Today we are starting to get away from the crowds and hopefully into a quieter New Zealand. New Zealand has just over 4 million inhabitants,1.5 million of them live in Auckland and most of the rest live in North Island. Because it is the summer holidays, the popular areas can be crowded with locals and tourists. (Remember however that it has twice the land area of England and half the population of London).
Heading west, the landscape rapidly becomes very rural with mountains and forests more dominant than fields. Towns start to enter frozen time, this hotel was built in 1898 and seems virtually unchanged with its corrugated roof and wide veranda.
Our target is Rawene (meaning “sun setting”) which is the
This is in fact sunset at Rawene – not as dramatic as we have seen elsewhere but still quite nice
third oldest town in NZ and is some 70kms from the east coast - New Zealand being so narrow at this point, it is only about 20 kms from the west coast. It made its wealth from the logging trade because ships could sail in through the
mouth of the Hokianga Harbour (shown above) as the sound is known, moor at Rawene when the tide changed (there where three pubs plus other entertainments to keep the crew occupied), pick up the next tide and continue inland up the sound into the middle of New Zealand and close to nearby Kauri forests.
Kauri logging is now illegal (more on this later) and the town would have died totally were it not for the fact that it is one end of the hourly day-time ferry which is the only way to cross the sound if you are driving up the west coast of South Island.
As we entered Rawene, our satnav started issuing very unlikely instructions in order to get us to our destination. All of the roads we were being instructed to go up either did not exist, were very steep, or seemed to lead directly into the hospital, various front gardens and other improbable routes. Eventually we decided to ignore Bruce and use common sense and look for a sign – there was one and we arrived.
Our difficulty was explained by the site owner. The town plan for Rawene was drawn in London some 170 years ago by someone who had never been to Rawene let alone New Zealand and had no idea of the local topography. To this town planner, the ideal shape for the town of Rawene (which is situated on a narrowing isthmus) was one straight central street (called Parnell Street) with a grid of side streets running off it. The problem was that these side
streets would have to go up very steep hillsides, many through thick forest, most impossible to construct – so in the town itself, they ignored the town planner and put streets where they could go but never bothered to tell him about the changes. His maps became the official maps of how the town was laid out (and presumably still exist on file somewhere in New Zealand House in London) and the SatNav mappers have used maps based on the original theoretical map. Locals therefore are well used to vehicles driving into their front gardens with a puzzled expression on the face of the driver.
Look at the map above (which represents reality), officially Maning street is connected to Honey, Nimmo is a continuous street on either side of Parnell Street, you can turn right on Parnell to get to Birch etc – take our word for it, they are not even though our SatNav is convinced they are. When we left the town., our SatNav again tried to take us up very steep roads which were “dead-ends” because it was programmed with the 1840s map.
Apart from stunning views:
the town also has numerous buildings dating from the 1800s which are still in use. These include rather a large number of churches (5):
Overall, it is a very picturesque town in magnificent countryside where time has stopped.