We were up on Wednesday at 7.30am and turned on the TV to catch the news. Instead we got the end of the memorial service for Michael Jackson. We weren’t fans, but it was a moment to be a part of. I’d had a glimpse of his world-wide status when in Singapore in 1988. We’d been at the zoo when he arrived as it was closing for a private viewing. I’ll always remember everyone’s excitement – it was hard to imagine who might have created more – not the Pope or the Queen for starters. We stayed to watch his entourage of minivans drive by with the curtains pulled – somehow it was exciting to know he’d driven by a couple of metres away. Now he’s dead and it looked like a nice memorial service. It wasn’t long before I had a text from my daughter Laura passing through Wellington airport. She’d had a very early start from Dunedin, and a very cold start with -4 degrees at the airport! It was warmer here, but still only 12 degrees early on. She had to change planes at Auckland, and once she left there we headed to the airport here.
The airport here is called Bay of Islands/Kerikeri Airport, or Kerikeri/Bay of Islands Airport. We saw both on signs at the airport – they cannot even make up their minds on the correct order when they use both. Can you imagine anything so stupid or confusing as an airport with two names? On tickets they use either Kerikeri or Bay of Islands and it honestly appears to be random. Laura’s tickets coming up were to Bay of Islands airport. Going home she leaves from Kerikeri airport. It is unbelievably dumb – how many people waste how much time checking that it is the same place? There must have been an argument in the past about the name and they compromised by calling it both and either. Whatever – it is impressively stupid.
We found the airport-that-has-four-names without any trouble; luckily the road signs just said Airport and had a picture of an aeroplane on them. it is a lovely low-key airport. It has outside toilets and a coffee machine you put money in and a TV with teletext showing arrival and departures as it cycles through six screens. There is a sign in the toilets explaining that it is irrigation water that isn’t safe for drinking. The runway is interesting in that it rolls across the landscape. It looks like they found the flattest bit of land and sealed it. We were waiting outside near the baggage area. There were loudspeakers, and a voice over them that I thought might be an announcement about arrival. On reflection it may have been the pilot because the man in the baggage area hurried inside and got on the radio. Not long afterwards the plane landed on the rolling runway in a cloud of spray and disappeared into the distance; it turned out the airport was at the very end of the runway. Eventually the plane taxied back, and as it pulled up outside the terminal building the sun came out – a nice welcome for Laura. We called in at Kerikeri on the way back; the other half of our mail had turned up and we had a quick spin by the historic buildings down by the river just to see what was what. Then it was back to our RV Park and Suzi for lunch and settling in.
We were all a bit tired, but decided to hit the tourist spots running. After lunch we drove the couple of kilometres to Waitangi to visit the treaty grounds. The signs saying $20 entrance fee were a bit of a worry but the smaller print said that if we could prove we were from NZ we could get in for free. We watched a video in a theatre which explained about the treaty, and then wandered around the grounds.
There is a big flagpole on the lawn where the treaty was signed, a Maori meeting house built in the 1930s and the original house which has been built and rebuilt so many times it is all a bit confusing.
It was great to finally see the Waitangi Treaty grounds, but somehow the birthplace of our nation is a bit understated. Interestingly it was not until the 1930s that it was saved from oblivion and bought on the market by Lord Bledisloe the Governer General and gifted to a Trust that restored and redefined it all. We were a bit cold and tired by the time we’d wandered around it all so we drove the short distance to Paihia and enjoyed coffee and juice in the aquarium cafe on the waterfront. It was the perfect way to conclude our first day of touristing in the Bay of Islands.