We had the two remaining eggs for breakfast, soft-boiled, because there were egg cups in the cupboard, and when life hands you egg cups, you might as well make soft-boiled eggs.
This was our day to leave the Bay of Islands, but the question remained as to in what direction. After the marathon of driving on Saturday, it was clear we didn’t want to do the whole thing in one shot, so the plan was to get within a couple of hours from Auckland and stop for the night. The choices were either to go back the way we came or take the longer, potentially more scenic route by way of the west coast, to look at some big trees. Big trees seem to run in the family, so ultimately we decided on the latter, but not until after we had had ourselves some history.
The story of relations between New Zealand’s white settlers and native Maori is a longish and I’m sure deeply complicated one, but on the surface it’s pretty familiar. Discovery, distrust, trade, disease, settlement, attacks, treaties, racism, broken treaties, attempts at elimination of culture, re-examination of treaties, hasty reconstruction of history, bilingual signage, inclusive mural painting, etc. Anyway, the big-time treaty that got the ball rolling here was signed at a place across the harbor from Russell, so we stopped by to have a look.
The Watangi Treaty grounds are certainly very historic, as well as being scenic and culturally sensitive. We viewed them in the company of several school groups, including one where the girls’ uniforms included ankle-length skirts and straw hats. They (the grounds, not the schoolgirls) also had the biggest camelia bush (tree?) I have ever seen. Seriously, that thing must have been thirty feet tall. I have pictures.
It is a surprisingly long way from one side of the little strip on top of New Zealand to the other, with very few people in between. We stopped for lunch at the only town we passed through that had more than one paved street, at a place that would have done Roadfood proud. It was a cafe tucked in the back of a home-supply and hardware store, with tables out in the garden section. And the food wasn’t bad, as long as you had generous definitions of the components. For example, if you were willing to accept a bagel as a peice of white bread with a hole in the middle, and cream cheese as a kind of creamy herb spread, then the fact that the smoked salmon was delicious could just put the dish over the border into actually tasty.
We were down to about a quarter tank of gas when we stopped for lunch, but we didn’t worry too much about it. The little car was getting great milage, and the gas stations here were inconveniently located on the other side of the road, so we’d just push on to the next ones. It was nothing to worry about. (This is what is known as foreshadowing. It isn’t very sublte.)