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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
The road to Kawhia
16/03/2008

We retraced our steps to Ta Anga and turned inland. This is also a rather splendid main road, with fantastic views across to Ruapehu and Tongariro. We turned off on to the unsealed Hauturuturu (haw-tru) road, which twists 35km through the hills. And they are fantastic hills, filled with limestone outcrops, and secret streams meandering through valleys.
Most of this road we didn't see another soul. Until we crossed the path of the Kawhia safari, a two-day four-wheel drive club event. Fortunately, they stopped off at Te Koraha a tiny hamlet on the road and we were alone again.

Places and people
North again
15/03/2008, Waiharakeke


15/3

We left New Plymouth after finally sorting out some business. While we've been away the UK government has introduced new money laundering regulations which mean our business must be registered with HMRC for supervision. Just in case we are dangerous terrorists or funding the drug trade! The deadline for these blasted forms is 1 April, when, of course, we will still be here. So we've downloaded forms and checked information and blah, blah. Finally, we sent these off registered post from New Plymouth, and they should get to Southend in time!
Looking at the map there are lots of little roads that wiggle up the coast towards Auckland. Rather than hammer up the motorway for the four hour trip, we decided to go the long way. The first bit of the side roads runs through gorgeous farming country, and could be called the pukeko route; these stupid birds are everywhere.
We had aimed to get to Kawhia (pronounced ka-fee-ah) or maybe even as far as Raglan for the night. However, the bridge at Waiharakeke was destroyed and you cannot get through. It's been out since early January and there's no confirmed date for completion. It must be driving the local people mad. Anyway, we stopped for the night beside the harbour in a beautiful, serene spot.

Places and people
Susannah Baca
14/03/2008

The lovely Afro-Peruvian singer gave a great set. So did Black Grace, the NZ contemporary dance troupe, reminding us why we like such performances so much.

Places and people
Election year
14/03/2008

Helen Clarke (NZ prime minister) opened the event. This was remarkable, at least to Sarah, on at least three separate accounts. Can you imagine Gordon Brown kicking off Glastonbury? Still less, with opening remarks in Gaelic? Yet she gave several comments in Maori, incidentally the only Pakeha speaker from the platform to acknowledge the iwi and the powhiri (welcome) with which they had started the proceedings. Then she went for a wander around the stalls, greeting several craft people she obviously knew. That in itself isn't surprising but the incredibly light security was refreshing. NZ is not exempt from the various threats against all state leaders yet there she was. Good stuff.

Places and people
Music! Dance! Action!
14/03/2008

We stayed in New Plymouth an extra day to go to the first night of Womad NZ, playing in the park. And fab it was. For us, the big highlight was a fantastic collaboration between Maori and Celtic musicians called Green Fire Islands. This was so exciting that we decided not to go down to Whanganui but instead to head up to Auckland for their St Patrick's day concert at the Aotea centre, which is only their fourth.

Places and people
Sacred peak
13/03/2008, New Plymouth

Unsurprisingly, the peak is sacred to Maori.
This area was settled for a long time. In the 1830's the tribes of the Waikato river came south and there was a big inter-iwi war. After this, the land was fairly empty when the Pakeha arrived, and some Maori, against custom or iwi law, agreed to sell parcels to the New Zealand Company. The original iwi hotly contested this, and there were a series of wars in the 1860's. This included the infamous battle in which European Constabulary, armed with muskets, invaded a pa filled with women and children. The Government's own Sim Commission in the 1880's concluded that the Government's declaration of war in Taranaki had been unjust and unjustified.
The echoes of this conflict still resound today. There are many land claims still to be settled, not least to the foreshore and coast in New Plymouth itself. Maori in Taranaki as elsewhere, are disproportionately poor, educationally deprived, diagnosed with mental and physical health problems, and enmeshed in the criminal justice system.
New Plymouth has an excellent isite/library/museum/gallery complex called Puke Ariki. The gallery is showing an exhibition called Taranaki Whenua: Life Blood Legacy, (second in an annual series of five), which explores these issues relating people to the land. From its own collections there are a range of paintings and artefacts, including many maps, of great interest. What really makes it is the audio visuals containing many interviews with local people, Maori and others. It's a great exhibition, which we recommend to anyone who is wondering how NZ/Aotearoa can reconcile its past and future.

