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

for Maori
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
smouldering still

070323 Web Pics–Whatuwhiwhi to Whangarei