NZ Land Logs 35, Year 2: North Island—Farewell to Alan and Helaine
Date: Sunday, March 25, 2007
Weather Today: Mostly Cloudy; Periods of Sprinkles
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand
I’m writing this log as Mark and I drive home to Whangarei from Auckland. We just dropped Alan and Helaine off at the Manukau Top 10 near the Auckland Airport. They fly out of Auckland tomorrow morning at 6 am, go to Melbourne, Australia for a two-hour layover, and then on to Los Angeles. Since they gain a day when they cross the International Dateline, they will actually be at home by tomorrow evening even though the trip will take them 36 hours. After a month of traveling together, goodbyes verged on tears with lots of thank you’s and hugs. All four of us have much to be thankful for as we had fantastic weather, no car problems, and no health problems. We had a wonderful month of traveling together and seeing so much of this dramatically beautiful country. Alan and I are both a year older after our March birthdays, and of course, we are both years wiser. In the 7,000 kilometers, more than 4,000 miles, that we have driven we learned so many new things. Helaine and I studied the NZ bird book I had purchased just after we arrived here and we have seen almost every bird in it. I also have a NZ nature guide and we used that to identify trees, ferns, scrubs, vines, and every sort of small creature. Our final day together was spent in the Kauri Museum in Matakohe and we learned even more there.
Here’s just a sample of what we learned about trees today. The kauri tree is very slow growing, but it lives a very long time. Tane Mahuta, the tallest living Kauri, is in its second millenium. Te Matua Ngahere, the living kauri with the widest girth is in its third millenium. You see, they really do live a long time. Mark and I have seen trees much taller than these, but the amazing thing about these giants is that they grow straight up and have no limbs except at the very top. Actually they have limbs when they are young, but those are shed so as to leave no knots in the wood. That made the kauris great candidates for masts and spars for ships, and it is for that reason there are few of them left standing. Another New Zealand tree, the totara, grows just as tall, but it does not get as big around nor does it live as long. The Maori used the totara for making canoes. One of my favorite trees here is the rimu or red pine. It actually gets a little taller than both the kauri and the totara, but it is usually a skinny little tree in comparison. I love the way the rimu branches drape, just like a tall and very thin willow. when Captain Cook was here in the late 1700’s he used the fruit of the rimu to make drink to fight scurvy.
There were so many excellent displays in the Kauri Museum that it is hard to know where to begin to tell you about it. Saw mills have been recreated in this museum by bringing in the original machinery and tools. There was everything from the chain saws used to bring down these big monsters to the band saws and vertical saws used to cut them to the huge planers that made the boards smooth. Boarding houses, farm life, and logging were all brought to life here with life-size wax models. There were displays of furniture and examples of various types of wood. I enjoyed seeing the kauri store counter from Hook Brothers Store in Paparoa, late 1800’s. The store’s motto was, “Anything from a cotton reel to a ship’s anchor.” Evidently this store was the quintessential general store. There were also small boats built of kauri, as well as boat models. We saw a butter churn made of kauri wood that produced 100 boxes of butter per load and each box contained 56 pounds of butter–that’s a lot of butter! The kauri gum displays were also quite interesting. Just like amber, kauri gum sometimes encased the fossils of ancient plants and animals. Some of these were on display as well as kauri gum in every size, shape, and tone from yellow to brown. With all of this, I think my favorite display were the tree rings drawn on the wall showing the girth of the biggest kauri trees. The center of the display had a round that came from between the stump and the first log of a section of the Balderson kauri. A slab of this same kauri was in the same room and went from one end of the room to the other. Next out from the middle was the ring of Tane Mahuta, God of the Forest, that we saw yesterday. This tree is the tallest kauri living, but it is only 4.38 metres or 14.4 feet in diameter. That makes it 45 feet around. The next ring was representing Te Matua Ngahere, Father of the Forest, that we also saw yesterday. This tree has a diameter of 5.22 metres or 17 feet making it 54 feet around. Finally, the last ring out was representing the Giant Kauri Ghost. This is the largest kauri ever on record and it grew on the Coromandel Peninsula south and east of Auckland. This tree was 88 feet around with a diameter of 8.54 metres or 28 feet but it is no longer standing.
