Bon voyage! Starting the North Island road trip on Halloween. Finally got the crew and car rental sorted for our 3 week trip first heading to the northland and then making a loop down south and returning the car in Auckland.
First stop up north is Paihia. I think I will struggle with these Maori pronunciations for the rest of my trip. Took me awhile to stop pronouncing ‘Paihia’ as ‘Paella’. Paihia is the usual first stop for travelers heading north from Auckland. It is the biggest town in the Bay of Islands. Depending on the amount of time you have, a lot of people ends up skipping the visit to the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga.
The several months of driving practice has come to good use immediately, except on the other side of the road. Locals were not lying when they say the roads in New Zealand are winding. Many segments of the drive have twists and turns every 100 to 300 meters. Paihia is roughly 230 km from Auckland. It was a very scenic drive as if I am traveling through the movie set of Lord of The Rings (although this is not where Hobbiton is located). In the several hours of driving, we experienced sun, heavy rain, and even hail!
Just a couple kilometers north of Paihia’s town centre is the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the declaration was signed between the British government and Maori tribes. The Waitangi grounds serve as the most important site where the birth of the national was formed. There were two versions of the treaty – one in English and the other in Maori with slightly different interpretations of how the land will be governed. Till this day, lawyers from both sides are still trying to sort out the proper interpretations of this document. With a $40 NZD entrance fee, we were provided with a tour of the surrounding and a Maori cultural performance.