Some rubbish/skip truck clanged noisily around Whangarei at about 5:30am on Monday morning. Not that we are complaining – after all we had parked in a carpark downtown. We were up early thinking we’d need to move on somewhere. I discovered that there was a second car park further down the basin; this one looked more the motorhome hangout. There were a couple of buses parked up there, and we soon joined them with Suzi. Already it was quieter here, beside the marina. The morning started overcast and wet but then cleared for a few hours. We got chatting to another couple with a motorhome I recognised from the Dunedin Motorhomes yard back in the middle of last year. Sure enough they are a couple from Dunedin who are wise in the ways of living on the road full-time.
The previous day I’d discovered that one of the wing mirrors on the car was broken. It just fell while I was giving the car a bit of a clean. So I hunted out the Toyota place in Whangarei. Actually I could see them across the road from our first car park. They were able to find a second hand one – it was surprising how difficult that was given that we have a NZ-new Toyota Corolla. I’d always thought that having a NZ-new common 2000 car was a bit of an insurance policy for when things go wrong. Maybe they don’t get wrecked enough yet. While there I worked out that the car is overdue for a service. It’s hard to tell how overdue because it’s been towed for thousands of kilometres. But the oil was trying to tell me something, and I think it was saying “change me you unthinking ….” I booked it in for Tuesday afternoon and hope that the mirror turns up by then as well. There’s plenty to do in Whangarei and we had a day up our sleeves on our hazy itinerary anyway.
Even though the day was getting wet we headed out for a walk later in the morning. We drove to Mair Park and headed off up to the Parihaka lookout. We got ourselves lost getting out of the car park – woops. We soon found the right way and crossed the bridge and headed off along and up. We had a good brochure on the tracks around town – well done Whangarei. The marking of the tracks was not quite so good, and it turned out that the map and the tracks didn’t quite coincide. We wanted t take the second track up; the first one was shown as leading up from the bridge. So we took the track up the river towards where the second one was marked on the map. After 5-10 minutes we came to a junction with a track heading up the hill. This was named as the track that was shown from the bridge. Confused, we decided to cut our losses and take this one up. This was lucky because further up where the track we had planned to take joined this one it was blocked off with Track Closed signs. Perhaps this was information that should have been conveyed back at the start of the tracks.
They are good tracks; well formed and mostly gravelled for all-weather use. We were appreciative of that as it was raining for much of the time – not heavy and not cold. Higher up through the lovely bush we came to a good sign showing some of the remnants of Maori settlement. We were able to make out many of the pits and a stone hearth in one spot. Apparently the settlement extended along 3kms of ridge and included 3 heavily defended pa sites. More than 100 household terraces and 300 kumara pits have been identified. It was an extensive settlement. It is surprising how few of the pa sites in New Zealand have information/interpretation signs. I’m not sure whether we’re trying to pretend that they didn’t exist or whether we’re trying to hide them to protect them. This one had just the single sign and that is the best effort we’ve seen so far. It is fascinating to imagine the busy community 300 years ago.
From there it was an easy walk to the top and the lookout, where we looked out once again across Whangarei. It was a good place to figure out where the various shops are; like having a giant model of the city. It started to remind us a bit of the view of Dunedin from Signal Hill lookout. We headed down a different track back to the car; the whole outing taking a couple of hours. It never got too wet and was a lovely walk through lovely bush. We headed back to Suzi for late lunch and later in the afternoon headed across town looking for the motorhome place that someone somewhere said had o-ring kits for Dometic vacuum toilets in stock. We found the place and sure enough they had the kits and were happy to acquire one – just in case we need one. It’s been a bit like the search for the Holy Grail – it’s surprising how few places stock them. From there we found our way back towards downtown, finding the shopping complex we’d spotted from up the hill. Dick Smiths had some 2 Degree phones and Wyn bought one, keen to take advantage of their better prices. A new Telecom phone on pre-pay has their wonderful new “easy-to-understand” flat rate of 89 cents to call any sort of phone in NZ. 2 Degrees has the same sort of thing, except their flat rate is 44 cents. At long last NZ mobile phone charges might be going to get more sensible. Might there even be a time coming when it doesn’t make sense to have a phone for each network? (I’ve even contemplated getting a second Telecom one because I’m only allowed 3 Favourites per phone!) She/we had fun for the rest of the evening figuring out how to use the new phone – once we’d figured out how and where to get the darn sim card in.