Back to Our Roots

My dad’s family are from a great big city in the north of New Zealand called Kaikohe. Haha, that’s funny because as any northlander would know, it’s not big, and it’s most definitely not a city, but I guess to some people it is in a lot of ways, great. My husband and I have decided that we want to travel around New Zealand more with our little family. We’ve seen how beautiful the drive is from Christchurch to Queenstown and all the little towns in between. Tekapo is one of our favourite places. At the end of last year and beginning of this year we spent some time down in Hastings where my mum’s family are from. So this year we wanted to go back up north. The bulk of my dad’s family don’t live there any more so we rarely ever visit, and when we do it’s usually for a funeral. For Queen’s birthday weekend I wanted to stay in Paihia so we booked a motel and spent 2 days there. It was so nice being up north again. We spent Monday morning walking around Paihia township. It took us all of 13 minutes. Literally. The weather was cold and cloudy, but beautiful nonetheless. It was the perfect relaxing getaway from busy Auckland.

I really wanted to take Aston on a marae and what better place to experience that than Waitangi itself. With so much history, it was an eyeopening experience for us. Although she spent most of the time asleep. We were able to go through the museum, then we were taken on a guided tour. Our tour guide was awesome. He knew a lot about Maori history and it was all quite interesting. Some of the stuff was familiar to me as I’d learnt about it in high school and had taken this same tour with my teacher – yes, Brother Oldfield, I paid attention to what you taught. The tour was followed by a marae experience and it was awesome. They did a powhiri (welcome) and when we got inside they did a cultural performance. Aston’s eyes were wide as she watched and she had a lot of smiles going on. I’m so grateful we were able to do that with her.

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Before Europeans arrived in New Zealand Maori did not have a written language. They used carvings, weaving, and painting to communicate in a written form, like this carving. This is a self-portrait carved by Ngapuhi chief Hongi Hika. The carvings express a detailed story of his identity and his relationship with his world. The letters in the background and in the photo below are a sample of the handwriting that he learnt from his missionary friend, Thomas Kendall.

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This is the Treaty of Waitangi – the Waitangi version. I didn’t know that different parts of New Zealand had different versions. They had a whole lot of them here.

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This is a Kauri tree. It was used to make the waka in the below photos. The way these waka were build was amazing. Maori were very smart in the way they designed them.

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Apparently she finds my sticker horrendous.

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Something new I learnt: New Zealand has 2 registered flags; the one we have now and the United Tribes of New Zealand flag. The King (don’t ask me which one. I don’t remember) made it so that the United Tribes of NZ flag couldn’t be deregistered even if the current flag changed.

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The next day we caught the car ferry to Russell for lunch. Sadly the food was a little disappointing. But the town itself is full of history. Russell, or Kororareka as it was originally called, was the first capital of New Zealand. It is where European settlers first arrived and also carries a lot of negative history as it was dubbed ‘the hell hole of New Zealand’. Let’s just say there was a whole lotta killing going on there.

As we were walking along the waterfront I was reminding my husband of the ice cream sandwiches we had in Sausalito, California, and how I so badly wanted one. Yes, even in the cold weather. Have you tasted New Zealand ice cream? Well as I was talking about it Bryton says “Look!” and points to a sign right ahead of us. It was a sign for an ice cream burger! So I went and bought one with white chocolate and raspberry ice cream. It is basically ice cream in a donut. They cut the donut in half like a burger bun, put your ice cream in between, and squash it with a sandwich press. My goodness it was yummy and exactly what I needed!

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The bottom headstone is my Papa’s

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My Great-Grandparents
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My Uncle Tai

After we left Russell we drove to the Kaikohe Cemetery where my Papa is buried. I really wanted to take Aston there. I know it might seem weird, but my siblings and I have this tradition where we always leave fruit burst lollies at his grave whenever we visit. Those were some of his favourite lollies, I remember always seeing some at his house. So Aston and I left some for him. My Great-Grandparents (Nana’s parents) and my Uncle Tai (Nana’s brother) are also buried there.

It was great to be able to take my little love up north. It was such a nice cultural and historic experience for us. I want her to be proud of her heritage and all of the cultures that are in her blood. I’ve never been too into my Maori culture but I’ve recently felt a lot of pride around it and I think that has a lot to do with Aston and me offering as much as I can to her life experience. So it was nice to start back at my roots.

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