Kaitaia is my next port of call in this two weeks travel around Northland ( www.northlandnz.com) and after leaving Gumdiggers Park (see my previous post) as I continue along the Twin Coast Discovery route to what could be called the capital of the far north.
This area has an interesting mix of Dalmatian and Maori history: it is also home to the originator of ‘nek minnit” , a phrase that has been heard on lips of skateboarders through to a member of parliament (and which no doubt spelt death to the saying among young people!) Nek minnit was made popular by a kiwi skateboarder who appeared in a video that went viral and which shows his scooter, apparently destroyed outside a corner shop, known as a dairy here – although the skateboarder made the video, I believe it was from one of his Kaitaia cousins he first heard it!
I check into Mainstreet Lodge a clean and friendly travellers lodge in the centre of town and where I meet Mike, the new owner and manager. Not surprisingly, I have just heard Mainstreet has doubled its occupancy over the past year under the new ownership and updating.
I believe this accommodation will also be a boon to people walking the Te Araroa trail – hike that takes people the 3000km (1864 miles) from the top of New Zealand to the bottom: of course it can be done in stages!
One of the unique points about this place is it’s the only place I know of that has a Whare – a Maori meeting house. This house grew out of a Maori carving school and some of the carvings were made at the school and so Whare Te Ohonga was born – the name means “The Awakening”.
I took a look around the new Te Ahu Centre on the corner of Matthews Ave & South Road which has some impressive design work. I’m told it houses a library, museum, cafe, i-SITE and the Far North District Council service centre as well as the Little Theatre, Te Ahu Cinema and Community Hall so can be well-used by locals and visitors alike.
More than 100 Perspex versions of one my favourite birds, the kuaka (bar-tailed godwits) hang from the atriums ceiling and the flight formation mimics the migratory birds amazing annual journey to the Northern Hemisphere – seems it likes a perpetual summer despite the huge journey twice a year.
Carvers working under the direction of tohunga whakairo (master carver) Paul Marshall have completed four, seven-metre pou (rather like totem poles) representing Pakeha, Te Rarawa, Ngai Takoto and Ngati Kuri.
They encircle the atrium and look down on a giant stingray etched in a polished concrete floor symbolising the seafloor and Te Hiku o te Ika – the tail of the fish. Three more pou representing Te Aupouri, Ngati Kahu and people of Dalmatian descent stand there.
A floor-to-ceiling fibre-glass kauri tree and swing bridge have been installed in the library where a wall mural evokes native bush and it’s well worth visiting this place on your travels especially as my photos do not do it justice,
What are your must-do and must-see suggestions to see in this provincial town? Of course it’s the jumping off place for trips up to Cape Reinga and that will be my next blog .. a day trip with Sand Safaris to Cape Reinga via 90 Mile Beach.