Back to the land down under

John & Susan Simpson
Fri 12 Jan 2024 21:48
Our visit home to the UK passed in a whirlwind of visiting and catching up with relatives and friends, interrupted only be a wing-foiling sabbatical for John who spent a week in Egypt and a week in Fuerteventura with wing-foiling lessons booked.  We met up again in Gran Canaria with the idea that he would be able to demonstrate his newly learned skills but sadly both Egypt and Fuerteventura had been unusually windless so he’d only managed a few hours on the water.  Ah well, you can’t win them all!

After a lovely Christmas in Cambridge with all our children and grandchildren we flew back to Sydney, Australia to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks and bring in 2024 with our good friends Letitia and Derek on ‘Mary Doll’.  What a fantastic way to start the year!  
Fireworks from Sydney Harbour Bridge

We’ll be land travelling around New Zealand and Australia until the end of April before a quick trip home to the UK again and then some serious preparation on Casamara ready for leaving Australia bound for Indonesia at the beginning of June. 
Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House

If you’ve been following our journey across the Pacific you’ll know that Captain James Cook has featured quite often and we’ve been in awe of the journeys he, and others like him, made in exploring the world’s oceans.  We were pleased to be able to see the replica of his ship ‘Endeavour’ in the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney.  Long before we arrived here we had seen the same replica ship in Hull and it was good to revisit it now with the knowledge of our Pacific crossing for comparison.  It reminded us again how lucky we are to be sailing these waters with all mod cons and plenty of space for the two of us!
Replica of Captain Cook’s ship ‘Endeavour’ in Sydney harbour.

Captain Cook’s legacy in these parts is quite complex and, after visiting Sydney, I became curious about the impact of colonisation on present day Australia and New Zealand. In Sydney we saw prominent statements at the popular tourist sites acknowledging First Nations people.  This was the statement at the Australian National Maritime Museum:  “The Museum acknowledges the Gadigal people of the Eora nation as the Traditional Custodians of the bamal (earth) and badu (waters) on which the museum is located and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples throughout Australia.  We honour their continuing culture and connection to the land and sea.  We pay our respects to their Elders past and present, we extend that respect and recognition to all First Nations peoples”.  Yet I was aware that as recently as October last year Australian voters had voted not to change the country’s constitution to recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.  That seemed to be at odds with the statements we’d seen.  Australia remains the only Commonwealth country never to have signed a treaty with its indigenous inhabitants and it appears that the tone of the messages sent back to England by Captain Cook in 1770 could have been the catalyst for this situation.  Captain Cook had reported seeing few indigenous people on his arrival and those he did see appeared not to have any recognisable cultural systems, such as permanent housing, agriculture or transport.  This was in contrast to his experience elsewhere and therefore the aboriginal people he saw in Australia were regarded as savages.  As a result of his observations, when the first British colonisers arrived in 1788 they had no expectation that any rules of engagement would need to be agreed.  Australia was regarded by Europeans as belonging to no-one before that time.

And so, on to New Zealand for us.  We arrived in Auckland on 3rd January and will travel around the North and South Islands by car until 5th February.

Captain Cook arrived in New Zealand in 1769, the year before he reached Australia.  On making landfall on New Zealand’s North Island he encountered a large population of Maori people living around present-day Gisborne.  Captain Cook had with him on board the ‘Endeavour' a Tahitian priest who, because Tahitians and the Maori shared Polynesian ancestry, was able to converse with the Maori and understood their customs.  We met up with friends Helen and Steve from yacht ‘Cerulean’ in Auckland.  They are NZ citizens who had sailed their boat home from the UK and we had last seen them in Panama City back in March 2023!  It was interesting to hear Helen’s observation that she hadn’t realised the similarities between NZ culture and the South Pacific islands until she returned home sailing across the Pacific.  

Captain Cook’s arrival in New Zealand wasn’t without incident despite him having a go-between on board; a number of Maori were killed and others taken prisoner, and whilst there continued to be misunderstandings and conflicts for a number of decades, Captain Cook’s initial work eventually led to British colonisation through the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840.  The Treaty was essentially the document on which present day New Zealand was founded and was intended to govern the relationship between Maori and non-Maori inhabitants so that the indigenous people would not lose out.  The creation of an appeals process in 1975 will tell you that present day Maori people may not regard the enactment of the treaty as completely fair!  
Downtown Auckland

The same waterfront in 1901 - photo from the Maritime Museum

Typical Auckland scene - Victorian buildings alongside modern development

Our experience in Auckland gave the impression that Maori culture is well-recognised.  All signs and pubic announcements were bi-lingual in Maori and English.  Even the ginger-haired, fair-skinned young guide on our visit to ’The All-Blacks Experience’ was bi-lingual, having attended a bi-lingual school in Auckland.  It will be interesting to see whether this Maori / Non-Maori balance continues as we travel outside the big city and into more rural parts.