Tuesday 7 June 2016

New Zealand Adventures : 15. Journey with Maoris down the Whanganui River, The River Mail Run to Pipiriki, The Convent of Holy Jerusalem and A Brush with Parliament in Capital City Wellington!

Kia Ora!

Greetings from Wellington! New Zealands windy cool capital city. Now nearly 8 months living in New Zealand, I have finished my travels of Aotearoa's North Island and am now on the gateway of the Cook Strait, the most southern point of the Island.

But lets tell you of what I've seen and done in my last few weeks on the North Island - first here's a video from Ranana on the Whanganui River....

Leaving Taupo, I hitchiked down Highway 1 heading further south with a lovely Kiwi man named Grant who took me down through the NZ Army territory of the Ruahine Ranges down to the town of 'Bulls' (where as you can imagine everything is name after the Bull) where I caught another ride to the town of Whanganui back to the south western coast of New Zealand and gateway to the mighty
Whanganui River.

Behold Whanganui, one of New Zealand's oldest towns

A wall of Maori carvings lining a tunnel up to the 1916 Durie Hill Elevator in the town.....I think the one on the left had a bit too much of a night on the town, don't you think? ha!

Now with the town there's two different spellings - Wanganui and Whanganui. The district used the spellings since the mid-1800's by the (deep breath) Te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi tribe pronounced it with the 'wh' sound similar to 'where' and tell you if you are saying it correctly you will see your breath coming out of your mouth on a cold day European settlers then wrote the name as they heard it 'Wanganui' and both names were recognised in NZ Parliament in 2012, so you can choose how to say.....but the local Maori's pronounce it Whanganui meaning 'Big Wait'.

Family photo....best take we could get with the naughty kids ha!

From my days sailing on waka's Haunui and Aotearoa One back in Auckland, I was able to get in touch with Maori owned river operators 'Ki Tai' who the owner Ash, let me work for his canoe company for a week before the trip - washing lifejackets, cleaning chilly bins, dry bags, boxes and helping him prepare and re-organise his inventory leading up to the three day river adventure...

Dunking 94 life jackets on an Autumn day, one of my jobs :)

Even his kids, Scarlett and Eruiti, were keen to help on a sunday afternoon!

Wooh, thats alot of stuff to clean...and a lot of stuff needed to take on a river adventure!

Ta dah! Six days of hard work later, one clean organised canoe shed and ready to take on the river!

Journey with Maori's down the Whanganui River

'The great river flows
From the mountains to the sea
I am the river, the river is me'

 The Whanganui River 'Te Awa o Whanganui', is the longest navigable river in New Zealand and known as the 'Rhine of New Zealand'. From the sacred mountains of the Central Plateau, the river begins its 300km journey and released into the Tasman Sea where Maori's believe it continues its journey beyond the horizon of the western coastline.

Along its length, the home tribe (deep breath) Te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi identity embraces their precious river, having lived on its banks for over 40 generations, travelling by canoe, building dwellings on the banks, catching eels and fighting for their land which emphasises the affinity of Maori with their ancestral landscapes and culture.

And I was about to follow in their ancestoral footsteps......with the Te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi Maoris themselves, showing me their river that has woven their history and ancestors....

Giving the wakas a hose down before the trip

We planned to take three wakas down (canoes) down the river stopping off at two maraes on river to stay at overnight - we'd been having alot of rain in Whanganui so it would be weather dependent if we were able to get on the river - so waka's, life jackets, food and hoes on, ready to go

The river trip was not a standard tourist trip, I was going with a film crew and a crowd of Maori people from all over New Zealand to film a educational video about water cleanliness on the Whanganui River for three days.........this also meant the language being spoken 90% of the time would be Maori so I would be in for a true cultural experience being one of a handful of Pakeha's...

Classic.....you can't go up the Whanganui River without a traffic jam of sheep to hold you up.

Our first stop about a 40 minute drive later on the winding roads through the hills following the river we came to Ranana 'London' named after of course London, England where the ancestral chief named the territory and marae so his daughter Victoria could be the 'Queen of London'....cool hey?

By the time we arrived at Ranana Marae in the mists of the mountains, it was a complete downpour and were welcomed on to the Marae with the standard powhiri in the rain which was a pretty serene experience (and very wet!).

