64. Peace in the Far North: Ruapekapeka Pā

We stayed for two nights near the town of Ohaeawai and took a day to shoot on to Ruapekapeka Pā, a historic fortified pā which we somehow annoyingly missed on our way north a few weeks ago.

Ruapekapeka Pā is the site of the final battle in the Far North between Māori warriors and English soldiers. It happened in 1846, so it was only the beginning of the New Zealand Wars which would continue to play out further south for almost three decades. The English at this early stage believed they had the superior strategies and strength and thought Māori would be easily defeated. However the reality was completely different as Māori had developed trench warfare which the English knew nothing about, so this was a key piece of learning the English went through after the battle at Ruapekapeka Pā was over, when they got to survey the earthworks and fortifications.

Near the town of Ohaeawai are the showgrounds for the Bay of Islands P&I (Pastoral and Industrial) Association where you can park for $10 per night and even have power if you’re in quick!
These sorts of places to park up are available everywhere, making it entirely possible to take these extended road trips. In addition to the physical space there’s also a financial side – if we had to pay for motorcamps each night – which can range from $40 – $60 per night (although some motorcamps have winter rates that halve those amounts, even occasionally dropping as low as $15) – then we’d be thinking twice about going. So we are very grateful for the extensive network of people and places that make this kind of travelling possible…and we’d better take our turn at helping at before long; maybe by volunteering for working bees on NZMCA park up grounds!
See these beautiful trees in the showgrounds, all growing out of a bed of pink flowers scattered on the grass beneath them.
En route to Ruapekapeka Pā we had a quick stop to see the historic Pakaraka Pā and Church, a meeting point in the 1800’s for Māori and missionaries and a place they worked together. It was very early in the day so of course no one was around for us to talk with, pity.
This is what the farmland looks like, nearing Ruapekapeka Pā; lovely rolling hills of green grass and trees that surely must house some of the happiest cows in the country.
Here, we are looking out over the countryside from outside the entrance to Ruapekapeka Pā – pā were always built on the highest, most strategic points around.
The entrance way to Ruapekapeka Pā…
This board shows a close approximation of what Ruapekapeka Pā looked like when it was first built. After the battle was all over (an impasse was reached with 500 Māori battling 1600 English who had far more weaponry) the English, impressed and realising they had a lesson sitting in front of them, drew plans and made a model of Ruapekapeka Pā to be used for military education back in England.

There are information boards scattered around that give a lot of detail – for once Kevin took longer to read through it all than me – must’ve been all that war stuff lol.

Incidentally the wood used in the building of the fortifications was puriri – also called mahogany or teak – as it was the hardest, strongest wood around. Bullets would get stuck in it rather than go through. We read about puriri wood back at Wairere Boulders, learning that it was such a strong wood that it was used by early farming Europeans to make bullock yokes.
This pouwhenua stands over the Ruapekapeka Pā site, calling the mihi/greeting of iwi/tribe Ngāti Hau (written on a plaque at its base), who have ancestors that fought here.
This shows the earthen defences of the English.
And the next few shots show the earthen defences of Māori – trenches, bunkers and connected tunnels – all dug and built by hand.
Kevin wanted to walk back through the battlegrounds but I’d had enough of war and fighting and besides, I found out that there was a manicured path leading back to the carpark through – a puriri forest! The forest borders the northern side of Ruapekapeka Pā, a stunning few hectares of original forest.
I fell in love with puriri trees on this walk…
Flowers are strewn and pretty all over the track – the puriri tree flowers for several months over each winter.
Driving home to the caravan at the Bay of Islands P&I Association showgrounds, the light and patterns in the majestic clouds made sure they were not forgotten as one of the lovely sights of this day.
Remember this photo?
It’s not until we arrived back to the Bay of Islands P&I Association grounds and our caravan that I realised they were puriri trees. Of course!

We first saw a puriri tree in the grounds of the museum in Kororāreka/Russel but looking at the ones in the forest at Ruapekapeka and these ones dotted around the showgrounds, that one was just a baby! Albeit a baby that will one day be grown…

One thought on “64. Peace in the Far North: Ruapekapeka Pā”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s