Friday, 26 October 2012

Cape Reinga

Last weekend I went on a trip up to the most northern point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. 

The weather was absolutely fantastic. 

This is not my usual sort of post, however, as a country NZ's history is far older than the 1830s and the mythology surrounding it is so interesting that I just have to share it with you. 

Maori culture is very spiritual and the upper half of the Northland, the peninsula from Kaitaia to Cape Reinga in particular, holds very strong Maori symbolisms. 

The name of the cape comes from the Maori word 'Reinga' or 'Underworld'. It is also known as 'Te Rerenga Wairua', meaning the 'leaping place of spirits'. 

According to Maori myth, it is believed that when someone passes away their spirit travels up the country on the 'Te Ara Wairua' or the 'Spirits Pathway'. 

The route the spirit travels takes them up through the North Island and onto Ninety Mile beach 

It is not actually 90 miles, but is so named after a group of sheep herders who used to migrate up and down this beach throughout the year. By their calculations it took them one day to do 30 miles. It took them 3 days to get from one end of the beach to the other.........90 mile beach! 

After soaring up 90 mile beach the spirits carry on over the land 

until they come to Cape Reinga where they would climb the roots of the 800 year old Kauri tree and then dive into the swirling waters of where the Tasman Sea (left) meets the Pacific Ocean (right)

For Maori, these turbulent waters are where the male sea 'Te Moana Tapokopoko a Tawhaki' meets the female sea 'Te Tai o Whitirela'. The whirlpools where the currents clash are thought to represent those that dance in the wake of the a waka (war canoe). They represent the coming together of male and female – and the creation of life. 

Here, the spirits would carry on swimming northwards until they reached the islands of the Three Kings, turn around, take one last look at their country and then dive down into the sea and continue on their journey to their traditional homeland, Hawaiki

It was an absolutely amazing day and to leave you, here is an oh-so-un-glamorous picture of me sand-boarding

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Stone Store, Kerikeri

So last week, on one of my days off work I went sightseeing round the local town and, you guessed it, I ended up at an historical building. Honestly, you really cannot keep me away. 

The Stone Store is NZ's oldest stone building. 

It was built between 1832 and 1836 and was meant to house all the produce and grain grown at Te Waimate Mission (last post). It is predominantly built of Volcanic Basalt, a durable, fire resistant material. Fire was a real risk at the mission stations and this is one of the reasons why the Store was built of stone, so that all their valuable produce would not go up in flames. 
The window surrounds, keystones, and quoins (corner stones) are of sandstone imported from New South Wales, Australia. The stonemason, William Parrot, was an ex-convict from NSW which is where he learnt his art. The building was designed by John Hobbs who was a Weslyan Missionary

It is free to get inside the ground floor, and the second and third floor displays are included in the price (NZ$10) to enter Kemp House next door (you'll have to wait for this post). The displays upstairs show an interesting and detailed account of European contact and development on NZ soil, and with the local indigenous population. The story of Hongi Hika, the chief of a local Maori tribe who came to England and took back 700 muskets after meeting King George IV, is particularly interesting. 

On the third floor it describes how the building was built and the roof itself still holds the original (there wasn't anything to tell me they aren't) timbers with the numbers written on in order for the construction team to match the correct cross beam with the correct roof truss!!!

However, as discussed in the last post, Te Waimate Mission was not as successful in cultivating crops as it was originally thought it would be, so it was predominantly used as a Kauri tree gum trading store. From 1929 is was used mainly as a trading store for general items until it was bought by NZHPT in 1976. 

Holding national and international heritage significance, the Stone Store is NZ's oldest commercial building and provides a valuable insight into the country's connection with international and national trade, as well as illustrating early colonial adaptation of local materials. Maori's who worked with the missionaries were known to have helped with the making of this building, many became fine stonemasons and carvers. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Waimate Mission, Northland, NZ

Kia Ora from downunder!

I have now been in NZ for nearly three weeks! Apologies for my lack of blogging, but I have had so much to see, do and get used to.

I am now up in Kerikeri, the country's most northern town, where I will be working for the New Zealand Historic Places Trust at Te Waimate Mission House on the property's collections and mill remains.

Te Waimate was built in 1832 when the first European Settlers landed in NZ to set up a Christian Mission house in order to educate the local Maori population.

It is the only one of three surviving missions to survive and I have to say, it is in relatively good condition. It was severly worked on by conservators in the 1960s and there are three main phases to the site. 

The first was from 1831 - 40 when the Clarke family travelled from the UK and set up the first residence here. It took a long time to construct and the surrounding land was not as good for farming as originally thought. In 1842, the Selwyns came over, again from the UK. It took 109 days by boat. For the first 10 days they were  allowed to get used to sea sickness and the living conditions, then it was a full day's work and study. George Selwyn became the first Bishop of NZ, however, on arrival, his wife, Sarah, complained of the unfinished and drafty house that had become her home.

The Mission was not as successful as originally hoped and by the end of the 1800s, the once flourishing community which had a church, school, village houses and mill had dwindled. However, throughout its successful years, the mission did receive famous visitors such as Charles Darwin who commented on the wide range of vegtables that were able to be grown here due to the more pleasant climate.

The church is a later addition to what originally stood here. This one was built around 1880 and is very much of the English Gothic style.

In the work done in the 1960s it's internal appearance was taken back to the time of the Clarke's inhabitants, walls were stripped of wall paper and are not predominantly unpainted wooden slats. The upstairs originally had one main 6 pane Georgian sash window in the centre, instead of the three that exist today.

Though by English standards it is not very old, this building records some of the first steps that Europeans took on NZ soil, their contact with the land, the Maori indigenous and their attempts to survive so far from home and everything that was familiar. It holds a very important part in the history of NZ as part of the Western World and for that reason, it is absolutely stunning. If not rather chilly.