Once you are officially welcomed on with a hongi, you then are invited to lay your bed in the whare nui adorned with carvings of the ancestors and photographs of deceased family who are given an eternal tribute on the walls of the marae.

The purpose of the trip was to take a group of Maori speakers out on to the river to film a water testing experimentation for an educational video on the environment of Whanganui. The youth group development programme called themselves Te Aho Tu Roa which meant 'The Long Standing Thread' which explained the idea of a thread being started from their ancestors and is woven with the present generation with open threads inviting the future generation of Maori youths - this is how Maori culture is so different to European culture ....they are deeply connected to their ancestors and hold a deep spiritual connection to the waters, mountains, earth and sky. Some of the Maori tutors were interesting people, one had been to Brazil and competed in the World Indigenous Games and another young man worked as a photographer and spent 6 months living with indigenous people all around the world.

After dinner, saying a Karakia prayer to bless the food, the evening exercises in the Whare Nui was to find out one thing from another person that means alot to them in life which was pretty interesting - but the Maori can easily give a serious exercise an outrageously funny twist as I found the Whare Nui roaring with laughter as the thunder and lightning rumbled above us all night.

The next morning, you are woken up at 6:30am in the whare nui with a morning Karakia offering spiritual guidance and protection for the day ahead. You then have to pack your bags, strip your sheets, put away your pillows and your mattresses and head on out (very close to the army I imagine)  The morning mist over the National Park was incredible, but the gullys and hills quickly draw in changeable weather and we discovered that the river itself had risen 4 metres overnight with the previous nights rainfall and was rapidly flowing - meaning it would be no go on the river with the wakas. We don't control nature, nature controls us for sure.

So, the plan was to spend some time at the Marae learning a song the group were going to perform to the camera and Maori warrior skills and games, co-ordination exercises with sticks and balance which was fun to do, practicing martial arts that the warriors would have learnt centuries ago......of course all was spoken in Maori so I had to really just watch and see what I could pick up.

Even though I wasn't able to understand every word that was being spoken, it was still a privilege to see an authentic Maori gathering and operation not put on for tourists and be around people who were speaking Maori to eachother 90% of the time and practicing and performing their cultural etiquette and social norms.....something which is very rare in New Zealand.

The rest of the morning was spent down by the river side, filming the footage of the Maori youths documenting the procedure in testing the water in your river....

Trekking through the woodland to get to the river edge with a drone camera flying above us to record a birds eye view

As New Zealand Maoris are very connected to their awa 'river' a mark of respect is shown to their waters by saying a Karakia and then blessing yourself with its waters over your head before we begin to use it.

Filming on location, footage was shot on the group conducting different stages of monitoring the rivers water using a 'SHMAK' Kit (Stream Health Monitoring and Assessment Kit). This meant shots were taken of measuring the velocity, clarity of the water, phd reading on the water, its temperature and its conductivity (was like a throwback to Geography field trip days).

Sorry souls under a tarpaulin ha!

The rain was pouring down the whole time but cast and crew pushed on and in typical Maori style, paid homage to their Sky Father by belting a good ole song to wrap up filming ha!

After kai (food) in the Kai Whare you have a closing protocol when leaving a Marae where the hosts will give a closing speech and a goodbye message (in Maori) and we leave with a farewell Hongi, wishing us well and releasing us into the next moments of our lives to come....

As we couldn't paddle down to the next Marae for our second night, with had to drive further down river to the settlement of Parikino to be welcomed on to our second marae.....in the pouring rain of course again! (I actually ended up catching a cold during this trip - yuk!)

Seeing the river was still not navigational we did an exercise in the marae where I learnt the importance of water and what it means to the Maori that surrounded me. We had to in small groups, draw our closes awa (river) and talk about how sacred or what it means to you. To Maori's, this is second nature and I got to feed in what water means to their culture, right from the rain drop from the sky father, down the river and out into the sea where they believe it continues to flow to a new realm of water.

We also talked about Whakapapa Whaka meaning 'Make/Create' and 'Papa' meaning Earth/Land where you would talk about your mountain and river. Pepeha means 'breathing baby' where the Maori talk about the things that have given them life i.e family and genealogy and Mihi Mihi which is the term to use talking about yourself, acknowledging and giving thanks 'Nga Mihi'   

There is also a belief in some Maori tribes that when a new born baby is born, its placenta is buried in their home area under a tree so that they are always spiritually called back to their homeland after death.

