ACROSS THE DITCH: Ruakaka to Whangarei 23/04/18 to 30/04/18

ACROSS THE DITCH: Ruakaka to Whangarei 23/04/18 to 30/04/18

2018-05-01T04:36:16+00:00May 1st, 2018|Lee & Paul Update|

The weather is much warmer in the north, with blue skies and fresh air, just perfect riding conditions. It’s a scenic ride through the Otaika Valley and across Highway 14 to Dargaville, following along the Northern Wairoa River. In several areas surrounding Whangarei, the landscape has hundreds of dry stone walls, the legacy of skilled builders that utilised the volcanic stone of the area.

Over 1,500 kilometres of stone walls are around the Whangarei district

On the west coast just north of Dargaville is the Waipoua Forest, the largest remaining tract of native forest in Northland. The road through this ancient green world of towering trees and rare birds is amazing with natural gateways created by huge kauri trees and colourful ferns along the road’s edge.

The spectacular Waipoua Forest road

It is the home of Tane Mahuta, the largest living kauri tree in New Zealand which they believe is around 2,000 years old. Sitting across from the tree you feel in awe of the splendour of this magnificent giant.

With a trunk girth of 13.8m and a height of 51.5m, Tane Mahuta is the largest kauri tree in New Zealand

We rock in to Rawene to stay with an old mate who has recently purchased the laundromat and lives above the premises, and we are just in time for Anzac Day.

The view from our friend Paul’s deck above the laundromat in Rawene

Paul and Theresa show us around the Hokianga over the next few days with dazzling autumn weather and absolutely calm conditions.

Locals gathering shellfish at Mitimiti, Northland

We cross the harbour to visit all the tiny settlements of the Hokianga, the heartland for the Maori people and the original landing place. Everywhere there are marae, three in a row out at Pawarenga, and a rich sense of history. It is easy to imagine why this area was so suitable for the large population at that time.

The local minister (with the beard) at the old church in Motukaraka

Many missionaries came and there are numerous well-preserved churches which are open to inspect. They are beautifully cared for and we couldn’t find a speck of dust in any of them! Bishop Pompallier from France was the founder of the Catholic Church in New Zealand and is buried beneath the altar in St. Mary’s Church in Motuti. Apparently they can raise the coffin if required!

Church of St. Mary at Motuti where Bishop Pompallier has been laid to rest under the altar

We also visit the grave of Dame Whina Cooper, a respected elder who spent her whole life working for the rights of her people, particularly to improve the lot of Maori women. When she was 80 she led 5,000 protestors in a land march from the Far North to Parliament with a petition about ongoing land rights.

The final resting place of Dame Whina Cooper at Panguru, Hokianga

Paul and Theresa on the beach at Pawerenga (Whangape in the background)

The Koutu Boulders are one of the Hokianga’s best kept secrets and are excellent examples of “concretion” which means “grown together”. They vary in size with some up to five metres in diameter and look a bit like cannonballs.

Koutu Boulders, Hokianga (toi-toi grass is much more prevalent in the north)

In your dreams guys!

Founded in 1920 by a Maori faith healer, the Rātana Church gave new hope and a transtribal unity to the Maoris, who had many grievances against the government. The temples are decorated with stars and moons from the original design in Whanganui and there’s about six churches around the North Island.

Ratana church in Ahipara

In 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, the founding document for New Zealand to enable the British settlers and the Maori people to live together under a common set of laws. Forty-three Northland Chiefs signed the treaty on that day and over 500 signed it as it was taken around the country during the next eight months. We ride in to Horeke and find the Mission House and church which were built in the late 1800’s and became the scene of the largest signing location with more than 70 chiefs gathered before a crowd of around 3,000. One of the chiefs had been to Sydney and seen the conditions of indigenous people there and said “We think you are going to deceive us. We are not willing to give up our land. The land is a parent to us.” As British colonists streamed in, he was right to be concerned as four million acres of land were lost, some by legitimate sale and some by forced confiscation. Every year the place comes alive with waka (canoe) as people converge to remember an event that changed the course of history.

Imagine thousands of Maori from hundreds of waka (canoes) gathering at the bay below the house on the right

It has definitely been a week of “churches” and Maori history filled with wonderful bike roads like the Mangamuka Hill road – so good we may have to do it again…

Favourite of the Week

The ferry between Rawene and Kohukohu is a vital link for people in the Hokianga region and as our friend Paul knows the skipper, it’s very special to be given the opportunity to drive it!

Not often you get to drive a vehicular ferry!

The vehicular ferry coming in to Rawene

Show Me A Sign

Tip of the Day

Our Dutch mate Paul has been in Rawene for nine years and the locals all fondly call him “Clogs” (he even has his own personalised number-plate). He likes to support the community in many different ways and one of these is to regularly buy his breakfast at the local cafe. He likes two poached eggs, some baked beans, toast and a bottomless cup of good coffee. To ensure every member of staff will give him the same deal, they now have the “Clogs Special”…very cool!

