Thursday, February 22, 2018

When Past meets Present

November 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Main Blog

Auckland city is the region that spans from the west coast with it’s rugged coast lines, black sand beaches, over mountain ranges, through the cosmopolitan ‘City of Sails’, over to the white sandy beaches of the east coast and on out to the islands of the Hauraki Gulf.

We’re here rounding out the last day of our trip North to the unveiling of my great grandmother Moewaka Jane Rapana and bunking down with my neices and their flatmate Freeman. Many years ago I lived here in Devonport (a historical maritime village on Auckland’s North Shore) before I trekked across the ditch to Sydney, Australia for the next 27 years. My eldest son, our only child at the time and me explored many of its nooks and crannies on my mountain bike (with it’s small person seat) and him resplendent in little person crash helmet and in-built harness. Josh was three at the time.

Our favourite place to ride was along the old wooden pier (now the Devonport Ferry Terminal) just a few minutes from home. Our home was a beautifully restored villa that was the original Ferry Master’s home further up Victoria Road and next to an old milk factory that was also being refurbished and fitted out as a home at the time. We explored so many parts of Devonport but our favourite place to stop for a swim or kayak at the weekends was at Cheltenham Beach.

“Devonport is at the very southern point of North Shore City and was one of the earliest settled areas of Auckland. The three small volcanic mountains there (Takapuna, Takarunga and Takaroro) were ideal for Maori pa (fortified settlements) as they had quality soil to grow kumaras (sweet potatoes) and its large tidal beaches to collect seafood.

The mountains are believed to have been occupied by Maori from about 1350AD. European settlement began in earnest in the mid 1800s, with farming and shipbuilding the main industries. In 1840 a flagstaff was raised on its highest hill (Mt Victoria or Takarunga, 81 metres) and the town became known as Flagstaff.

A deep water anchorage suitable for naval vessels was identified nearby, and the area became the base for the navy. Hence the name Devonport, after the English naval town. That one incidently is located in Plymouth, south West England: Devon and is “famous for its association with three prominent 16th century Englishmen, Sir John Hawkins (1532-1595), Sir Francis Drake 1540-1596) and Sir Walter Raleigh (1554-1618).

Plymouth played a major role in Britain’s naval history and has one of the best natural harbours in the world. The city’s Devonport Dockyards remains Western Europe’s largest naval base but is second in importance in Britain to Portsmouth.”

Back in New Zealand, Calliope Dock in Devonport was opened in 1888 and was the largest drydock in the Southern Hemisphere. The Royal New Zealand Navy still has its national base and also had a presence on North Head or Takapuna (65 metres), that is now administered by the Department of Conservation. There are still military tunnels and bunkers to be explored there and a newly opened park above Narrow Neck Beach is Fort Takapuna Historic Reserve which has in the past housed both Navy and Army.

In the 1880s much farm land was subdivided and large wooden villas were built in a style which has now become part of Devonport’s charm. The villas have been lovingly restored and repainted, and beautiful gardens developed around them to enhance their glory. Most of the houses are built of solid timber from the kauri tree, Agathis australis, a native tree known for its straight growth habit and lack of knots.”

But there’s a beautiful collision about to go down here now as past meets present. I’m overseeing my neice Tracy and her flatmate Freeman’s rendition of a food dish I introduced them to the last time I was here, chicken breast stuffed with apricots and pistachios, wrapped in bacon. That with a green salad and a glass of something ought to bring the blinds down on a lovely time here in Auckland. Tomorrow we’re on our way back to Hawkes Bay. Our hikoi (long journey) North like a beautiful sunset, warming and a real blinder!

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