Central ancestor in the Whare Nui - the last Marae I will probably see during my time in New Zealand. I love the cloak adorned with hanging stones and jewels, the first I've seen draped with a cape.

That evening, the group recited a karakia and waiapa (song) about the stars, of course I didn't understand much of it but the sound of Maori singing in the dark under the lunar lined moon was just like a lullaby for my sore head and I always sleep well when I've stayed in a Marae - its something about being protected, being in the heart of the Maori ancestors and that you have to be invited and formally welcomed on to the Marae which gives them these invisible walls to the outside world.

The next morning waking up early to the sound of the morning Karakia, the group needed to shoot scenes asking and answering questions about the river and its health. Out on the river bank, surrounded by the echoing bleats of the distant mountain goats (amazing how they don't fall off frankly) we shot scenes of us playing hand slapping games to compliment the tension of asking and giving answers whilst having a game of slapping eachothers hands - pretty painful actually if they get you, Maori's are very good at it?

1. So you have flash tools, what good is that?
2. You aint no scientist...
3. The water is dirty, what are you going to do about it?
4. You don't own the river.....

It made me realise this youth group were serious about promoting better water health on all rivers and waters across New Zealand through a contemporary video for children and were passionate about getting their message across of yes...the water is dirty but what are we going to do about it?

It showed the affinity of the Maori's connection with nature that is still present in the Maori youths of New Zealand - they really do care. 

Mountain goats of Whanganui River

Curious Local Maori kids stop by to blow the conch shell outside the Marae

So, as nature would have it, getting on the river just wasn't to be this time....but Uncle George, a wise Maori elder who accompanied us on the Marae trip down the river told us there was no greater thing in life than service to humanity to people who's lives are stuck in a whirlpool, right like in that river (eek!) and shared this great story he would tell at Maori funerals about how we are always changing and making transitions in life, some faster than others and begin to see things from a different persepective...in true Kiwi style

'There were two caterpillars, brothers who were crawling along a tree branch doing what their life purpose is, to eat. One day whilst crawling up and eating away, they came to a fork in the branch, one went one way, the other went the other....

Over the next few days the brothers would warn eachother if they could hear a magpie, so they turned upside down under a leaf to hide themselves - and then carried on eating when it was safe to come out again. Every now and again,  the younger brother would call out to his brother 'Hey bro - you alright?' in which the other brother would answer 'Yeah bro, all good bro' and carry on eating up his tree branch. 

Then one day, the younger brother looked behind to see his big brother, who was much further down his branch than he was. He yelled out 'Hey bro - you alright? in which the older caterpillar yelled 'Nah bro, I have a bit of a stomach ache'. The younger brother continued eating until one day, he looked back to see his brother on his branch, but could only see a small chrysalis where his brother used to be. Confused, the younger brother just carried on doing what he did best and kept on eating until one day a beautiful butterfly fluttered down and landed on his branch next to him...

'Who are you?' said the caterpillar, 'Bro, its me' said the Butterfly, fluttering its wings. 
'You are not my brother' spat the caterpillar, 'Go away and leave me alone' he continued as the Butterfly fluttered its wings and flew above him into the sky.

The idea of the story was the same as when people pass away, they have entered another realm where the deceased spirit has gone where that butterfly had gone. The younger brother could not comprehend that transition period of life where his brother had gone, into the next stage of his life and was yet to come for the younger caterpillar. The idea of the butterfly flying above symbolises it is now in another realm in life and can now see the world from another perspective, seeing the change that needs to happen - which is present in the living today...

Such a great story....but sounds so much better coming from an old Maori man ha!

And in all his years living in the world....his best advice to me......'Just be yourself'.

The River Mail Run to Pipiriki

Oh yes wait a minute Mr Postman, way hey hey hey Mr Postman, please Mr Postman look and see, if there's a letter in your bag for me....couldn't resist this song going through my head....

Whilst staying in Whanganui, I got the opportunity to accompany South African born Val and her partner Alois who run operators Whanganui Tours to join them on the morning mail run, delivering newspapers, letters and parcels to the rural communities along the stretch of the 79km Whanganui River Road right up to Pipiriki.