Places and people
Ski-fields and flying fox
11/03/2008

The road ends not far from the ski-field, which is quite small. We think ice-climbing must be at least as popular a sport here.
The flying fox is the goods lift, used to transport material across Manganui gorge to the lodges on the other side. While we were up here, the clouds came rolling in.

Places and people
Goblins and epiphytes
11/03/2008

This is the 'goblin' forest, so called because fanciful settlers decided that this was a likely place for such fey folk. The soil is immensely rich from the minerals, and deep from Taranaki's successive eruptions, so the forest is very dense.

Places and people
Elegant falls
11/03/2008, Mt Taranaki

In the morning we did a series of short walks on Taranaki. Dawson Falls is named after the surveyor who found it, and allegedly nearly fell over it. It is well hidden in the bush, but you would have thought that the roaring water was a hint.

Places and people
Saddles and views
11/03/2008

There are four great saddles on this Highway. From just below the Tahore saddle there is a splendid view of Mount Taranaki, sitting 70km away in isolation on his peninsula jutting from the west coast. The story has it that originally Taranaki lived in the middle of the north island, with Ruapahu and the others. The only female volcano was the lovely, bush-clad Pihunga, with whom both Taranaki and Tongariro fell in love. They fought with much lava and fire, and Taranaki lost. He stormed off to the sea, reaching this point before light came and he stopped. Patuha threw out a spur (the range named after her on the south side of the volcano) and here he has stayed ever since.
Current folk-lore has it that if you can't see the mountain it's raining, and if you can see it, it's going to rain. Because the area is surrounded on three sides by water (the Tasman Sea), with this high mountain in the middle, the weather changes rapidly and is very hard to predict. It does rain a lot, and the big volcanic ring plain is a very rich soil. Maori iwi here were famous for their gardens, and it's now a major farming area.
We spent a night at Kaieto's café (well worth a visit) and then pootled on to Stratford, where we free-parked very comfortably under some trees outside the park. Stratford (named after Shakespeare's birthplace, with all its streets called after characters from the plays) is a sweet town. It has NZ's only publicly accessible glockenspiel, with characters who appear every hour to recite scenes from Romeo & Juliet. Sadly, we left the camera in the van so you'll have to imagine that bit.

Places and people
Falls and poles
10/03/2008

Along the Highway, off to the north, is the Maraekowhai reserve, a small stretch of bush running alongside the Ohura river. These falls, with the pitting and wonderful erosion characteristic of this soft mudstone, are hidden in the woods.
We had gone looking for the Maori Niu poles, which turn out only be accessible by water from the Whanganui river. We glimpsed one through the trees but didn't get a photo. The first of these poles, Rongo Nui, was erected when the land wars started, as this area was a stronghold for Hau Hau warriors, and the pole sought to summon war spririts. After the wars ended, the other pole, called Rere Kore was erected to placate them and call peaceful spirits to the area.

Places and people
Forgotten World Highway
Sarah & Pip
10/03/2008

SH43 runs from Taumarunui to Stratford, through the razorback hills of East Taranaki. The tourist people have given it this name, which is not really accurate. Even their leaflet says this is a journey of remembrance. It's a pretty empty area, however, and as soon as you turn off the main road there are very few other people about.
This view is taken from on a side road off the highway. It shows the sharp edges of the upthrust land, created by seabed reaching for the sky about one million years ago. Geologically, this is a very young place, with water still cutting serrated edges in the soft rock.
For the European settlers, this was a very hard place. It was cut off, and the Maori were hostile after the bitter wars of the 1860's. Clearing these slopes of bush and then getting the logs out was hard work. And the bush regenerated quickly, often faster than the sheep or the settlers could get rid of it. The Depression was a major disaster here, driving many settlers off the land altogether.
Now the hills are run with sheep, but you can see the endless battle against erosion, and the impact of an extreme climate (from very hot and very dry, to winter frosts and heavy rain).
There's a lot to see and do along the Highway; we barely scratched the surface. A few days meandering through the area would be rewarding, maybe followed by a week or so on the trip we then made up the back roads north.

Places and people

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