians – we make the short climb to the lighthouse on Cape Brett. My companion, local Maori guide Richard ‘Blandy’ Witehira, tells me the legend of Ma’ui, the great fisherman who paddled the first ancestral canoe to these waters. Ma’ui hauled up a giant fish and unhooked it – the gaping cavern in Piercy Island marks the hole the hook left behind. His canoe became the South Island – his fish, the North. As we begin the Cape Brett walk back along the seven hills of Rakaumangamanga, Blandy explains that the Bay of Islands was a landing-place for the first Maori canoes that sailed from Polynesia, just over a thousand years ago. The seven wakas carried seven Maori tr ibes, which spread out to explore and colonise the land they called Aotearoa. Throughout the Bay of Islands are ancient fortified pa sites – strongholds where the clans could retreat to safety in times of strife. These were common, as the warlike Maori people fought for ter ritor y. Much later, the Europeans came. After his voyage charting the Tasmanian coastline, e xplorer Marion du Fresne dropped anchor in the Bay of Islands. Blandy tells me that the French sailors foolishly ignored Maor i warnings to avoid fishing near sacred places and were eaten for their trouble. (“They were the first French fr ies in New Zealand, bro,” he says.) This bay was the cradle of English settlement in New Zealand. James Cook explored it, whaling ships used it as a base, and the famous Treaty of Waitangi, which formalised the shar ing of the new nation between Maori and pakeha people, was signed on the shores of the bay in 1840. Charles Darwin visited the Bay of Islands on his way home from the Galapagos in the 1830s. In the Beagle, he anchored off the wild whaling port of Kororareka, which had already been branded as ‘the hell-hole of the South Pacific’ because of the dissolute behaviour of its drunken sailors, whalers, sealers and escaped convicts. Renamed Russell, the village has lost its brothels but Piercy Island Russell, in the Bay of Islands TonyHickey
Oct Nov 2010
Feb March 2011