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Dashing Through the Northland

(Reprint from News: February 7, 2002)

February 6, 2002


I headed out of Auckland the next morning and spent the next few days exploring the Northland.  There are some pretty amazing places in the Northland, including the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga, and I really wished that I had more time to spend here.  At first, I wasn't sure if I wanted to drive all the way up to Cape Reinga on the northernmost tip of New Zealand, especially since the last 20 miles of the drive were on a dirt road, which my car wasn't insured on.  However, since I had driven to the southernmost tip at Bluff four weeks earlier, I figured I better make it up to Cape Reinga, as well.  I'm glad I did, too, because this is one of the most spectacular parts of the country.  Standing by the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, you really feel like you're at the end of the world.


On my way back to Auckland that afternoon, I dropped by the town of Waitangi, one of the oldest European settlements in New Zealand.  As luck would have it, this was February 6, also known as Waitangi Day, New Zealand's national holiday and similar to the 4th of July in the U.S.  As I discovered, being in Waitangi on Waitangi Day is a bit like being in Philadelphia on Independence Day, or in Punxsatawney, Pennsylvania on Groundhog Day.


I've already touched on the Maori situation in New Zealand, but I'll fill in some of the details here.  On February 6, 1840, the English and the Maoris signed a treaty in Waitangi bringing the Maoris under the protection of the English.  By signing the treaty, the Maoris didn't give up any land, but they did allow English agents to act as intermediaries to buy land from the Maoris and then sell it to English colonists -- not at all like the land-grabs that took place in North America between the American settlers and Native Americans. 


In general, the relationship between the Maoris and the whites was (and is) much smoother than the situation in American between whites and Native Americans.  Overall, one of the things I've been impressed with in New Zealand is how much better the native tribes have assimilated into the white culture compared to how Native Americans have been treated in the U.S.  Maybe "co-exist" is a better word than "assimilate" though, since, although more evident in the north than in the south, the Maori culture is very strong throughout New Zealand and Maoris are treated much more as equals than Native Americans are in the U.S.


After driving over 500 kilometers (300 miles) that day on narrow, winding roads out to Cape Reinga and down to Waitangi, my one-hour drive to the Auckland airport the next morning was downright leisurely.  I filled up the Corolla's tank and dropped the car off with Sigit at Easy Rental who was happy to see me, and his car, back in one piece.  After we had a nice chat, Sigit drove me out to the airport where I said goodbye and bade farewell to the trusty Corolla, which had carried me 8,000 kilometers around New Zealand without a lick of trouble.  Sigit's a good guy, he runs an efficient company, and if you want to rent a mid-1990s car in New Zealand for a few weeks or a few months at a much better rate than you can get from Hertz or Avis, I'd recommend contacting him at www.easyrental.co.nz  

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Above left:  Heading through the Northland (the peninsula north of Auckland) the next day.  This is near Dargaville.

Above right:  Check out the license plate:  "Dels V8".


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Above left:  Typical vista in the Northland.

Above center:  Heading up to Cape Reinga, near the end of Highway 1.  

Above right:  Looking west from Cape Reinga, the northernmost point in New Zealand.  That's the westernmost point in New Zealand off in the distance.


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Above left:  The lighthouse at Cape Reinga, on a beautiful, windy afternoon.

Above center:  The signpost at Cape Reinga, and as far north as you can go in New Zealand.  I've now been to the northernmost and southernmost points of the country.

Above right:  Cable Bay near Kaitaia.


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