On the eve of Waitangi Day, and after descending another  extremely steep hill following riding the steam train in Kawa Kawa, I found myself on my steel rim on the front wheel after the rubber separated once again. An anxious few moments, with rubber flapping around inside the forks, then a rapid dismount with no crash,and makeshift repairs to reattach the rubber using tape and wire which i was carrying for such an event. I was some eight kilometers from Waitangi,and keen to make it there by nightfall. Light was failing as I rode through Pahia towards the Waitangi Marae.   I was most excited, as this was the 172nd anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, and the first I had attended. After reaching my destination, I made contact with Ngapuhi (the northern most tribe in Aotearoa) leaders,  who were overseeing the secure compound on Te Tii Marae adjacent to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. I was warmly welcomed and invited to camp with all the other tents, and once I had identified my site, I did a familiarisation ride around the total area before returning to the compound round 10.30. Not knowing anyone, and as part of my personal security strategy, I parked Pioneer Spirirt under a large pine tree, and sat beside the wheel throughout the night in full uniform, not sleeping. I did not set up camp, and was ready to leave at no notice, should there be unrest, a technique I learned while working in South Africa and Somalia. There was no issues at all. During those hours, I gained further understanding of what it would have been like to have been a soldier on night guard duty in an encampment during wars. There were many walking around throughout the night, and I was pleased to establish greater understanding of the issues around the Treaty from a Maori perspective. At 5.00am there was the Dawn Karakia. Just after 8.00am, TV1 News interviewed me and had me to ride along the waterfront. The day truly was remarkable with the Prime Minister and Governor General in attendance amidst tight security. A large community market and gala appeared from the small hours and a festive mood was apparent on the Waitangi National Trust Estate, Hobson and Te Tii Beaches.I have been heartened often during these travels to see the Maori youth taking such a keen and personal interest in their heritage, and on this day, many cultural performances were held along with the paddling of waka. A church service was held, and at midday, there was a 21 gun salute, followed by the NZ Navy band providing top class entertainment.TV1 did a live cross from the site at this time, and asked me to walk past as they were filming the gun salute, a duty I performed amidst thick smoke reminisicent of a battle field. Other events included an aerobatic display by the RNZAF “Red Checkers”.  I left Waitangi mid afternoon and headed back to Pahia where a local engineer rewelded the wire holding my front wheel, made some excellent adjustments to my seat, and hosted me for the evening in his straw bale house. ENDS

Photo. Waitangi Marae



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