The Whanganui River Road with 90% of its land is Maori occupied. Just over 60 years ago, there was no river road and riverside dwellers would have to use the water to access the other side or get into town. In the 19th Century, dwellers of Whanganui had to use the river service up Taumarunui and then catch a train to Auckland which disbanded in 1959 when the train track to Wellington was complete.

Over 30 years the River Road has been in construction allowing mail to be delivered and easier access into town....so I accompanied Val the postlady on her daily routine delivering mail to the residents of the River Road.

And the interesting things you encounter when travelling up river into the wild...

The River Mail Run ahead....

The Mail Run up the Whanganui River Road starts early at 8am, the letters and parcels needing to be delivered to the river community are sent to the Whanganui town post depot centre to be sorted and then re-sorted again by Val and her partner Alois at 5am, its a early bird life with the River Post but everyone, even river people need their mail! 

The River Road starts 14km out of Whanganui Town Centre where you enter the 79km road up to the National Park peppered with isolated Maori communities nestled in the stark wet mountain slopes with a slower pace of life.

Monday's mail run usually holds Farmers Weekly papers (Tuesday is junk mail day), NZ Herald, Whanganui Chronicle and letters and parcels. What is most impressive Val is able to remember exactly what letters and newspapers each post box needs which I guess comes with being the river post people every day!

And you wouldn't be surprised that the river side locals are already waiting by their letter boxes for us to arrive with their papers or we get a growling! :/ (some of them are known to actually phone up if we are late....)

And also along the River Road, some of the locals are very creative with their letter boxes - who would have thought of a microwave hey??

Funky post boxes in the Maori communities...

A real Marae letter box...

To get to the communities along the River Road we faced many obstacles that goes hand in hand with riverside living. We had to drive over many slips with loose scree from the cliff sides holding a million old oyster shells (really they are THAT old). Debris still slips off the cliffs onto the road fringing the curling river so you have to be careful - so quite an adventure delivering the mail!

The river road just grabs you and even driving back the other direction gives you a completely different view of the river. It still holds historic landmarks on route up to Pipiriki, the Kawana Flour Mill, Koriniti Marae and the old Pipiriki Hotel which was used by river steamers and paddleboats and then international tourist, until it was burnt down twice and stripped of anything of value, now its a hollow brick husk.

Getting boxes and parcels into some letter boxes proved a bit of a handful - but there's something rewarding and sweet about getting eagerly awaited packages to these remote riverside communities.

This seasonal Maori Arts and Crafts gallery on the river road holds the waka used in 2005 New Zealand war drama film 'River Queen' about the Maori and New Zealand colonial forces - you can just see it under the frame of the Maori carvings

Another classic traffic jam on the river road...

Val and Alois Post Dog Sky always comes out on the morning mail run rain or shine, we let her out along the road and followed her down in the post van as she revelled in the morning air racing past cattle towards the distant mountains and rainbows - so cute :)

Delivering fruit and vegetables to the local Maori School in Ranana whilst the kids were in reading lesson.

Of course delivering all the mail to the residents of the Whanganui River Road, we had to stop off to have some tea with one of them. Uncle Bobby, a half Maori 85 year old man who lives up at the Pipiriki and loves to talk to visitors on the mail run over teas and biscuits about Maori history of the river, as long as you hongi him first!

Sky joining us for biscuits too

The Convent of Holy Jerusalem 

Behold Jerusalem! or as the Maori say Hiruharama there really is a holy place of New Zealand right up here deep into the wild on the mysterious Whanganui River. You can see the church spiral on the right of the photo as we drive towards it.

I came to know from the Mail Run about the sisters who run the Catholic convent 'Sisters of Compassion' who allow travellers to stay at their old convent up here in lonely Jerusalem....so how could I turn down such a holy offer to stay in a nunnery for some spiritual escapism in a beautiful part of New Zealand?, this was a sister act waiting to happen right out here in the wild bush!

Holy Mail! The Sisters even have their own post box......number 5050

The two-storey Convent itself was established in 1892 by a very special New Zealand nun Sister Suzanne Aubert who dedicated her life into helping New Zealand's needy.....the convent in the past was home to Maori orphans and to famous New Zealand poet James K. Baxter in the 1970's who he and his followers formed a community here and is buried in Jerusalem - so quite a few footsteps I'm following in!

