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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Equinoctal sunset
21/03/2008, Foxton

This is of course equinox, when the night becomes longer than the day in the Southern hemisphere. The beach faces directly into the setting sun, giving us another splendid series of pictures. The tide was far out, dragged to extremes by the nearly full moon, and there was a very gentle breeze.
In the morning we went down into Wellington and did a little shopping before returning to Upper Hutt to stay with Pip's mother for a few days. Come Tuesday, Sarah is off to do the Queen Charlotte Walk, and Pip will be joining her in the South Island at the end of it, for our last few days before flying back to the UK on 8 April. Sarah will have the camera but limited computer access so the blog will be quiet for at least a week!
We aim to be in the UK for a week or so before heading home to Roaring Girl in Provence to get her ready for sea and summer exploring France and Italy. We plan to spend quite a bit of time sitting still though; since March 2007, we have visited Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Gibraltar, France, Wales, England, Hong Kong and Aotearoa. Being at home but still seems quite attractive.

Places and people

We bought (indigestible) fish and chips in Foxton and parked the night on the beach front. Astonishingly, this huge beach is empty, as you can see, despite this being Good Friday, the start of the last public holiday before the Kiwi winter. The car park had no minatory signs and we were very comfortable there for the night.
Foxton was originally named Manawatu after the river which reaches the sea here, but was renamed after Sir William Fox, several times Prime Minister in the 1860's to 1880's. He was a rabid teeotaller, and in many ways responsible for the appalling conduct of the Pakeha government in the land wars of Taranaki. He also at one point 'adopted' a small Maori boy, known as Ngatau 'William Fox' Omahuru, who in fact had been abducted (age 6) from the site of Battle of the Beak of the Bird in 1969. Here government forces were defeated, but one of the Maori allies took the child. Although his father and mother later sought to get him back, Fox refused and brought the child up in his own home. Later, he was apprenticed to the hard-line lawyer Buller, who was heavily involved in the dodgy dealings that prompted later land battles. In the end Omahuru abandoned his Pakeha upbringing, seemingly disgusted by the way the law was being flouted and abused, and became the adviser to the great non-violent activist Te Whiti. He stood alongside Te Whiti during the last desperate struggles, but then fades from historical view.

Places and people
The friendly Civic Centre
21/03/2008, Bulls

On the road South, you pass through Bulls, a town primarily notable for the apparantely never-ending amusement the name gives its inhabitants. All sorts of buildings contain puns on the name (Bank-a-bulls), and here is the Town Hall. If only more local government buildings saw sociability as a key attribute!
Incidentally, despite the large statue of a bull outside the town, it was not named after the animal, but after an early settler. (Pakeha placenames: that's a subject for another post!) There was a period in the late 1860's when a large black bull took up residence on the sandhills and made travelling very difficult; it would charge forcing people to hide in the surf until the animal lost interest. But he lived further south, between Foxton and Otaki, and eventually a local Theseus dealt with him.

Places and people
Waitaha Pa
21/03/2008, Outside Wanganui

Beside the highway into Wanganui itself, is an abandoned pa site. A pa is a village site, often described as fortified, and certainly this one was. It's about 200 years old, but has been abandoned for a long time, and the sign board claims ignorance as to which iwi used to live here. You can see the great Whanganui in this picture, below the very steep hill that is a key part of the defence.
On the flat river terrace there would have been houses and gardens, particularly for kumera (sweet potatoes). It is likely that some small gardens would also have been cleared on the other side, but the hills would still have been covered in thick bush. If an attack threatened, the village could retreat to this hill top. There are pits for storing kumera, which are still there and would have been covered with low, gabled roofs. The ridge is long and narrow, and at each end there were a series of defensive ditches, stockades and blind entries. Erosion, bush clearance, sheep and land slumps have left little of these.
The obvious shortage is water; this site could not have withstood a long siege on the medaevil European model. Historians here argue that the pre-European model of war amongst the Maori contained an intricate series of self-limiting checks, not least through the complex inter-marriages which meant the other side inevitably contained many of your relations. Also, before the Pakeha bought the musket, there had been a balance of weapons for a long time, with no one tribe having a decisive advantage in military technology. So sieges and battles, though very bloody, did not last very long, and the absence of water was not so important as fast access and the ability to defend against a tumultuous onslaught.
From here we drove into the town of Wanganui, which was shut up tight for Good Friday. No supermarket was open, which was a little disconcerting as were very low on food. So we took the main road down the Kapiti coast.
Incidentally, the spelling of Whanganui does change in this section for good reason. The Maori name of the river is Whanganui (and wh is pronounced as a soft 'f'). The settlers changed this to Wanganui. In the many name changes and restorations that have taken place since 1997 decision on the Treaty of Waitangi, there has been considerable discussion on this matter. The River has reverted to its Maori name, as has the region, but the town has kept the Pakeha version, and this compromise seems acceptable.

