Paihia & Bay of Islands

Posted on February 17, 2008
Filed Under Commentary, Travel | 1 Comment

Yacht through trees from RussellLone campers on island beach in Bay of IslandsMaori performers at Waitanga treaty ground

Pics from left: Yacht through trees from Russell, the former notorious whaling station; Lone campers on an island beach in Bay of Islands; Maori performers at the Waitanga Treaty grounds in Paihia.

Paihia on the Bay of Islands, four hours north of Auckland is an excellent place to settle in for a few days on any trip to New Zealand. It is a Miramichier’s dream of a place. As the name indicates, the bay is full of islands. Each one has its secluded, little-used islands. On a boat tour we saw cove after cove and beach after beach occupied by one boat and one camp site.
The bay is full of dolphins who seem to delight in rushing to frolic about any passing vessel.
Following the European discovery of New Zealand by Abel Tasman and then Capt. Cook, settlers began to move in.
When whalers from Europe and the US set up in Russell on an island just offshore from Paihia, local society really started to go to the devil.
A group of Maori chiefs asked bishops of the Anglican church to ask for protection from England. Queen Victoria sent one administrator to represent British power to protect settlers and the Maori.
That was the precursor to the treaty that established the relationship between Europeans and the Maori to this day.
On a stunningly beautiful piece of their land, the Maori present a program of their history and culture including rituals, music, dance and re-enactments.
Maori, Miramichi connection
New Brunswickers may be interested to learn that the bud, called the koru, of the silver fern and the leaf of the fern are the two main symbols of New Zealand. The Maori ate the koru although it is not a regular, annual, food item for New Zealanders as the fiddlehead is to us.
New Zealand was created by volcanoes. Because of that, there was almost no transfer of flora and fauna from other continents until the arrival of man. There is one bird that flies back and forth between New Zealand and Alaska, covering the 7,000 miles in one, non-stop flight.
The original south sea island human settlers arrived less than 1,000 years ago and became the Maori. Those humans trace their lineage back to the Europeans who arrived in North America and worked their way south.
One cannot help but be struck by a number of similarities between the art, culture and historic practices of the Canadian First Nations and the Maori.
Perhaps the most striking of these is the common appearance of the fern bud. The Miramichi-Maori connection is coincidental, of course. The New Zealand fern grows to a good-sized tree. Still, it makes an impression.
Maritime music & budget travel
In Pahia, we discovered a couple of things of more than local interest.
One is that New Zealand has a very sophisticated and high quality network of what we would call hostels.
These hostels, unlike our usual image, may include private rooms and baths. They are rated by the national accommodation rating service, Qualcom. Several of them rate four of five stars.
They also include dormitory style beds and all have shared kitchens and lounges with TV and usually internet access. A national backpackers association also provides ratings and a directory of the hostels.
The hostels are usually right in the middle of community attractions, sometimes right on the beach making everything convenient for people without vehicles.
One we visited was also the highest ranked bed and breakfast in the community. The only difference between hostel accommodation and bed and breakfast seemed to be the number of beds in the room the visitors choose and whether they make their own breakfast or not.
It is a thrill to learn that young people can tour New Zealand very economically if they can get here.
Next door to the fine backpackers hostel in Paihia, we were having a beer and a sandwich in a bar with a local singer with a guitar. One of the first songs All Quinn sang was “Sonny’s Dream,” and he turned out to be a Stan Rogers fan.
That, and the discovery of the backpackers facilities made that a big day for us.
The next report will deal with Helensville where the people came from Miramichi but think they came from Nova Scotia.


One Response to “Paihia & Bay of Islands”

  1. pmacneill on February 17th, 2008 7:40 pm

    Hi Guys,

    Am enjoying your photos and updates. Living vicariously through you. Amazing country. Wish I was there.
    Don’t forget The Bog in Christchurch…but it has to be Tuesday night.

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