The great lady herself....

Now at the start of my time here at St Josephs, I already had a few hiccups staying in such a holy place - I managed to lock myself out of the convent and had to get myself back in through a window and then wanting to make an evening fire to keep warm on these winter nights - I discovered I had no matches and had to venture up river in the pouring rain to ask the local shop and residents if they had a light haha! I managed to get a cigarette lighter off a local Maori neighbour who I exchanged her lighter for some change, so I wouldn't be freezing to death! but even so, at least I would be in the holiest place possible if I did under Gods watchful eye ha!

Here's my short video diary giving you a peek into staying at a Convent...

And.....of course I will let you see into the convents St Josephs Church, I would come and sit inside at midnight by candlelight, enjoying the silent serenity out here in the bush and join the sisters for prayer. They are totally self-sufficient, using the fruits from the garden trees to make jam and sell at the Whanganui River side markets and are heavily involved in present day relief for the needy and vulnerable of the Whanganui territory.

Maori interpretations of Christianity and Catholicism adorn the interior of the beautiful church

The surrounding gardens 'The Rosary' are well nurtured and a peaceful place for meditation and relaxation and to let the world turn with out you for a while.....

The convent dorms....but I'm not staying up here...I showed my rebellious streak and built myself a cosy roaring fire with the firewood and slept in front of it downstairs, busy planning my next route and hitching signs...

On my second day at the convent, you wouldn't believe that further drama could unfold at the convent in isolated Jerusalem - just when you think things can't get any worse, the fire alarm goes off and I am powerless to stop it screeching! What do you do when you are halfway up river with no phone reception in the bush, trying to find switches in the whole convent and noone nearby is able to shut it off?? ha! after 3 hours of screeching noise, fed up, I walked out of the convent, like a scene from a comedy movie with the bellowing siren and 'Please evacuate the building, please use the nearest fire exit' echoeing from the convent into the bush behind me as I tramped away from it up rivernoone else seemed to hear the siren or could help so I manage to e-mail the post lady who had to call someone to come turn it off haha! The things you get yourself into out bush...

I spent my last night at the convent and Jerusalem accordingly so in Gods and the Maori spirits safe hands, by spending the night by candlelight in the silent sanctuary of the church - was a pretty surreal sleeping experience and woke up to the first day of New Zealand winter brrrrrr!! and went for a dawn walk to greet the Whanganui River and sunrise for the new season.

And so....the first day of winter marked the end to my journey up the Whanganui River and safe to say is one of my favourite places on the North Island and hope to be back again one day (and eventually get on the water!) I headed down towards a very different landscape - the big smoke of New Zealand, capital city Wellington!

After saying farewell to the convent, I hitched a ride back to the Whanganui highway with Alois the postman and post dog Sky, saying goodbye to the awa as we meandered back down the beautiful curling river....I was going to miss it....I couldn't help but sing 'Moon River' to the myself as I left the it behind to continue my journey south...

Back on the highway on a beautiful first morning of NZ winter - I managed to hitch a ride to Bunnythorpe (sounds funny doesn't it like it should be a place to breed rabbits) and then to student town Palmerston North - from there, I got another ride with an astute English man named Roly, ha! to the oldie worldy town of Woodville, then another ride south down to Pahiatui, then Masterton and finally to Carterton where I stayed with Joe and Vicky whom I had met travelling to the Koh Islands in Cambodia last year.... six rides of six very kind people got me there eventually.

After spending a few days in little town of Carterton dog sitting cute pups Sushi and Floyd, I got out on the road in the frosty winter morning (and god it was cold) and hitched a ride to Upper Hutt with a kiwi man called Mark who was delivering none other than firewood! and had no problem flinging my 65 litre backpack onto the back of his truck on top of the firewood ha! 'Keep your eye on the white line of the road - that's how you drive!' he told me ha! 

From Lower Hut, I managed to get picked up by a young man named Max who was on his way back from charging his car battery and was heading home to Capital City on the bay - I had made it to the end of my travels in the North Island to be met by a beautiful winters morning in Wellington!

