The city of sails had been great, but now it was time to get out into the real New Zealand; starting by journeying north along the Kauri coast. We rented a car and picked up our tent, sleeping mats and some other essentials (mainly food) and set off.
The north end of New Zealand is known as Northland and was once a stronghold of the Maori as well as the first place European settlers established themselves. We were warned by our Airbnb hosts that the area was still very Maori, and that some of the gangs worked out of the area on the west coast. We thought they were being a little dramatic, and decided that we couldnt miss out half of our planned journey. We actually didn’t notice any gangs on motorbikes as we drove through the spectacular scenery of volcanic hills and deep green forests. We did however pick up a very strange hitchhiker for a few kilometres. Thankfully, she only wanted to get to the next town because neither of us could cope with stories of the destruction of New Zealand by the poison 1080 (used to kill invasive mammals) or the abusive relationships between the lady’s friends any longer. We dropped her off and continued a much more peaceful journey.
Our first stop was unplanned and turned out to be well worth it. We saw a sign for the Kauri museum and considering we were on our way to the Kauri forests decided to stop by and check it out. The museum was crammed full with information about Kauri trees, a Kauri gum exhibition, Kauri wood furniture and sawmill and cutting machinery. We discovered that Kauri trees can live thousands of years and their resin is used to make products such as linoleium. We were impressed by the way in which trees were logged, floated and the utilised and also how gumdiggers spent hours digging for the Kauri gum. There was also a display of a tree partnership between a Kauri and a japanese pine tree. The only thing missing was a little more information on the life cycle of the trees and plants that live on them. We left excited to visit the largest Kauri trees the following day.
Our campsite for the night was at Trounson Kauri forest which was a little boggy but luckily the lack of other tourists meant we had the driest spot to pitch our new tent. Our 3 man tent went up fairly easily we were pretty happy to have our own space. We made full use of the kitchen facilities before a short evening walk to find the kiwis we could hear calling in the forest. We didn’t find any before the forest noises got creepy and we decided to turn around. We settled in for a cosy night.
Into the woods we go
The next morning we went on an early walk around the forest to see some Kauri trees. Kauris are a type of conifer with huge trunks supporting a wide canopy often full of other plants. We knew they would be big, but we weren’t really prepared for such magnificently huge trees. The forest was full of birds singing and fantails dancing around us while the kiwis remained elusive and asleep. We had a Kauri packed day ahead, probably the most trees we had visited in a while. The navigation went a little wrong, so we spent quite a while on gravel roads and missed a turning. As we turned in the road, both front wheels went onto the verge and we discovered how soft the verge really was and also that we had a fore-wheel drive. With no mats to help us out we collected rocks and scooped mud out from under the tyres. When rocking the car back and forth didn’t work, we resorted to Matthias reversing and Zoe giving the car a shove. Finally we were unstuck. Sadly freeing us spattered Zoe with mud but at least we were free.
Our first stop was Te Matua Ngahere (the father of the forest) the oldest (3000 years) Kauri and his accompanying 4 sisters nearby. Then we moved on to Tane Mahuta the largest known living Kauri, who could be anywhere between 1200 and 2500 years old. He stands proud, 4.91m in diameter and from root to first branch he is 17.8m. Standing below one of these big trees really puts you in your place and makes you realise just how small we are and how short our lives are in comparison. It also strengthens the sense of stewardship that we need to protect nature in the same way Kiwis are trying to save the Kauri from a fungal disease. Hopefully these giants are here for future generations to be in awe of.
Ted and Zoë meeting the father of the forest
Then we moved on to Tane Mahuta the largest known living Kauri, who could be anywhere between 1200 and 2500 years old. He stands proud, 4.91m in diameter and from root to first branch he is 17.8m. Standing below one of these big trees really puts you in your place and makes you realise just how small we are and how short our lives are in comparison. It also strengthens the sense of stewardship that we need to protect nature in the same way Kiwis are trying to save the Kauri from a fungal disease. Hopefully, these giants are here for future generations to be in awe of.
Aside from the persistently winding roads we came across another obstacle. Almost every time we crossed a river the road narrowed and the words ONE LANE BRIDGE were printed across the tarmac. This became an amusing chant for the rest of our roadtrip, accompanied by the Kiwi pronounciation on the radio.
Then we carried on to the most northerly point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. Cape Reinga is the place where the pacific ocean and Tasman sea meet with their waves bashing into each other and swirling into whirlpools. It is also a sacred place for Maori as they believe the spirits of the dead travel here to walk into the ocean and return to the homeland in Hawaaiki. It’s a beautiful spot and was made a little surreal by the group of Buddhist monks who arrived shortly after us. Our camp for the night was in one of the neighbouring bays with a white sandy beach and ocean views.
The maori steps to the underworld