Kerikeri is about a 15-minute drive from Waitangi, where the Maori people and the British settlers signed the Treaty of Waitangi 140 years ago today. We weren’t sure what to expect, with activities beginning at 5:30 a.m., and protests at past events.

In the morning, we visited downtown Kerikeri and some of the suburban shops, and I stumbled across a shop with t-shirts for a really good price. NosyNeighbour wasn’t able to find one, and he really needs one, but I managed to pick up a few.

From there, we walked along the river to see the Wharepuke Falls. A drought has taken over most of the Northland, and the falls didn’t seem to have as much water spilling over the rocks as I remember. Must have a look at the old flickr photos. The path had been redone, leveled in spots, and boardwalks over marshy spots. Children were diving into their local swimming hole along the river.

Kerikeri was the first place in New Zealand where grape vines were planted. Samuel Marsden planted 100 vines on September 25, 1819 and noted in his journal that New Zealand promised to be very favourable to the vine.

After the walk, we picked up groceries for supper tonight, and more Steinlager because NosyNeighbour said it was a really good deal (NZ$15 for 18 beers, no tax and no deposit).  Then we had a lunch on our patio of ham and lettuce sandwiches with onion marmalade and baby carrots. NosyNeighbour was starting to feel quite congested by this point, and took a cold capsule.We waited about 15 minutes for it to kick in.

I’m glad we did wait, because once we got onto Highway 10 towards Waitangi there was a nasty accident that looked like it had just happened. An army vehicle had pulled over and and the guys started to direct traffic around the accident and check to make sure everyone was okay. We saw the police car and fire truck heading to the scene as we got closer to Waitangi.

Parking was quite organized for the day’s activities. A large parking lot had been set up on the outskirts, with school buses leaving every 10 minutes to bring people to and from the Treaty Grounds. Usually visitors have to NZ$20 if you’re not a kiwi, but today it was free for all (or at least we didn’t pay).

We weren’t sure what to expect. The only information we found on-line had said you could sign up for workshops or entertainment, but they all seemed to charge.

The grounds aren’t large, but they are spacious with a big lawn. The buildings are functional and well kept. It would have been nice to have more interpretation than just the plaques that were scattered. But we learned what we could and listened to the locals conversations as well.

In front of the marae, NosyNeighbour was posing with Timmy II, when something unusual happened. A woman came up with her bear and said, “Oh, have you got a traveling bear? So do I!” Then we both said at almost the same time: he’s got a blog!

Maori bringing in the waka at Waitangi Treaty Grounds, Waitangi Day 2010

From there we followed the signpost that directed us to the Maori war canoe (or waka). About 40  Maori men of all shapes, ages and sizes were pushing and lifting the waka into its boathouse. This is quite the ceremony in Maori culture, with singing and spirits being called.

We strolled around the grounds for a while, past tents set up selling food, crafts, clothing and art. By now NosyNeighbour’s cold was full blown, and it was time to chill out at the motel.

Looks like I’ll get my opportunity to drive tomorrow, given that I seem to be cold free so far.