Mana, missionaries, mayhem
From 16-18 October 2020
By Steph Godsiff
There is so much heritage, history and culture in the Bay of Islands, rich in Maori and pre-European stories of how the country was settled. On the Bay of Islands Walking Weekend we have introduced a new walk this year which brings these stories to life. It makes a huge difference being in a location and really understanding what went on – often in the spot you are sitting. “Mana, missionaries and mayhem” sets the scene perfectly for your time in Russell.
Russell (Kororareka as it was then known) was once the main trading port in Aotearoa, with the infamous reputation as the ‘hell hole of the Pacific’. Home to American whalers and traders of all nations, it was a scene of ‘uncivilised behaviour’ described by Charles Darwin in his visit to New Zealand in 1835 as ‘the land of cannibalism, murder and all atrocious crimes’.
It was known then as the biggest whaling port in the Southern Hemisphere and turned out to be a bit of an eye opener for the missionaries. Up to 500 whalers at a time would arrive in Russell after twelve months at sea, and with Russell having no effective law enforcement agency, the scene was not ideal. Prostitution was one of the area’s largest industries and many local women frequently entered 3-week marriages.
It is anything but that today as your guided walk in this enchanting seaside town will soon reveal. Indeed, alongside this picture of ‘vice’ ran the voice of ‘virtue’ as Missionaries sought to convert local Maori (and anyone else who would listen) to Christianity.
There is a decent hike up through magnificent Kororareka Point Reserve to Te Maiki Hill where a party led by the famed Maori chief Hone Heke felled the flagstaff for the final time in 1845 sparking the Battle of Kororareka, the first of the Northern Wars. Take in New Zealand’s oldest surviving church, Christ Church built 1836, where bullet holes from musket fire of the Northern Wars can still be seen in its walls, and New Zealand’s oldest factory – the 1841 Printery, Tannery and Bindery at Pompallier Mission. Oldest factory makes it sound somewhat dull! Pompallier Mission is anything but – it’s set on the water’s edge and is a stunning French building set in gorgeous grounds.
Finish this walk with a taste at New Zealand’s oldest licensed hotel The Duke of Marlborough. The Duke of Marlborough began its life in 1827 as “Johnny Johnston’s Grog Shop”. The owner Johnny Johnston was an ex-convict come good, he became fluent in Te Reo Maori and was very well regarded by the local Maori. This relationship led to Johnny being able to purchase the freehold site of the Duke – which was one of the first land sales to a European in New Zealand. To sit on the deck enjoying a cold drink overlooking the water is a real pleasure – made more so as you imagine the days gone by.
This walk is fascinating and includes a private tour of Pompallier Mission and a drink at the Duke.
The Bay of Island Walking Weekend has over 20 walks to choose from, it is in its 7th year and has many repeat walkers coming each year which speaks volumes for the event. You can walk the islands – travelling out by sail boat, tall ship or launch, we walk to vineyards for tastings and platters, stroll past oyster farms and enjoy seafood feasts, stay overnight at Iconic Cape Brett, we walk and kayak and we walk and bike! The weekend is over 3 days, walks are guided, and group size is limited. It is a fun social weekend right in the heart of the Bay of Islands.
View the website www.boiwalkingweekend.co.nz
Call us 021 122 9307