Places and people
Tane-Mahuta at the junction

Where the River Road meets the State Highway, there is a small info point, graced by this splendid statue of the god Tane. He separated the Sky Father (Ranginui) and Earth Mother (Papatuanuku) and so gave day light to all things. The manaia comb in his top knot, his facial tattoos (moko) and the Hei Tiki around his neck are symbols of his status. Tane-Mahuta is the god of the forest, and the statue shows his children who live in him - the tui and lizards at his shoulders, On his right hand is the owl Ruru and on his left is the brown rat, and between his legs is the weta (spider), called the 'sting of manhood' on the accompanying board. His legs are decorated with foliage, and between his feet is basket filled with the eels of the river.

Places and people
Romantic oysters

And here are the two halves of a shell caught for millennia and now making a temporary romantic sign on the side of the road.

Places and people
Millenarian oysters

A graphic reminder of the sedimentary history of the rock is this oyster bed, with ancient shells caught in the soft rock beside the road. The shells are not fossilised, and are tissue fragile once exposed to the air. Extraordinary and humbling to touch such ancient remains which natural processes have brought so far from their origins.

Places and people
Notes on a peak

Sarah took a heavy pack up the hill, both to keep our valuables safe (it's an isolated road) and for practice. At the top, the bench was a welcome opportunity to recover.

Places and people
Another sacred mountain

In the morning we climbed to the Atene viewpoint (just outside the village of Atene or Athens.) At this point, the river Whanganui used to make a classic meander around this peak. At some point in the distant past, the river cut through the narrow neck of this oxbow lake, leaving this wide green valley.
The peak is called Puketapu. Puke is Maori for hill or mountain, and tapu is of course sacred or taboo. So this is another sacred hill.

Places and people

Just off the road is one of the large culverts cut by hand when the road was constructed. Seriously hard work!
We stopped early to enjoy the area, camping at the (free!) DOC site at Otumaire. We had it completely to ourselves. This is a friendly area; as people drove by they tooted at us, but fortunately stopped after it got dark.
Sadly, although this is a National Park, the possums were all around us, screaming and fighting the dark. Even so, we think we heard the shrill cry of the kiwi.

Places and people

This village, named Corinth by the missionaries, was formerly a large Maori kainga (village) called Otukopiri. The marae, seen here from a bluff a little further down the river, showing its superb position, had two particularly well-maintained wharenui (meeting houses). One was Koriniti's own home; he was an important Chief in this area during the Pakeha settlement. The Anglican church was built in 1920.
Between Jerusalem and Korinit is the Moutoa Island, which was the scene of a major battle in 1864 when upriver Hau Hau warriors attacked. Iwi from down river fought them here, primarily to protect the mana of the river from their incursions, but in the process saving the lives of European settlers in Wanganui at the estuary.

Places and people
Continuous change

The papa breaks off in sheets under the erosive power of water. You can see here the slabs of clay that have come off the walls and are being dissolved into the water.
This clay is cut away to form the sides of the road; when you see this you realise it's best not to hang around under the sheer bluffs. The road must get covered in slick mud when it rains.

Places and people

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Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
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