Enough about the Kauri Museum. Mark and I both love wood and love building, so this museum tour was a special treat for us. From the museum, we headed to Auckland. We made a stop in a place called Warkworth for a late lunch and after getting caught in Sunday traffic, we made it to the Top 10 south of Auckland around 6 pm. We helped Alan and Helaine get their bags in their cabin and made sure they had arrangements for getting a cab to the airport at 4:00 in the morning. We then hit the road back to Whangarei. As we walked down the ramp to Windbird, I could smell that special marine smell. It was a great month, but it is good to be back home. Our thoughts now turn to getting Windbird for another season of sailing. I’m ready for those South Seas beaches.
NZ Land Logs 34, Year 2: North Island–Celebration in Whangarei
Date: Saturday, March 24, 2007
Weather Today: Mostly Cloudy; Short Rain in Early Afternoon
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand
The Whangarei marine businesses have an association that works very hard at recruiting world cruisers to come here and once we arrive, they work very hard to make sure we know they appreciate having us here. When we first arrived, there was a dinner for all world cruisers in the Northland and today, before the masses start heading north, there was a hangi in our honor. A hangi is a ‘feast’ where the food is cooked in an earth oven. Just like a lobster bake in the Northeast US, you simply dig a big hole, put lots of hot rocks in the bottom, put the food in to roast, cover, and then wait. Today’s affair was held at noon and before eating we were honored in the traditional Maori way. A warrior is sent out to challenge the visitors, to find out our intentions. If our intentions are honorable, then the person chosen to represent us picks up whatever has been laid down as the peace offering. The warrior then retreats and we are officially welcomed and invited to follow. Today they added a piece where a member of our party (the world cruisers) was asked to speak on our behalf–to give our thanks to the busnesses and people that have been so welcoming while we have been here in Whangarei. Somehow Mark was the chosen speaker and he graciously thanked this wonderful community. Then we got to eat. At a hangi, it is traditional to have roasted pork and chicken and in Maori country you also have potatoes, kumara (sweet potatoes), roasted pumpkin, and cabbage. Before lunch we were served New Zealand green mussels. It was a great luncheon and a time to see other cruisers that we have not seen for a while. Not everyone is here right now as some cruisers have not returned from trips homes while others are still land touring, but there was a group of around 75 people. Alan and Helaine went with us and got to meet a few more of the friends we have made over the past year and a half. Right in the middle of lunch, the rain came, but many of us were eating under the tents provided and the rain ended quickly, so no one’s spirit was broken by the bad weather today.
After the hangi, we went in search of AH Reed Park. We had read in the tourist information literature that this is a kauri tree park here in Whangarei that has a very creative boardwalk high above the ground. We found the park and enjoyed our walk in the tree tops. Of course, we were not at the top of the canopy as that is where the kauris reach, but we were above the tree ferns, palm trees, and small trees of other types. We walked to a waterfall and then back to the car park. It was time to think about dinner which was going to entail a trip to the grocery store. We needed to eat early this evening as we had all decided to go to the touring circus that is visiting next to our marina.
We had another fantastic New Zealand steak and salad meal, and then Helaine, Mark, and I headed to the circus. Alan decided to sit this one out. This was a ‘one ring’ circus much like I would envision traveling circuses in the US in the 1930’s and 40’s. The acts were not polished, but it was still great fun. There was a trapeze artist with no net, a clown, a juggler, performing ponies and poodles, and even an African elephant named Jumbo. This elephant has been with the ringmaster for 30 years and both are retiring soon due to ringmaster health issues. But the ringmaster was not going out quietly. He also treated us to some tricks with his whips. In addition to seeing the circus, we got to see our friends from Jade–Cam, Arnie, and their two girls, Nancy and Molly. We haven’t seen them since Tonga, so it was a joyous reunion.
Tomorrow we take Alan and Helaine to Auckland and then return here to Whangarei to get down to boat business. Some cruisers are starting to leave already, not to head back into the Pacific just yet, but to cruise in the Bay of Islands before heading north. We are at least a month away from that, but I know the time will fly by quickly. We’ve seen a lot of New Zealand on land, but we don’t want to leave here until we have also explored her by water.
