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Chatham Islands Holiday

Some 500 miles to the east of New Zealand lie the Chatham Islands. Iris & I have always wanted to visit and this year we’ve managed to spend a week there.

So this is the second post in the series






Our 2nd Day  September 27th,

The gale was still blowing hard, but longer fine periods, and the showers lighter. We joined with Andrew and Pam for a guided tour of the North East part of the Island. Chathams Hotel do a complete service, and Paige was our guide.







The morning dawned fine, but still blowing a full gale




Shark Teeth Fossils

Paige had told us she was an expert at finding sharks teeth, and so she was.  I found just a tiny sliver of one, but we both found lots of fossilised kina spins, and I don’t think Pam and Andrew did any better.
But Paige found several and she very kindly gave Iris and I some to remember her and her home … she lives just above the “fossil beach” .



Gardens 1

Admiral Gardens

We visited Admiral gardens, which name puzzled me until I realised that these lovely insects were quite common on the Chathams, and especially  for Lois & Val Croon, artists and gardeners they are their “signature”
The gardens are set in a sheltering grove of macrocarpas and other exotics and even though outside the wind was still very strong, the gardens were an oasis of calm




Admiral Gardens 

Art works looking down from Admiral Gardens to nearby Lake Marakaoia 



Gardens 2

Admiral Gardens 



Forget me not

Chatham Island Forget-me-Not

We were a little early but these iconic Chatham herbs were just coming into bloom 



Forget me not 2

Chatham Island Forget-me-Not




Paige showing us the Moriori Tree Impressions.

The story of the original inhabitants of the Chathams is a sad one. A very peaceful people who walked away from violence and were overwhelmed by an invasion of North Island Maori around 1835.
They were enslaved, many killed and eaten, and the last full blooded Moriori died in 1933.
I’m not particularly sensitive to aura, but even I felt a strong sense of tranquility in this forest .



Lunch at Ocean Mail

Again stopping at Ocean Mail, this time for Lunch

One of the many interpretive DoC panels



Fish Boat


Our final stop of the day was into Wharekauri, where Paiges family farms, and fishes.
Many of the local fishers haul their boats out each day. And looking at some of the home “ports” I can understand why
Even the best of them are only barely sheltered, and the most exposed are just open or semi open beaches.
So jet boats make good sense. Quick, maneuverable, and easy to trailer.
And one of the fishermen told me mooring insurance was eye wateringly expensive. 




Home Port

Home Port

This beach is where they fish from. It is horribly exposed to anything from West through north to Southeast, and vulnerable to any roll at all.
The long gutterway off the beach has something of a reef off it, but protection is marginal to say the least>
And the sea certainly gets to the tractors used to launch and haul out.



Our Second Days Exploration.

Paige started off with a visit to where the fossilised sharks teeth are found on the shore of Te Whanga Lagoon. And as promised she could spot them. Me, not so well, although I did find a sliver of a tooth. In defense the wind ripples on the water did not aid the search. Paige lives close to the beach, and told us that after a suitable storm she’ll have a search, and has found over 100 on occasions.

From there we went to Admiral Gardens, nestled in a grove of pine trees planted in the ’80s they are both a garden and an art display. The gardens are the work of Lois & Val, and cover around 2 acres. The name comes from the Admiral butterflies which made an appearance when the garden was developed. Lois showed us around, and Iris was in her element … gardeners heaven.

From there we followed the road towards Kaingaroa … where we were the day before … but having a guide, and Paige is a great guide, with both the Island story, and also about her life there just added so much to the day. We turned south, past the old airfield site to the J.M.Barker (Hapupu) Historic Reserve. Access to the Reserve is only with a guide, and here Paige showed us some of the only remaining “rakau momori” (tree carvings) to be found on the Island. These carvings by Moriori depict ancestors and symbols of the ancient world. Sadly time, habitat destruction and tree growth means that what was once found over much of the Island is now found only in this reserve. On a more positive note, fencing and protection in the ’80’s means the forest is regenerating well.

Lunch was had at Ocean Mail Beach, and then west towards North Farm which is owned by Paige’s family. Andrew and Pam are farmers, and I grew up on a farm, so Paiges explanation of Chathams farming was particularly interesting. Fishing is part of their income stream, and we went to where they launch from. Not a harbour, or at least not as I would expect to see, really just a 100 metre channel between two reefs leading onto a gently sloping beach. Scary stuff if a roll gets up while you are at sea, and your only way home is onto a trailer on a surf beach.

And then back to Waitangi. The wind appeared to be easing, but with the plane still U/S tomorrow looked like being a fishing boat crossing from Owenga to Pitt Island