To celebrate the seventh anniversary of our arrival in New Zealand we decided this year to attend the Waitangi Day dawn service at the summit of Mauao, at Mount Maunganui. Although not the "official" national day of New Zealand, this day has great significance for most New Zealanders, being the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. We, too, feel that it's a very special day, and although we only left Zimbabwe on the 7th and arrived in New Zealand on the 9th February 1999, it feels right to us to have this as our national day. We've been trying to attend the Mauao dawn service for some years, but it's such an early start that we haven't ever got our act together ... until this year. Friends Paola and Francesco had moored their boat in the harbour the previous evening and slept over, joined us on the beach at about 4.30 am. Fortunately, they had been woken up by the Maori warriors in their waka (war canoe) passing right next to their yacht, chanting in time to the paddling. We hadn't brought torches, but plenty of others had, and we fumbled with not too much difficulty up the hill, following the procession of warriors, who had by now disembarked on the beach. Once at the top, we were rewarded with a magnificent view of the bay, which slowly unfolded as dawn broke.
After a karakia from the local kaumatua, the Maori warriors did their hakas, the dignitaries made speeches, and there were prayers.
... and at the end of it all, everybody went back down to Pilot Bay, where the paddlers got back into their waka and paddled off around the harbour, while we adjourned to a cafe round the corner on Marine Parade for a huge breakfast. It had been an early start, but apart from that, not strenuous at all, and well worth it. I can't see us doing it every year, but it will be repeated!