NZ Land Logs 33, Year 2: North Island—The Kauri Forest
Date: Friday, March 23, 2007
Weather Today: Sunshine and Blue Skies AM; Overcast and Sprinkles PM
Location: Kauri Coast and Back to Whangarei, New Zealand
Whoa! We hit 6,500 kilometres today which is about double what we thought we would be driving on our land tour of New Zealand. Either our planning was way off or we hit every backroad in the country–or both. It is only 1,500 kilometres from Cape Reinga on the North Island to Slope Point on the South Island by line of sight, but with the ‘S’ curve roads we have been traveling, we have more than doubled the round trip mileage. That’s a lot of driving, but we have seen so much. And today was no exception.
The sun was shining brightly over Doubtless Bay when we awakened this morning in Whatuwhiwhi on Karikari Peninsula. When Captain Cook sailed by the entrance in 1769 he wrote in his journal, ” . . . doubtless a bay.” Well, he was wrong, and this morning Doubtless was beautiful. We left Whatuwhiwhi and took the road back toward the highway, but decided to make a side trip to Puheke Beach on Ranganunu Bay. That required a couple of right turns and an invigorating ride on a washboard of a gravel road. The ride was worth it, however. Puheke is a beautiful white sand beach hidden behind dunes. After walking in the sugar sand, we drove back out through lowland lined with tall pampas grass waving in the wind. The tassles on the grass looked like a sea of pink, white, and tan glistening in the sun. Add to that a few harriers (hawks) soaring overhead and it was picture perfect.
From the Karikari Peninsula we drove west to the town of Kaitaia where we stopped at the Information Centre to find out what we could about our planned trip south through the kauri forest. We had done our homework but it is always nice to get local advice. We did find out that there is not another gumdigger site, so since the one we tried to see yesterday was closed, we will have to learn all about kauri gumdigging at the Kauri Museum in Matakohe on Sunday. For today, We learned from the woman at the i Centre that we were on the right track, so off we went to the Hokianga Ferry. The ride getting there was “interesting” in that it added a few more miles of ‘S’ curve driving up and down the mountains. As we drove into Kohukohu we could see Hokianga Bay coming in from the Tasman Sea. The south side of the bay was lined with giant sand dunes. It was really quite dramatic. Then in Kohukohu we got on the car ferry and it took us across to little Rawene. At one point in history, both of these towns were bustling shipping harbors. Today they are just little tourist towns with a few historic buildings, but Rawene is home to the Boatshed Cafe that offered a great lunch stop. We walked from the cafe down the harbor to see the Clendon House, owned in the 1860’s by James Clenden. He was a shipping magnate back in the day. We also saw one of his homes back in Russell, so he got around.
It was later in the afternoon than we had hoped, so we skipped a stop in Omapere to take another look at the Hokiango Harbor and headed straight for our first stop in the Waipoua Forest to see the giant kauri trees. The massive kauri forests that once dominated the landscape here are now gone, but there are a few kauri stands that remained untouched. These trees are to New Zealand as the redwoods are to the US. Tane Mahuta (God of the Forests), the tallest kauri tree still standing in New Zealand, was our first stop. Just as we got to the viewing platform for the tree, a Maori gentleman started singing a song of praise . It set the tone for viewing such a majestic and ancient tree. Afterwards, Helaine stopped to thank the man for singing the beautiful song for us and we learned that he is a tour bus driver for a brand new tour company. We took business cards to give to other cruisers who might want to go on a guided tour of the area. We drove just a kilometre further and stopped for a 40-minute round-trip walk to see the Four Sisters and the kauri tree with the largest girth, Te Matua Ngahere (The Father of the Forest). The Four Sisters are four huge kauris standing side by side and although Te Matua Ngahere is not as tall as Tane Mahuta, its diameter certainly gives it great presence. As we walked to see the great kauri, we were also learning about the other trees and plants that grow in a kauri forest. Our last stop of the day was another 40-minute round-trip walk through Trounson Kouri Park. This protected rainforest had a wonderful walkway and labels for many of the trees and plants. Since we had been studying the variety all day, it was great to now learn the names. Rather than list the various trees and plants here, I will just include pictures of them in the photo gallery. Once I get the pictures posted at the end of the log, click on the picture and you will automatically be taken to the full gallery for the day. I will say that for a fern lover like myself, the kauri forest is a fairy land of ferns, mosses, giant fern trees, epiphytes of every kind, and even palm trees growing among the majestic giants.
