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Saturday, 13 November 2010

The Road back to Tania’s 24th-27th October

Having surfed the sand dunes by the 90 mile beach and made some much needed running repairs to the bike trailer, Mel and I set off from the backpackers in Kaitaia and headed south down the west coast of New Zealand. Our objective was to make our way through the Waipoua Forest and to visit the national icon that is ‘Tane Mahuta’, the world’s largest, living Kauri Tree. We stopped at a couple of places along the way.

We chose to stop at a homestay which was in a small, forgotten village called Broadwood. I say forgotten village because it has about as much life in it as a suburb of Chernobyl. However, it was exactly half way between Kaitaia and Rawene on the Hokiana harbour and therefore a perfect stopping point for weary muscles. We chose to spend the night at a homestay and found the entire experience somewhat contrasting. The house itself was at the top of an incredibly steep climb and is owned by a nice enough couple. The common room is nice, they have a pool table, DVD’s and a great selection of 1960s and 70’s music on vinyl, but the room we slept in left a lot to be desired. For a start; the ceiling was sloping and left basically no head room for the guest. The floor was also sloping in a dangerous way, away from the centre of the building. The bed was the most uncomfortable we have slept on in New Zealand and the walls, floor and ceiling were not complete, in that they have electrical wires protruding from them. Mel was particularly uncomfortable and did not sleep a wink all night. It has to be said though that we were pleased to get away from there the next day and on to our next destination which turned out to be much more savory.

Rawene is a lovely seaside town with good fish & chips and superb sunsets. We stayed at a campsite which boasts its own swimming pool. As the sun beat down on us whilst we rode in on our bikes, we were really looking forward to a dip in the pool. Alas, this was not to be as somebody had decided to pour beer into the water and it was currently closed. Mel and I went into the town to get those fish & chips before sitting and reading in the late afternoon sun on a bench by our tent. As we idled away the hours; we noticed another cyclist making there way onto the tent site. His name is Phillip, a German guy, 29 and super fit, having already cycled round the USA before finding his way over to New Zealand. He is a great bloke and he comes from the Westphalia region of Germany, where they make VW campervans! As it turned out, we were about to see a lot of Phillip. He has travelled many of the same routes as ourselves. We have bumped into him several times since we met that evening, including in Waipoua Forest, Dargaville and even on the ferry from Auckland to Coromandel – but that’s for another blog entry.

We saw some amazing scenery on the West coast - here are a couple of snaps...

Those who know me will understand how important trees are to me, having been a hugger of trees for many years. The Department of Conservation has protected all the remaining Kauri trees in New Zealand from the huge logging firms who used to cut them down for the money! Tane Mahuta is by no means the largest ever Kauri tree, just the largest left standing. Judging by the 7km uphill climb we had to do on the bikes just to get to it, one is left assuming that the only reason it is still standing is due to it’s distance above sea level. This would have made it quite difficult to get to for the early logging teams back in the day.
Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest) is New Zealand’s largest known living kauri tree. It is thought this tree was discovered and identified in the 1920’s when contracted surveyors surveyed the present State Highway 12 through the forest. In 1928 Nicholas Yakas and other Bushmen, which were building the road, also identified the big tree Tane Mahuta.
According to Maori mythology Tane is the son of Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother. Tane was the child that tore his parent’s parental embrace and once done set about clothing his mother in the forest we have here today. All living creatures of the forest are regarded as Tane’s children.
Trunk Girth 13.77 m
Trunk Height 17.68 m
Total Height 51.2 m
Trunk Volume 244.5 m3
When I was a younger man, my friends and used to have parties in the forests around Norfolk. They were enormous events; people set up marquees, bespoke sound systems and you could get everything you needed to get through several days of living amongst the trees. Travelers would bring their trucks and sell drinks, food and other provisions and generators would provide power to keep the music going 24 hours a day. The only respite you could get from the music was to go and string up a hammock or sleep in a car some distance away from the massive speakers in the amongst the pine trees. We used to have these parties in the forest because we were always surrounded by trees and wildlife and it felt special. Walking through the Kauri Forest of Waipoua felt as exiting as all those trips into rural Norfolk.

Feeling revitalized by our trip up to see Tane Mahuta; Mel and I decided to camp at the Waipoua campgrounds which are well situated in a valley surrounded by all the sounds and smells of the native forest. We pitched our tent under a Norfolk Island pine tree and after a little supper, settled in to read by torchlight in our tent. Just before going to sleep I decided that I would pay one last visit to the bathroom. This turned out to be a massive error as the moment I open the tent inner to leave I was literally covered in mozzies – hundreds of them. I spent the next 20 seconds dancing more frantically than Michael Flatley after a few too may beers, slapping at my face and hands before sprinting to the men’s room and checking behind me to see whether the swam of mozzies had followed me there. Fortunately they hadn’t. Once back inside our tent, I had to spend the next few minutes killing the dozen or so blood-suckers that had followed me into bed. For the rest of the night we could hear many hundreds of mozzies just waiting to attack us should we decide to make our way back out into the darkness! When we came to pack the tent away in the morning, they remained on the attack and I’m ashamed to admit that Mel had to rescue me at one point, helping me to take out the inner tent as I had been rendered incapable with fear!
That day we made our way to Dargaville where we spent the night in a caravan which we rented for $30. It was not such a nice night’s sleep as the entire van shook with every passing vehicle. Mel cooked pancakes for supper before bed though, which more than made up for the discomfort of the sleeping arrangements. We were also reassured by the knowledge that the next night we would be back at Tania’s!

1 comment:

  1. This is a great yarn. Sorry to hear about your night in Boredwood.
    Check us out at Waiotemarama Falls Lodge, Opononi. No mozzies either!
    Candy and Rawiri