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.
great public art
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.