As I am writing this log, we are driving back to Whangarei for the night. We’ll have dinner there and then it is back to Windbird. Tomorrow we will spend the day in the Whangarei area and then back to Auckland on Sunday. Alan and Helaine fly home early on Monday morning, hence the trip to Auckland on Sunday. Our land tour of New Zealand is coming to an end, but we will have memories for a life time. What a beautiful country!
Poem Copied from Information board at Trounson Kauri Park:
from the long lost Gondwana
small unsocial islands drifted
like loose stars
on a clear and frigid night
the tall trees of Tane
amonst the babble
of strange birds
and a universe unique
alone with flax
and the botany of solitude
the creeps of epochs
carried them away
a land of small things
amongst the giants
a wealth of medicines and foods, woods and fuel for fires and flaxes for whare and weaving
feathers from birds for adorning,
taming of the hearts of palms and ponga — gardens for planting and harvest
in the white wings of sailboats
whalers and sealers and sailors and saviors with farming
with God and guns and liquor and lawyers
migrants and merchants with money
breaking the land
silhouettes of sawblades
adze heads and axes
the curved turn of horned beasts
the glow of burning issues
NZ Land Logs 32, Year 2: North Island–Cape Reinga
Date: Thursday, March 22, 2007
Weather Today: Overcast AM and PM with a Few Patches of Blue Midday
Location: Cape Reinga, New Zealand
Today was our day to drive as far north as you can drive in New Zealand. We had driven to the southern-most point on the South Island and we just had to replicate the same on the North Island. Unfortunately, the rainy, overcast weather we had for our South Island day was replicated as well. Actually, we had only sprinkles a few times, but our morning and late afternoon were both totally overcast and we actually had fog as we neared Cape Reinga. Once you drive as far as you can, you walk down a path to the lighthouse. As we descended we got a little break and could at least see some of the spectacular coastline below us.
In a town called Awanui we stopped at Ancient Kauri Kingdom Ltd. The Kauri is an ancient tree that grows to great height and girth in New Zealand, but most of the towering forests are gone now. Tomorrow we will be exploring the largest Kauri forest left and you will hear more about this beautiful wood then. The shop were we stopped today sells only items that are made from the ancient kauri buried in the nearby swampland. It is actually carbon dated to be more than 45,000 years old. We enjoyed watching some of the products being made as well as seeing the beautiful end-products. But as I said, more about this tomorrow. From Awanui, we started our drive up the slender peninsula to the “end of the earth.” At least that is how it feels. The paved road goes up the center of the peninsula but there are a few harbors that cut in from the sea right up to the road. At one place we thought the waters were at flood stage as they lapped against the roadside. On the way back down the peninsula in the late afternoon, we realized that it was simply high tide when we drove north as there was no water in sight this second time through. There is another “road” that leads to Cape Reinga called the Ninety Mile Beach road. This really isn’t a road. People drive on the beach at low tide for the length of the peninsula. You can’t do this in rental cars, so this was not to be part of our adventure for today. As we started up the peninsula we found ourselves in very lowland pastures. As we inched our way north, we could start to see glimpses of huge yellow sand dunes on the west coast and bright white dunes to the east. We slowly climbed to about 160 metres, or 580 feet above sea level. Here there were green pastures leading up to green mountains in the clouds to the east and some patches of blue sky with green pastures leading to sand dunes on the ocean edge to the west. The higher we climbed the foggier it got. We were climbing into the clouds, but we could still see the sheep and cows in the pastures, and even a few ostrich. We thought the birds were emus, but we went through Wiatiki Landing and they were selling ostrich burgers. Maybe it was ostrich that we were seeing after all.
