Oh dear - I just spent an hour writing a long long piece about Paihia and the Maori history of this beautiful area - and it didn't save! So now I'll try to write something again, but much shorter....
We're here in Paihia on the beautiful Bay of Islands for 2 days, and it's been really exhilerating - we've been on a ferry trip to the 'historic' town of Russell (which is a joke because it's not really historic at all, but in New Zealand terms it is!), we've driven up into the hills to see the Haruri waterfall, and on the way Owen was ecstatic to see countless kingfishers and a huge bird of prey which we both think was an eagle! We've been to Waitangi, where the treaty was signed in 1840 between the Maori chiefs and the Britsh government - which is elevated by the NZ government as a kind of Magna Carta which marks the birth of the New Zealand state as a brotherly bond of peoples and is the cornerstone of modern day kiwi race relations - but it sounds like political spin to me - I can't see how the treaty helped the Maoris, who suffered terribly under Birtish imperialism. Whatever, the Bay of Islands has very speical historical significance to the Kiwis as the 'birthplace of the nation' and the first landing place of the British explorers (Captain Cook - who was then Lt Cook - landed here in 1769 at a place marked by a plaque).
The big highlight for us was the boat trip we took today all around the Bay of Islands with a great Maori guide called John, who was amazing - he looked like one of the old Maori elders in the paintings in the museum, he had a warm intelligence and a lovely way of spinning a yarn - I could have listened to him all day. We stopped on Urupukapuka island (one of the 144 islands in the bay) and walked up to the top of a hill where once was a Maori pa or hill fort. He talked us through the story of the settlers arriving in the bay from a Maori point of view. And the other great moment of the boat trip was when we were out of the bay on the ocean and we were joined by two pods of bottlenose dolphins - that was really special!
The NZ weather has taken a sharp turn for the worse today with a polar blast from the Antarctic - although we're protected from it quite a bit here in the sheltered bay - and we've had 4 seasons in one day - it was lovely and sunny when we set off on the boat trip, vut when we saw the dolphins we were being lashed by icy rain! We saw on the TV news this morning that the South island is being swept by blizzards again, and all those mountain pass roads we drove through last week are totally impassable now - Queenstown is marooned by snow. Auckland has had its first snow for 70 years! But our itinerary has been unbelievably kind to us! It's cold now but we've just had a lovely soak in the hot pool at our backpackers....bliss!