Tuesday, 5 February 2019

History & Heritage- Bay of Islands; Part 1


Kerikeri- 'It's So Nice They Named it Twice!'

With so much to see and do around the Bay of Islands, the NZMCA Park at Rainbow Falls
in Kerikeri made an ideal base to explore from.  The park is located just a few kilometres from the Kerikeri Basin Reserve where a number of historic buildings including the iconic Stone Store, New Zealand's oldest stone building (1832) are. A Mission Station was established here in 1819 and it is one of the first places in New Zealand where Maori invited visitors to live among them.

The last time I visited the Stone Store the road ran past the front of the store and over the Kerikeri River, that's been removed and now a rocky weir cuts across the river where the bridge used to be. The Heritage Bypass (I like that name) now connects the town that a river divides.

You can still access the Reserve from the south side via road or the north side from a carpark and over a lovely wide pedestrian bridge...

...which delivers you to right outside the Honey House Cafe, the perfect place to have a bite to eat or buy a large icecream on a hot summer's day! Once the administration building for Historic Places Trust, the 1970s building was turned into a cafe and transformed in keeping with it's historic neighbour, Kemp House.

Now this is New Zealand's oldest building. Kemp House was completed in 1821-22 by missionary carpenters and Maoris sawyers for Charlotte & James Kemp and their family of 8 children. Charlotte was a teacher and their home was also used for schooling and residential care, including the daughters of Maori leaders.

Just yesterday, as part of the Waitangi Day celebrations, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited Kemp House to be shown two writing slates with the very first example of written Te reo Maori etched on them. The slates were discovered in 2000 under a lean-to at Kemp House and are included in UNESCO's Memory of the World heritage documentary register. One of the slates was used by Rongo Hongi, daughter of the renowned Ngapuhi chief Hongi Hika, it is inscribed with lines and signed 'Na Rongo Hongi, a(ged) 16".

Kemp House's heritage garden and orchard is of course NZ's oldest European garden. 

It was lovely to be able to wander amongst the gardens smelling the heritage roses and checking out what vegetables and herbs were being grown; the cafe has a ready supply of produce to choose from.

The Stone Store (1832) was once the base of the missionaries trading post, selling produce to passing ships and European goods to Maori. Stone was used to protect the wheat from rats, for defence against Maori and to reduce the risk of fire. The Store has also been used as a mission library, a magazine & barracks, a kauri gum trading operation and to house a boys' school, before eventually being bought by the Kemp family in 1874 when it became a grocery store. 

The Store, purchased by Heritage NZ from the Kemp Family in 1975, is now an up-market craft and gift shop (click photo to enlarge). Purchased tours can be taken of upstairs in the Stone Store and through Kemp House.

Across the other side of the road from the Stone Store is an old Blacksmiths shop (oldest in NZ of course) and another 'oldest' specimen; a pear tree!

And overlooking all the 'oldest buildings' lining the Basin is the historic (but new based on all it's neighbours) St James Anglican Church built in 1878.

The church is located in a very quite spot, away from the tourist traffic and with peaceful gardens and seats to rest awhile.

Later on during our stay at the Rainbow Falls Park I walked the 4kms River Track which passes right alongside the park and finishes in the Basin.

Sunset- Rainbow Falls
It's a lovely walk alongside the river although in places the edges are rather overgrown with weed and pest plants amongst the native bush. About 2kms upstream from the old river crossing at the Basin, the track passes underneath the Heritage Bypass. I also pass by the remains of a historic power house along the way and then stop to take photos of the woven flax flowers someone has made on a living flax bush.

There is another waterfall, Wharepuke  on the River Walk and some deep green pools known as the Fairy Pools along the way.

The track eventually exits out onto a large grassy expanse dotted with huge shade trees in the Basin Reserve, an ideal place to have picnic. One of the locals didn't seem too concerned with my presence...

... unlike the few dozen handsome roosters who also inhabit the reserve and hang out around the carpark looking for handouts. They really have their wits about them, taking off at a mere sideways glance. I'm sure people will have tried to grab them many times as they are so easily spooked. 

It's one thing we noticed throughout the the Bay of Islands area, every reserve or rest area  has dozens of chickens, mainly roosters but sometimes hens & chicks too. Either the council have a 'no catch & destroy' policy or there are many more than the usual backyard chicken farmers who abandon their rooster chicks in the district.

I crossed the bridge and walked around the river edge, past Kemp House again and along the track up to the Koripiro Pa lookout over the Basin...

...and the Maori pa site where I also had to fight off a couple of dozen school kids who wanted to read every word out loud and then draw their pictures of what they'd learnt while leaning on the information panels! 

That finally sorted, I had to head off another lot on my way back past the Stone Store (lucky I took my photos inside on the previous visit)...

But I did stop to take a photo of these two characters, Te Araroa Trail walkers (the trail passes by the Stone Store), I think they're having a good time, not a quick time over the trail. We saw them again a few days later, they were passing through Waitangi, a mere 22km (on foot) from the Basin. 

To be continued... Part 2

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