When we were 10 kilometres from Cape Reinga all we could see were mountains in front of us and to the east. Almost all of the trees were stunted with no foliage. We couldn’t tell if there had been a fire or a disease that caused the problem. That’s something we will try to find out tomorrow. There were still pastures to the east with glimpses of the ocean from time to time. We started to descend and either the fog lifted or we drove down out of the clouds. Now we could see rolling green hills, sand dunes and rivers or creeks running through the pastures. The next time we started climbing, we went into the clouds again. At this point we saw the turn for Tapotupotu Bay and the fog stayed with us from this point until we reach the end of the road at Cape Reinga. Fog or no fog, we were determined to walk to the lighthouse and enjoy what views there might be. We could look down and see where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific. A clear day would have been wonderful, but we were there and we used our imaginations. Why else do they sell all of those beautiful postcards? I think we’ll have to invest in a couple of those for the photo album.
On our way back down the peninsula, we stopped to walk on the Giant Sand Dunes at Te Paki. There was a guy there named Dave renting boogie boards for dune surfing. We didn’t dune surf, but we did climb and walk on the closest dune and Helaine did slide down on the way back. These dunes seem to go on forever, but actually it is only about three kilometres to the sea. The Ninety Nine Mile Beach road cuts inland here and we did see one car heading in. Thankfully, it was low tide so the car wasn’t struggling. The signs warn of soft sand where some cars have actually sunk. That would not be fun.
It was late in the day when we stopped in Waiharara to see the Gumdiggers Forest. Kauri gum was once used to make varnish as well as beautiful jewelry. Unfortunately this place was permanently closed, but we enjoyed the ‘boot fence’ and huge trunks of Kauri trees in the parking area. Gum diggers had to wear knee high boots and the Wellies were displayed as a reminder of that. We had planned to drive further down the west coast today, but it was late we made a decision to drive out the Karikari Peninsula that was close-by and stay in the Top 10 in a town called Whatuwhiwhi–remember the ‘wh’ says the ‘f’ sound. As we drove the 16 kilometres to our destination, it became evident that food was not going to be readily available out here. We drove on and when we reached the Top 10 we saw Aunty Barbe’s Takeaway. It was the only game in town, so we had deep-fried fish, chicken, sausage, and chips for dinner tonight. That’s okay because this is a beautiful place and the very nicest accommodation we have had during our travels. We can see Doubtless Bay from our cottage window and will hope for a beautiful blue sky in the morning.
NZ Land Logs 31, Year 2: North Island–Opua, Pahia, Russell, Kerikeri
Date: Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Weather Today: The Perfect New Zealand Day
Location: Kerikeri, New Zealand
This morning it was “rise and shine” as we got up early and started our trek north. Our first stop was in the town Kawakawa where we wanted to make a bathroom stop–not because we needed to go the bathroom, but because this little town has public toilets commissioned by Austrian artist Friedrich Hundertwasser. This was his last project before he died and the work has put little Kawakawa on the map. The whole town has adopted the theme set by Hundertwasser with colorful columns sprinkled here and there throughout the town. These toilets made going to the bathroom a truly artful experience this morning. I especially loved the handwashing sink that was part of a whale. You’ll have to see the pictures to understand.
And speaking of pictures, I have not been able to get the pictures ready to post each day when I put the log on the website, but I have now gone back and posted pictures at the end of most of the logs covering our New Zealand land travels. The pictures from today will probably be posted in a day or two, so go back and check this log then if you are interested in seeing Hundertwasser’s work. When you see a picture at the end of a log, just double click on the picture and you will automatically be taken to that file of photos.
