Our backpacking group hit the road again last summer of 2013. We had just come back from our road trip adventure where we visited this marvelous line of exotic islands along the South Pacific Ocean. It was a fun filled adventure learning the interesting culture, rich heritage, history and ingenuity of the people of Chatham Island. This time I brought along my girlfriend Mary Claire who is all the more excited as this is her first backpacker trip and four of my adventurous friends. It was great to have her beside me to share the joy of visiting these mysterious remote islands of the northern part of New Zealand. As the islands were totally uninhabited we felt like we own it for ten days and just enjoy ourselves and its secluded attractions. Driving in rented vans, sailing on rented boats and a private small-seater plane is how we made the most out of this 15 day road trip experience.
We had a taste of authentic Maori tribe hospitality when we reached the idyllic town of Waitangi. At the historic Waitangi Treaty Ground a modern reception area welcomes its eager visitors. We were delighted as they gave a clear and engaging cultural performance to amuse our curiosity even more. The meticulously designed museum is like a step back in time showing the importance of New Zealand and British signed treaty of independence. Inside we saw a small exhibition and a film showing. Outside we saw a large beautifully decorated Maori boat, a small village, meeting hall, and the house where the agreement was signed. The terrain is quite impressive, nice layout and guided tour exhibitions but the entrance fee was quite expensive. Nevertheless, we were conquered by the force and solemnity of this place while recognizing that this site had written a page in the history of this beautiful country. It is a well done symbolic site where people of different backgrounds and cultures have agreed to live together on this island and share a common destiny. In the evening we watched the Culture North Night Shows at a small theater inside this museum. We saw Maori actors work with great commitment to give an informative cultural show telling the history of the area and the tribes. It shows a good mixture of story telling, music and dance in an entertaining way.
We sailed on a rented boat with a professional tour agency to explore the engaging waters across the Paihia Harbour. The well maintained port facility is lined with boat excursion companies, shopping areas, restaurant and cafes, and a great abundance of motels and small hotels. I highly recommend the harbor restaurant as it offers a great view of the sea and the harbor life as we partake on a rustic fresh seafood meal. We picked a window seat and the view of the wrap around aquarium as we dine was guaranteed! On the waters we get to enjoy the sights of dolphins and whales that surround our boat as we sail along. We also found a bird watchers paradise hovering around the shoreline and get to picture each variety of colored birds we see. This attraction is a very nice place for various sports activities like kayaking, diving, swimming and hiking along the other islands. We had fun snorkeling, swimming, and much more on the island hopping as the waters were so clean and truly inviting on that hot summer day. We ended the day with a nice round of beer and a great time to get acquainted with other tourists at a local pub where food was extremely delicious. As night falls, my girlfriend and I strolled along the safe and lighted walkways to enjoy the moonlight and a warm romantic evening enjoying the scenic views on this birthplace of New Zealand.
The Haruru Falls is a waterfall like so many other falls that can be found along this region, but what makes it absolutely worth visiting is its proximity from the main road of this town. The road to get there is very beautiful and gives a good impression of the diverse nature this falls has to offer. When we got there it was too crowded with curious tourists and locals all wanting a perfect picture beside this magnificent waterfall. It was so well attended that it is so hard to take a photo of it without strangers. We enjoyed a good picnic and taking more silly shots with the falls as our background. The enchanting falls is just an hour and a half a walk away from the calm waters of the Waitangi River. On this river we took a long hiking trail to reach the mangrove areas and witness a multitude of migratory birds that are mostly nesting and highly visible from all points of the river. We became like kids again as we enjoyed the theme park water adventures we can lay our hands to at the Action World. We kept laughing each time we fall on the airbag that safely catches us after doing the flying trapeze challenge. The water slides and the wall climbing adventure were all equally fun to do. All of us had great fun in this wonderful park.
On our second week of adventure we drive along a well paved highway to reach the beautiful town of Kerikeri. Not far from the main center of the town we took a walking trail that passes along the edge of the road decorated with gorgeous flowers until we reach a light dense forest rich in flora and fauna to see the majestic allure of the Rainbow Falls. The mystical falls is famous for the rainbow that magically forms within the waterfall. It changes its presence depending on the point size of the sun’s rays and the strength of the falling waters. I was in awe as the clear water generously cascade and create this great impression on its spectators. Admiring nature and the busy tourist scene around this falls added to its captivating charm. Situated inside a lush vegetation park is another interesting attraction called the Stone Store – Mission House. This historical site is where the English Christian settlers taught the local Maori tribes about the superiority of the western religion and culture. We especially liked the Te Waimate Mission House located near the river where we have obtained arguably an authentic impression of how life used to be on this island. The store, the house and the pond located beside this attraction makes a great postcard image of this educational and historical place.
It was a much different experience when we reached the town of Russell and visited the Pompalier House. It is a place where the tribes were trained in the printing and tanning industry. It is a good glimpse of the Maori tribes splendid historical past. The well maintained property has well preserved artifacts and even showed an actual demonstration of how books were printed and binded. We spent an informative afternoon asking our knowledgeable guide who has factual answers to our every question. As we walked further we found the Christ Church dedicated to fallen marine heroes who died during the heat of battle protecting this country. The small and old church has an amusing graveyard located within its grounds. We strolled along the site and found the headstones and monuments erected in honor of the brave sailors who fought in WWII. After checking out the well presented history we left a donation to help support its noble cause and upkeep.
Having a tour of these islands was such a good way to educate us about their colorful historical past and the hospitable warmth of each tribe we met. It was the best backpacking adventure ever! We plan on visiting again in the near future.