Although its a pretty small capital city (compared to London anyway!) and was first discovered in 950AD by Polynesian Explorer Kupe its New Zealands constitutional and cultural capital and as Lonely Planet describes it as 'bushy hillsides encircling a freshly whipped harbour' mmmmm....isn't that delicious...souls of the winds. (apparently it gets really windy....not since I've been here though in early winter). Its also known as the 'Head of the Fish of Maui' and the gateway port to accessing the Te Waka a Maui - the South Island.

A peek at Wellington..which got its name in 1840 from the New Zealand Company who wanted to express their gratitude to the English Duke of Wellington for his support to them. That's pretty cool, having a capital city named after you for showing support...well I do have Bolton in England after all...:) 

Wellingtons harbour side is a buzz with activity, plush yachts and sailing, underground markets and street performers with a stunning view of the distant mountain peaks on the sparkling water.....also alot of people singing on rented tandem buggies...so its just a good vibe in the capital.

Sunday morning Farmers Market on Wellington harbour...

This great little Boat Cafe in Oriental Bay where I would spend some time on the other side of Wellington harbour - the staff were so nice in here, they gave me complimentary tea and a newspaper for just being friendly and British haha!

Who would have thought there would be a family street and hotel.....how powerful I feel....

One of Welly's famous attractions is the clinking red Cable Car that for $4 clanks its way up a steep slope from the city centre to the Botanical Gardens which is a jolly good view with an amazing view out towards the Lambton Harbour.

Beautiful view on a sunny winters day.....and yes I actually made it here!

Te Papa - National Museum of New Zealand

Te Papa is known as Wellingtons 'must see' attraction.....well obviously its New Zealands national museum which would take more than just a day to see. Early June however is the Maori New Year known as 'Matariki' which marks the rising cluster of stars of Matariki (also known as the seven sisters) and of course I have come to New Zealand predominately to learn about the social history so I went along to view the Maori exhibition which is said to be world class.

I couldn't take any photos inside the exhibit of the various wakas, clubs, staffs, maori cloaks. musical flutes and sacred tiki's and treasure boxes, but I can tell you its well worth a visit. I also learnt that the Ka Mate Haka was created by the warrior chief Te Rauparaha of the Ngati Toa tribe in the early 19th Century when he escaped a death from an opposing tribe who were seeking him out because he had fled to find allies in battle. Owls are sacred to the Maori and were used spiritually by the shamans for their observation powers to seek him out. He hid in the food storage house of a local family and had the wife (who were sacred) to sit in front of the entrance to deter the Waikato tribe in pursuit of him - when they were gone, he uttered the words 'Ka Mate, Ka Mate (May I die!) Ka Ora Ka Ora (May I live!) so is really a celebration of life....interesting hey...

This Maori war canoe 'Waka Taua' has a lot of history behind it, holding up to 60 warriors in the battles between the Upper and Lower tribes of the Whanganui River...right where I had come from, standing right on that same awa's river banks was where great river battles were fought (and where I delivered the mail, centuries later!)

But, I could capture this magnificent Marae at Te Papa which is a Marae for the people of the world and all New Zealanders....so we all could belong to one place here in Wellington...it is mind blowing..

Demi God Maui is the top figure, capturing the sun and surrounded by his brothers who are helping to stop the suns rapid movement across the sky so that the days would be longer, which Maori believe is what controls the summer and winter nights in Aotearoa.

The centre of the Marae depicts the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the European settlers and Maori chiefs and the battles that ensued - it also shows the new generation of New Zealanders and their occupations to connect their own whakapapa to the Marae......lets get together and feel alright...

Wellington is also home to the National Archives where you can see the REAL Treaty of Waitangi, the real, original founding document of New Zealand which I had visited the signing grounds earlier in the Summer if you remember....but this is where the treaty itself is laid to rest, all preserved, right back from 1840.

Map of Aotearoa and the number of Maori chiefs that signed it from each tribe and territory - the Northland had the most signings from the Maori Rangatiras (chiefs) and with a whopping 64 the winning territory to sign the treaty was....the Hokianga Harbour where I spent time at Waiora Gardens.

And here it is.....The original signed Maori version of The Treaty of Waitangi...wow since 1840 - the real founding document of New Zealand.

 A Brush with Parliament...

