October 6, 2023 – Hellhole! (Day 9)

We rose early, actually about the same time because Robert loves to see the sun rise over the bay! But we had a quick breakfast and packed our daypacks for an early ferry ride to Russell, once known as the “Hellhole of the Pacific”! The water was calm and blue, the breeze light, under partly cloudy skies.

Leaving Paihia on Blue Belle II ferry.

We arrived with the few other early risers and got coffees at the Hellhole Coffee Shop. Then walked through the small waterfront village and started the climb to Flagstaff Hill.

One of the older, colonial style houses on our walk towards Flagstaff Hill. 

Robert was the first to spot 2 chicken sized birds crossing the road and disappearing into the brush, kiwis we think? We spotted another as we climbed the steep walkway, and Robert spotted a fourth when he stopped to see our view back down the trail! The views from Flagstaff Hill are fantastic!

This view was to the north west, towards Purerua Peninsula.

Turning slightly to the east we looked out to the Pacific. With binoculars we could spot a line of fishing boats strung out to sea!

We headed down the stairway to the trail through the forest back to Russell to delve into the human history of the area.

The Russell Museum answered many questions relating to the “Hellhole” description of the town in the 1830’s. Lots of American and French whalers, out to sea for 2-3 years would reprovision and ‘recreate’ here! 

A quick visual of the evolution of human presence in Bay of Islands; the original Maori sailing canoes that arrived about 800 years ago, the whaling ships that plied the waters in the 1800’s and the sport fishing and recreation that occurs today!

Also, the stuffed birds proved we were right, we did see real kiwis!

Usually nocturnal, we saw the birds at around 9am, maybe because it’s spring? Apparently on the north island the kiwi can breed in any month.

More human history, and a great portrait showing the tattoo designs reminiscent of the character QueegQueeg in the novel Moby Dick!

A portrait of Tamati Waka Nene, one of the first Maori to sign the Waitangi Treaty, and an ally of the British through many conflicts.

His headstone in the cemetery of the oldest church in Aotearoa New Zealand, Christ Church of the Anglican denomination.

We enjoyed a wonderful fish & chips lunch, local beers and continued our walk around Russell. We visited the Pompallier Mission and Printery, the Catholic mission and the first ‘factory’, tanning hides for bookbinding, and printing books in te reo or Maori language. Our return ferry trip was breezier and we were tired from our hike up the hill!

3 Responses to “October 6, 2023 – Hellhole! (Day 9)”

  1. Rod and Linda Charny Says:

    Now we know where Picasso got his inspiration from! And, Mary Jo, I think you are the only person I know who actually read Moby Dick all the way through! Thanks for the great pictures and stories! Cheers!

  2. rmj Says:

    Yes! I did read it all the way through, but I skipped a lot of the boring stuff about Captain Ahab! I enjoyed the descriptions of the processing of the whale carcasses and especially the description of QueegQueeg! Keith must have read it too because he referenced “QueegQueeg’s coffin” in a conversation we had a long time ago! I even read a few other (shorter) stories by Herman Melville!

  3. Sammy Says:

    You saw real kiwis! [I’m so enjoying reading about your trip!]

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