Lucia and I with part of the cultural group from Waitangi.

Lucia and I with part of the cultural group from Waitangi.

Lucia and I took up an opportunity offered to all Far North residents for the month of May. We visited one of our favourite local places – Waitangi – and watched and participated in a cultural performance and a guided tour, for free. I encourage others to do the same. Good things are happening at Waitangi!

I say participated in the cultural performance because it began with a powhiri outside Te Whare Runanga and then progressed to a dynamic show inside the marae. I overheard a conversation between a performer and visitor from the Whangarei i-SITE. It seems some tour companies have been so impressed that they are now bringing overseas visitors arriving via Auckland International Airport directly to the Bay of Islands and Waitangi rather than the traditional route to Rotorua.
We’ve done self-guided tours around Waitangi a number of times but the tour we had this time, guided by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Horeke native filled in blanks in our knowledge and understanding we didn’t even know existed. For a long time I’ve felt any visit to the Far North should include Waitangi. I feel even more strongly about that now.

While living in Kerikeri in the 90s we often took our children with us to the pungent healing waters of Ngawha Springs. We decided to return to Ngawha after our touristic trip to Waitangi and we were not disappointed. What a relaxing way to finish a day! The pools feel great but it’s the interactions with the locals that takes the place from quaint to the quintessence of what the Far North represents to me. It’s real. It’s not about show. And it doesn’t matter if you smell like sulphur afterwards. Regulars freely share stories –like the one of the man with sores all over his body who camped out by the springs for a week. He rubbed mud on his skin and left it to dry before rinsing off later. By the end of the week his skin had completely cleared up. Another local told me: ‘If it wasn’t for this place I’d have been in a casket sixteen years ago.’ He had serious circulation issues then. He looks the picture of health now.

One thing that struck me as interesting during this journey was that a number of people from further south in the district had not even heard of Te Ahu when I mentioned it. Our lives, rightfully so, revolve around our immediate community. But I believe it behoves each of us to get to know and to support the exciting and innovative efforts of others in the area. Next time, before you head off to Auckland or further for a long weekend, why not consider doing something special right here in the Far North? You’ll save money on petrol, you’ll be supporting the local economy and, if you’re like us, you’ll return home feeling grateful to be living in such a special part of the world.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See