Story of the Week

We are in Rawene and it’s Anzac Day, where Australians and New Zealander’s have the day off to remember our soldiers who have been killed in wars and honour the returned servicemen and women. Our mate, Paul, has lived here for nine years and knows everyone so as we gather for the ceremony at the cemetery, there is a lot of friendly hand-shaking and hongi (traditional Maori greeting where you press noses together).

Gathering at the Rawene cemetery on Anzac Day

The mist is clinging to the water in the harbour as the sun does it’s best to burn it off while the march into the cemetery starts.

Slow march in to the Rawene cemetery

We are all welcomed as we stand around the perimeter and the ceremony begins with everyone singing the Australian National Anthem followed by the New Zealand one! Wow, you don’t hear that happen very often – but it feels so so right.

Singing the Australian national anthem in Rawene

The speakers are well chosen and the “service” continues in-between their talks with a lot of singing in Maori accompanied by one of the clergy on guitar. It was truly magical singing “Now Is The Hour” as the final song followed by a flag ritual with the bugle. There was hardly a dry eye in the cemetery.

There’s no footwear criteria at this ceremony

After the service the community is invited to the little local golf club for refreshments where the cadets sing us a Maori song and an elder asks us to remember Watchman Waaka, the last living soldier of the Maori Battalion who is in care in the Rawene Hospital. The locals have donated large pots of hot home-made soup, fry bread and snacks. It feels very heart-warming and reminds us how small communities are in New Zealand. This will definitely be an Anzac Day we will remember for a long, long time.


  1. Meg May 11, 2018 at 9:33 pm

    What an emotional ANZAC day that would have been to share with the community.
    Loving the blog Lee

    • Lee May 14, 2018 at 12:51 am

      Cheers Meg…it’s all coming to an end rather rapidly now! What an amazing country to ride a motorcycle!!

  2. Jen Green May 5, 2018 at 1:02 am

    you are making me thirsty for this beautiful place. I’ve only been to Auckland and Rotorua area on a cruise many years ago. Your photos and blog are fantastic. Jen

    • Lee May 7, 2018 at 3:10 am

      Thanks Jenelle, glad you’re enjoying them! You’ll have to plan a trip here, there’s just so much to see…xx

  3. Rod Cochrane May 3, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    Lovely. Just bloomin lovely. There’s hardly a dry eye here the way you describe things.

    • Lee May 4, 2018 at 4:22 am

      Aw thanks guys! It really was a moving Anzac Day and I felt proud to be a Queenzlander! xxxx

  4. Cathy Peters May 2, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    What a wonderful place the Far North is!! Your pictures make me want to visit it again! Early 1990s was the last time with our children & the history book!! We made them listen to the history before getting out of the car!!

    Cathy Peters ( Pye ) NZ

    • Lee May 4, 2018 at 4:23 am

      That’s hilarious Cathy! So much rich history up here and so much more to see…thanks for reading! xxx

  5. Susan Hird May 2, 2018 at 9:03 pm

    Such history and interesting stuff and sights. Gotta love the North! Home for you both.

    • Lee May 4, 2018 at 4:25 am

      I know Sue, how are we going to leave!! The weather is just divine and people are still swimming…xxx

  6. Mal May 2, 2018 at 11:18 am

    You have again captured some great shots of the north. The view on the ferry trip I remember as spectacular – and Lee you got to take the wheel! So peaceful gliding across the smooth water with interesting scenery.

    • Lee May 4, 2018 at 4:26 am

      It sure pays to have friends in “high” places hey Mal!! We think we’ll go back that way as we have to do the Mangamuka Hill again…

  7. Sandy Ogle May 1, 2018 at 8:38 pm

    Awesome guys and that is why you cannot take the north out of us boys and girls aye!!!

    • Lee May 4, 2018 at 4:27 am

      So true Sandy! Not sure how we’re actually going to leave – he’s going to have to drag me away!! xxx

  8. Phil and Evol Prince May 1, 2018 at 6:14 am

    Hi Paul and Lee
    This brings back memories as we visited and stayed with Evol’s auntie Joan who lived in Opononi. Her husband Noel spent his last days in Rawene hospital. Did you know the story about the dolphin that came into Opononi.
    Phil and Evol

    • Lee May 4, 2018 at 4:30 am

      I do know that story Phil, my parents actually saw her (she was just before my time). Great fish and chips at Opononi!!

  9. Carolyn and Keith May 1, 2018 at 3:56 am

    Wow wee Lee, you have done it again. Still another couple to go. Looking forward to them.

    • Lee May 4, 2018 at 4:31 am

      Thanks Carolyn, it’s just so so beautiful up north…it’s going to be so so hard to leave xxxx

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