Now, Wellington being the constitutional capital of New Zealand and being the Queens Birthday 6th June - I went to see the cogs that work the system of the country and strolled down to the Parliament House and the Beehive which was completed in 1922 - here is a statue of Richard Sneddon, NZ longest serving Prime Minister to date who was governing during NZ suffrage movement where Kate Sheppard pushed to get women the vote and the prohibition of alcohol which was contributing to alot of crime in NZ at the time (she has her legacy on the back of the blue NZ dollar note) 

Well I took a fantastic one hour tour of Parliament Building, how it was made Earthquake  into the Debating Chamber where the bills and then laws are produced and argued. Modelled on the British House of Commons, there is meant to be no connection of the monarchy to the state so that political affairs can not be undermind or interfered with and even the Queen herself is not meant to go in....what was funny, back in the 90's when the Queen visited the Parliament Buildings she wanted to see the chamber and not being able to say no to the Queen, they called it 'a building site' to get around taking her in to see it haha!

Well anyway, the tour was brilliant through all the regal carpeted rooms (it kind of felt I had walked in by mistake or got lost somewhere) and unbalanced hallways (because NZ ran of labour and money due to wars and flu epidemics, the original building plan was not completed) the guide invited me to come back the next day as the New Zealand government would be resuming their sittings in the Debating Chamber and I could sit above in the Gallery and watch NZ argue over over country!

Of course this has to remain in my memory....if I told you what went on in that Debating Chamber in the heart of New Zealand Parliament....I'd have to kill you....haha! No not really, you obviously have to go through this security process and get the all important 'G' sticker for the 'Gallery' and follow through the Parliament building - you can't take anything into the Gallery except a seating plan of where all the MP's sit (there's actually only two MPs that represent Maori's in the NZ Government). You sit above the green chairs in the Debating Chamber and watch them all funnel in. I was sitting opposite the National Party who govern New Zealand in the sight of the Prime Minister John Key who was being fired questions by the opposition The Labour Party who what was like a court room of Jesters - debating over whether the Prime Minister stands by his statement (which usually was a playful 'yes, I do' from Mr Key himself) cows pooing in rivers, education, the state of NZ homelessness and how the 'Kiwi Dream' is getting further away from the Kiwi people....and something about trees..... You wouldn't actually believe how much politicians play on their mobile phones during the sittings and it reminded me a bit of a school playground of arguing and the chief speaker telling everyone to shut up haha!

But what an opportunity for a traveller to see! The power and importance of being amongst members of Parliament ha! definitely stretched my political legs (not that I had ones to start with).

The Government Buildings over the road, the largest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere, but it does a great impression of looking like stone its pretty cool.....stone or wood?....believe me its wood.

View out to the Cook Strait and my next destination over the passageway of water from Mount Victoria for a blistering sunset view over Wellington

And so Whanau, travel blog reading family - Over 8 months on the road, I have travelled the entire length of New Zealands North Island right to the most Northern tip of Cape Reinga where the Maori souls say their goodbyes to the earth as they head back to their spiritual homeland of Hawaiki, sailed the Auckland waters with my Maori voyaging whanau on their beloved wakas, encountering many of the Indigenous People of Aotearoa in the villages and communites in Rotorua and the East Cape, welcomed onto Maraes all over this land and now its time to say Kia Ora for the knowledge and memories and farewell as the sun now sets on my adventures of the North Island.

Kia Ora for joining me on the steps of my great explorations, and sticking with the blog - I hope you have enjoyed and been entertained living this great adventure with me and have learnt somethings about this fascinating piece of earth tucked away down under.

But wait....its not over yet, I hope to spend a little bit longer in the 'Land of The Long White Cloud' with a new piece of land, one that I haven't set foot on yet and is full of new discoveries and a new side to the coin of New Zealand - Te Waka A Maui....The South Island.

I'll let you know how far I get on..

Kaketei for now..

Wellington, New Zealand

With Lonely Planet Travel Guide New Zealand


  1. Lovely blog!! Have just visited the River myself recently (I'm a Kiwi, my ancestors from the River) so was lovely to see all your pics. We were warned VERY carefully at the Jerusalem convent to close all doors while cooking so as not to set off the alarm LOL. I can see why now! : ) Happy travels.

  2. Thanks for sharing your tholughts about read
    more. Regards

  3. Hi Pam, thank you very much - I do try to make it not look like everyone else's travel blogs, more like a notebook look. Yep, I learnt the hard way at the Jerusalem Convent - made a good story though!


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