Since everyone in my host-family was busy with moving house, I took the ferry over to Russell, the original capital of New Zealand, by myself. It ended up being perfect. I doubt they would have particularly enjoyed revisiting sights and museums 20 minutes away from home and it was nice to have an afternoon to myself. Everyone’s been absolutely lovely, but I am used to being very independent and spending hours alone every day, so I found it very relaxing.
The first thing I did was visit the Museum, where I learned a great deal about the history of Russell, or Kororareka as it was originally called. There were some beautiful Maori artifacts, some local animal remains (has anybody noticed that Whale bones are really BIG) and a video telling the history of the place. It’s history as a European settlement began in an ignominious way; as a haven for whalers and other sailors: a rough crowd. It is known for having the first liquor license in New Zealand and Charles Darwin, who visited during his first voyage on the Beagle, said it contained “the very refuse of society”. I however, found it charming, if a little touristy.
I think I’ll let the pictures I took tell the tale of the view available from the flagstaff.
I hiked down the back way, which was lovely. The giant fern trees made “the bush” look like a pre-historic forest, albeit one with nicely marked paths. Partway down, I met a couple stopped by the side of the path who told me in quietly excited voices that there was a kiwi. I sincerely doubted it was actually a kiwi since they are nocturnal and notoriously shy and it was 3 PM on a well-trodden trail, but I stuck around in the off-chance they were right. They weren’t. A quartet of Japanese tourists came up behind us and, after also telling them there was a kiwi, the couple went on their way. The bird wandered closer. “That’s not a Kiwi,” said one of the Japanese men, clearly confused. “No, it’s not. It’s a Weka,” was my response. Upon seeing it so close, within 8 feet or so, I was now sure. The weka, or short-billed kiwi as it is fondly and misleadingly called, is often mistaken for a kiwi by tourists, but they are actually unrelated to kiwis and quite common. A park ranger once told my dad that it is amusing to get tourists who hit them with their car riled up before telling them this.
I ran into the couple farther down the hill and informed them of their mistake. Perhaps I should have let them live in blissful ignorance as, for my trouble, I was informed that I had “ruined their day”. It was said playfully, I think.
I finished out my excursion by dipping my feet in the Pacific for the first time this trip and walking barefoot along the rough, rocky beach back to the wharf. It was lovely.