The Elephants of the Tree World (Day 124)
A day of BIG - big Beach and big Trees - Oh those Kaouri trees are so impressive
Imagine a beach of golden sand with the surf of the waves gently caressing the beach. You look to your right and this beach goes on…and on…and on. In fact it goes on for 90 miles. One massive stretch of idyllic coastline. And of course, it is called the 90 Mile Beach. We arrived here after saying our farewells with Neville at the fabulous camping site with a rustic charm. Neville built all the facilities himself using a lot of reclaimed material and the lights were all run using solar led lights.
Back to the beach. As we arrived, we chatted to two guys in their big 4x4 who were testing out the beach to see if they could drive all the way down on it. They were competing in a very well renowned surf beach fishing competition tomorrow mainly catching snapper. The tide unfortunately was coming in, so they turned round to drive north via the road. We had a quick 4 wheel drive on it and avoided getting Jeff the wicked camper stuck.
On to Kaitaia, sadly the town seems as if it has had better days. A few shops closed and quite a lot of budget clothes and food shops. We found the library which stood out like a sore thumb – very modern and beautifully created. It was built 6 years ago and a lot of money, I can imagine, must have been invested in the build. Sitting with a coffee, we charged up our mobiles and tablet, caught up on social media and emails and uploaded the daily blog.
On the road back south heading for Waipoua Forest. Our data on our sim is running low, and as we only have ‘til Thursday here in NZ we are being frugal with our usage, so I used a great App called Maps.me to show us the way. I could see on it that we would be passing over a large expanse of the estuary of Hokianga and was surprised that there would be such a huge bridge. When we arrived, there was no bridge but a car ferry! Doh! We had a 45 minute wait until the next ferry so got ourselves some lunch and chatted to Paul the Plumber from Reading who was in the queue.
New Zealand is full of surprises, as you may have gathered from reading these blogs for the last 6 weeks. We drove round the winding roads for some time which gradually straightened out, and round a bend we could see a large expanse of sand on a hill. As we got closer, we could see that the area across the estuary from us was as if a giant had tried to build a sand castle. It was a huge hill of bright yellow sand that stood out against the blue sky and the other green hills. Looking on the map I could see no sign of any tracks to this area... very intriguing – another place to investigate further in the future.
Time was ticking as usual, we got to Waipoua Forest and saw a sign for Tane Mahuta, Kauri Tree. We pulled over and came to the entrance. We needed to brush our shoes, and the dip them in disinfection, not to look smart, but to ensure that we had no pests or disease on our feet that could be transferred to the Kauri trees. Sadly they are being infected and many are dying due to a disease.
We walked down the track through the rain forest. Magical as usual, and then we came to an opening – Oh My! Wow. The most enormous tree I have seen breadth wise. The trunk height is 17.68m and girth is 13.77m. A fellow traveller kindly took our photo using the panoramic function going vertically. So impressive. The tree is called Lord of the Forest and is one of the most ancient trees at approx. 2,000 years old.
We got back to the car, drove a little way and came to another parking sign. Another shoe clean and then we found a sign to the 7th largest Kauri Tree. Along the track we could see lots of them. Huge trees compared to their neighbours. There was an opening called Cathedral Grove with a number of these majestic trees grouped together. More photo clicking and then back on to the track. There we saw it. You would have thought that the 7th biggest wouldn’t be so impressive as the first – however with this one, we could go right up to it. Touch it. Smell it. Hug it. I felt quite emotional. These trees do remind me of Elephants. Their bark is leathery and rock hard to touch and they have a majestic strength about them with a tinge of sadness, knowing that their species is being slowly destroyed. The tree we were standing at is called Yakas, after a native Dalmation bushman and gum digger Nick Yakas. What an honour it must have been for him having one of these named after him.
The other tracks we followed were to see the Four Sisters – four Kauri trees clustered together, and then to the 2nd largest Kauri tree Te Matua Ngahere – Father of the Forest with a girth of 16.41m and trunk height 10.21m. Despite being over 4m wider than Yakas, it didn’t seem as impressive. Probably because we couldn’t step right next to it.
We are both so glad we came here. Such wonderful trees, so old with their own long histories. After being at Urupukapuka yesterday I am grateful that the Māori and European settlers didn’t wipe out these ancient trees and grateful that Doc are doing their very best to protect these amazing giants.
We found a campsite and made our dinner. Who should walk in …Paul the Plumber from Reading.