Now back to Kawakawa. It is the known as the Gateway to the Bay of Islands, so shortly after passing through this town we arrived in Opua. That is the port we came into when we arrived in New Zealand in November, so it is our gateway. We wanted Alan and Helaine to see Opua and we wanted to look up our good friend Doug of Windcastle. His boat had been moved since we last seen him in November, but we searched for his bronze-colored mast and soon tracked him down. Sylvie is not back from Mexico City yet, but Doug arrived back from the US a couple of weeks ago. It was great to see him and we look forward to seeing Sylvie when she returns on April 4. Our other reason for stopping in Opua was to hop on the car ferry that runs from Opua to the town of Russell every ten minutes. The Bay of Islands area has an interesting history, once being known as the ‘hell hole of the Pacific.’ In its rough and tumble days when it was populated by whalers and former prisoners from Australia among other undesirables, Russell was known as Kororareka. This name came from the Little Blue penguins who would arrive each August and September to nest. Kororareka is a beautiful name, but in an attempt to erase the bad memories of this town, the British changed the name in an attempt to change the face of the town. Today it is a truly delightful seaside town. Mark and I had visited Russell in December, but it was good to return and see things for the second time. We walked to one end of the town to see the Pompallier Mission home. This is known as the only truly French building in Australasia. It is built of rammed earth panels, or pise de terre, in a kauri wood framework or pan de bois. We did not tour the home, but rather just enjoyed our walk and the little peak we got of the home. From this end of town, we walked along the waterfront known as The Strand in search of a place to have lunch. We chose Sally’s Restaurant and enjoyed watching the school children on a field trip that were swimming just off the beach. They were very much enjoying their time out of school. After lunch, we visited the Russell Museum and toured the grounds of Christ Churst, New Zealand’s oldest church. This church has a fascinating array of needle-pointed pillow kneelers. These intricately designed pillows depict local plants and animals, all sorts of sailing vessels, and detailed pictures of the buildings of Russell. Our last stop in this town was Flagstaff Hill and lookout where we got just absolutely stellar views of the Bay of Islands from Opua all the way out to the North Cape.
The car ferry delivered us back to Opua and we drove on to Pahia. We did a little shopping and then went to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. It was on these grounds that the Maori and British signed a treaty stating that they were now one people, “He iwi tahi tatou.” It took many years and much bloodshed for those words to begin to really mean something. In the 1930’s, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds were given to the people of New Zealand by Lord and Lady Bledisloe. A Maori meeting house was built to stand beside Bledisloe’s European house to symbolize a nation of one people. Today we visited the treaty grounds, toured the Maori meeting house as well as the Bledisloe home, and enjoyed walking the length of the 300 metre or 900 foot waka or war canoe. It is named Ngatokimatowhaorua and it quite a beauty.
The last stop for today was Kerikeri. There are only two Makana Chocolate Factories in New Zealand and we have now visited both. We got to Kerikeri with only minutes to spare before Makana closed its doors for today, but in those few minutes we got to taste test today’s specialties and Helaine purchased a few more items to take home. We checked into the Top 10 Holiday Park and stayed just long enough to get our things put into our room. We then went to see the Stone Store built in the 1830’s and the Kemp House built in 1822. This house was known as the Kerikeri Mission Station. There are lovely gardens attached to the house and we enjoyed a late afternoon garden walk and took lots of photos. Dinner was calling, so we ended our day in the Cafe Jerusalum where we had a great dinner. Dinner was topped off with Yoffie’s Yummy Chocolate Cake, and that it was!
Tomorrow we make our pilgrimage to the most northern tip of land in New Zealand and wind our way back to Whangarei through kauri forests. We can only hope that today’s weather extends into tomorrow. That would truly be a gift.
NZ Land Logs 30, Year 2: North Island—Day in Whangare
Date: Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Weather Today: Partly Sunny, Partly Cloudy
Location: Whangarei, New Zealand
Today was truly a day of rest. We all took a deep breath before continuing our explorations of the North Island. Alan headed into town around noon to attend the Whangarei Rotary noontime meeting while Helaine explored downtown Whangarei and Mark and I stayed aboard Windbird and ‘organized.’ Late in the afternoon, we all walked back into town for Cruiser’s Night at Reva’s in Town Basin. We met up with Monica and Felix from Makani and had a wonderful dinner together. We also saw other cruisers that we have not seen since December. It was a great evening and a reminder that very soon our “vacation” will be over and we will back in the ranks of world cruisers.
Tomorrow morning we will head north to the Bay of Islands and the next day on north to the tip top of the North Island–Cape Reinga. We will be back on Windbird at the end of that day, but then take off early the next morning to explore the Kauri forests on the west side of the North Island. Before we know it, we will be taking Alan and Helaine back to Auckland for their trip back to Concord, New Hampshire. Time flies when you are having so much fun.