WAITANGI, NEW ZEALAND — I appreciate the irony of a German, moving to Germany writing about Germans in New Zealand, but they’re everywhere! What are they all doing here?
To be clear, I’m not complaining, but I heard more German being spoken today than English. It’s a bit . . . disorienting. A woman we met in the Waitangi Holiday Park lounge said she thinks the numbers are increasing, and that it’s likely due to a special visa that allows Germans to remain and work in New Zealand for up to a year. Apparently, most of the young people we met are doing a gap year after high school, not trying to colonize the Pacific.
Either way. Both of our campground neighbors were leaving today, and we had a feeling we were going to miss them. We started on our hike to the Haruru waterfall around 10:30, a total of 12 km of walking through beautiful and changing forest. What struck us was the very loud noise of beetles and other insects in the forest. It definitely was the noisiest forest we had ever walked in. The land along the track is also habitat for Kiwis, but since they’re nocturnal we weren’t expecting to see any — and we didn’t.
The track also went through mangroves and crossed an inlet on a wooden bridge. Since the tide was low, we heard the loud smacking sound of holes popping their water bubbles. The falls themselves were quite nice, but they were just waterfalls, not that different from falls in the UP of Michigan or in northern Minnesota. On our way back, we saw cormorants and a very colorful species of pigeon.
Once back to our campground, we worked a little — while it’s nice to be able to work from everywhere in an internet business, the downside is that you can’t really get away from it for too long. So we spent an hour working and then drove to the Kerikeri River Track.
When we got there, we finally realized what all the signs we followed proclaiming “The Stone Store” were about. At the beginning of the track, right near the mouth of the Kerikeri river, there is a small historical settlement where Maori chief Hongi Hika permitted a settlement of Christian missionaries alongside a Maori village, and where said store has been open continuously since 1836 (the year the New Zealand declaration of independence was recognized by the crown).
Unfortunately, we were about 30 minutes late for the last tour, so we looked around and took some photos. It would have been fun to connect the history of this place with the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, but I guess Google will have to help out here. We were still adjusting to the fact that in New Zealand, stores actually close on time, at 5pm, unlike the 24/7 culture in the US.
Across the river from the settlement, by the Maori village, there were Maori practicing with their sticks. It actually looked fun and gave me even more respect for the way the warrior at the cultural experience at Waitangi handled himself and his weapons.
A little ways into the track we realized that we should have done this walk instead of the track to Haruru falls, as it was much more varied and interesting: Within the first kilometer, we climbed high above the river, saw cascades, an old power station and Wharepuke falls.
If we had gone another 3.5km, we would have come across another waterfall, called Rainbow falls, but we ran out of time and returned to prepare dinner — another one-pot meal, this time with chicken, Asian simmer sauce, rice and broccoli. Good sustenance for a long day of driving tomorrow to get to the Coromandel Peninsula, a good 430km drive from Waitangi.