We drove from Wellsford to Brynderwyn (sounds Welsh, doesn’t it?) along Highway 1, then switched to Highway 12 which is also called the Kauri Coast Highway. The kauri are huge trees, hundreds and even thousands of years old – like the redwoods in California. These magnificent trees were logged by the colonists until near extinction, but fortunately there are still small groves of them remaining, apparently a lot along Highway 12.
We stopped briefly at Matakohe, a quaint town that houses the Kauri Museum – but we didn’t stop. We headed north to Dargaville, a lovely little town full of Victorian buildings – as well as more modern structures, but the small houses with gingerbread trim and finials as well as some of the old commercial buildings, looking more like movie sets than well-used structures, really were beautiful, if a bit out of place.
We headed out, back on Hwy 12, to the tiny town of Kaihu – the signage was ambiguous, so we stopped and I went in the Kaihu Tavern to get directions. Chatted with a lovely Maori woman who gave us directions, and we realized we were almost to the park. So we decided to have dinner at the tavern. Our new friend, Lydia, gave us the traditional Maori greeting Haere mai (sounds like High-reh my) and we introduced ourselves – and she introduced her son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. We found out it was Lydia’s birthday so wished her happy birthday – and told her it was our anniversary, so she wished us a happy anniversary too! Chatted some more. She had THE most marvelous full head of long dark grey curls, just incredible hair! Anyway, Richard and I enjoyed a nice anniversary dinner (with the traditional double burger for him, and fish and chips for me).
Then a drive through the forest into the DOC camp, where we’re now parked – turned in the other direction, perpendicular to everyone else, since our vehicle is too long to park parallel! But we’re plugged into electricity for the first time, and we’re looking at what will happen tomorrow. Maybe a walk through the kauri forest to see Tane Mahuta, a kauri tree reputed to be 2000 years old!!!!!! Maybe a night walk to look for the kiwi birds which have been protected and nurtured and have made a comeback in this region. Maybe just a lazy day, if it’s rainy.
Life without a plan.
Nov. 16, 2012 – Trounson Kauri Park, Kaitu, to Arai te Uru Reserve, Omapere,
The DOC camp asks for a donation of $5 per person per night, honor system – they provide envelopes and a drop box, and expect everyone to do the right thing. They provide flush toilets, hot showers, lighted cooking area, and electricity for campers. And a separate area for tent camping. All for only $5 NZD – which is equivalent to about $4 USD given the current exchange rate. We’re amazed! Our tax dollars at work!
We decided our morning activity would be to hike through the kauri reserve here at Trounson – so we went to the gate and went through the ritual of scrubbing our shoes and spraying with fungicide – there’s some kind of fungus that is called kauri blight, that has wiped out some of the kauris (other than the Europeans who wiped out many of them a century or two ago). Anyway, so we scrubbed and sprayed, and wandered into the forest, where everything seemed to be giant-sized: giant ponga ferns, huge white pines growing to some 60 meters, and then the kauri – wow, the kauri! These are HUGE!!!! Bigger than redwoods – some are up to 16 or 18 meters across! GIANT! Enormous!!! Unbelievably huge! We’d walk along and there’d be a tree that we could see through the trees – but it looked more like a stone wall than a tree, it would be so huge! And high high up!! As I said, unbelievably huge!
We walked along the trails and boardwalks, marveling at the trees and the quiet and the birdsongs, and eventually came out down at the national park, rather than at our campground – no idea how this happened, except that this happens to me all the time – I follow a trail that loops around and doesn’t return to the beginning, it goes back to somewhere else entirely. Anyway, we walked along the road back to our campsite, figured out a route for the day, and left.
We headed north to Katui and then up into the Waipoua Forest, home of some of the oldest and largest known kauri trees. I drove our behemoth camper along the gravel road from our park back to Highway 12 (and no, I didn’t feel like Ralph Cramden, more like Sandra Bullock in “Speed”). We entered the Waipoua Forest and, after a stop at the info center, lunch, and a chat with the very nice lady at the center, we headed out again. (The lady described our travel without a plan as “Tiki touring” – we’ve adopted that as our new phrase, we’re tiki touring the northland.) We got to the trail to Tane Mahuta, Maori for “God of the Forest” – I crossed over the bridge, walked up the trail, and on the platform encountered a group of tourists (not sure where they were from – maybe Maori from another area? Maybe from another Pacific island?) – but a group of maybe forty tourists, from the 77 year old pastor to the crying baby – and mostly all wearing matching shirts. It was funny to watch the mothers trying to herd the little kids into family photo groupings, all in front of this tree estimated to be 2000 years old – about as wide across as a city bus, and who knows how tall – just an incredible tree! I was awed by the tree, amused by the tourists, and finally took a few photos trying to capture the majesty of this tree. He’s more than a tree, and I really don’t know how to explain it. But this tree was there, in that spot, before there were human inhabitants on this island. He goes back to the time of the Greeks and Romans. If you are Christian, he goes back to the time of Jesus. For Jews, this tree goes back to what, the time of Rabbi Hillel? Shammai? Something like that. Just an awe-inspiring tree.
NOTE: Click on the photos of this tree to get an idea of his size!!!!!!!!
I eventually pulled myself away and went back to the camper – we headed out, still along wild and windy roads, up and down hills, until we suddenly were at the coast, the west coast of the Northland. The Tasman Sea!!! We found a scenic overlook and stopped – this is Hokianga Harbour, one side rugged rocks and low bush, the other side a giant sand dune looking like a desert – and a few small towns along the harbor. We drove through Omapere, then Opononi – found the waste dump station but couldn’t quite make it work for us – filled up on gasoline, filled up on water, had a nice dinner, and headed back to a different scenic overlook, not quite as high up, but equally gorgeous. Breathtakingly beautiful. Dark wild green and rocky around us, as we look across the aqua harbor with waves rolling in from the sea, and we look across to the endless sandy dunes – with low peaks of hills and mountains in the distance. As I said, breathtakingly beautiful.
We’re parked on a level spot with that view out the front of the camper. We’re the only ones here, at 9:30 PM, and we’re ready to snuggle in for a quiet night of freedom camping under the stars.