"" Writer's Wanderings: New Zealand Diary - A Kauri Tree, A Waterfall, A Train

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Zealand Diary - A Kauri Tree, A Waterfall, A Train

Saturday, October 5, 2013

There are several clich├ęs that come to mind to describe the start to our day: Best laid plans. . .foremost. Bob had preprogrammed our Garmon for each of our destinations before we'd left home so confidently we clicked on the Tane Mahuta Walk and let Lady Garmon lead the way. "Turn left in 1.7 kilometers. Then turn right in 3.3 kilometers" and so on she chirps happily. I sit with the road atlas on my lap. It's not that I don't trust her exactly, it's more that I want to know where I am in relation to all the other areas around me. As my finger on the map slips further south of where the logical turn should be, I casually mention to Bob that we look like we're a bit off track.

"Impossible," he said. "She wouldn't lead us astray, would she?" That said, we make a U-turn and program the next attraction on our list which is supposed to be near the Tane Mahuta Walk. We arrive in the Waipoua  Forest and find the Tane Mahuta trail sign. We put Lady Garmon in time out in the glove compartment.

See Bob in the ferns?
 The Waipoua Forest is full of Kauri trees. They grow tall (about 150 feet) and old (some up to 2,000 years) and can have a tremendous girth (up to 48 feet). The North Island was once covered in Kauri trees used by the Maoris for canoes, carving, and house building. When the Europeans arrived, they ravaged the  tall straight trunked trees using them for masts on ships and their buildings as they settled the area.

The Kauri tree we were about to see on this walk is called the Lord of the Forest because it is the largest and oldest living tree in New Zealand. The height of the tree is over 150 feet and its girth is about 40 feet. It is thought to have grown from a seedling that sprouted sometime during the life of Christ.
The path we follow is actually a boardwalk that protects the delicate roots of other Kauri trees in the forest. We arrive at the viewing platform and find the tree. It is unbelievable. While the giant sequoias in the States are really tall this one is not only tall it is wider than I could have imagined. The shape looks like something out of a fabled movie. Pictures, I’m sure, are not going to give the tree its due. It is huge.

After saying goodbye to a family of New Zealanders (Kiwis) we set Lady Garmon back on the dash and hope for the best. Our next stop is to be in two side by side towns, Opononi and Omapere but as we arrive, we find that there doesn't seem to be any place to stop for refreshment so we travel through noticing as we do that the water in the bay is deep blue and the beach lovely. It would be nice to stop but thanks to Lady Garmon's escapades in the morning, we don't think we have the time.
Down a long long gravel road we find our next destination. Just about the time we thought we’d made a wrong turn or passed it by, there was the sign: Waiotemarama Loop Track where we will find the Waiotemarama Falls. It is a ten minute walk to the falls which really can’t be seen very well without stepping out into the middle of the stream on some boulders. Bob steadies me a bit as I hop onto a large rock and from there to one where I can get my pictures. I figure the worst that would happen is that I’d get wet up to my knees if I slipped in. Thankfully I don’t and our trip back down the muddy path is without incident as well. Mission accomplished.
A stop at Kaikohe, a town that had a hidden walk that would take us past some thermal pools is on our list but we pass it up deciding that we’d see plenty of thermal activity in Rotorua and we drive on to Kawakawa. It is a great decision. We haven’t had lunch but really aren’t that hungry so we decid to find a place where we can get coffee and something sweet.

Kawakawa says it has the most beautiful bathroom in the world so of course we have to check it out. It is quite impressive as you can see by the photos. And right across from the bathroom is a coffee shop. We stop in and order a latte and a flat white (a less milky version) and two absolutely delicious muffins. The manager stands and talks with us for quite a while and encourages us to stay and wait for the train to pass by.

The train which used to be a steam train runs right down the middle of Kawakawa’s main street. Originally it ran to Opua 14 kilometers away. The steam train is being refurbished and for now the train is pulled by a diesel engine. Until all the bridges have been deemed safe, the train only travels to Taumerere. Sure enough, just as promised, the train rolls around the corner and right past the coffee shop where we sit, cameras ready. Our patience rewarded, we move on toward our B&B to freshen up before dinner. It has been a great day despite Lady Garmon. That’s what is so nice about setting our own itinerary and time schedule. We can be flexible and just enjoy.

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