Today we were heading further north, up to Waipoua Forest. It is famous for being the location of NZ’s largest living kauri tree, Tane Mahuta, ‘Lord of the Forest’ and we were keen to see what all the fuss was about.
It was around 200km away and as we set off early we were parked up in the small dedicated car park around 9.30am, after first having a small deviation to visit the park information office a couple of kilometres away.
There is a small decontamination station at the entrance where you first brush, then spray your boots to prevent the dreaded kauri die-back disease from reaching this specimen.
The tree itself is reached by a very short stretch of walkway that winds briefly through the subtropical forest. Yes, this is an imposing giant; 13.7m girth, 17.68m trunk height and a total canopy height of 51.5m. One feels very insignificant (and peaceful) standing alongside its massive frame. The trunk is so straight and wide, but what makes it so unusual are the branches which sprout from the very top of it. Each branch itself is the size of a large tree. The photos don’t do its hugeness any justice, to fit it into one frame I had to set the camera to panoramic mode, turn it on its side and stitch three shots together. We were the only visitors at this time of the day and we didn’t have to share this “Lord’ with anyone but his fellow serfs and the strange calls the bird life create in this part of the world.
We were keen to find NZ’s 2nd largest kauri tree. After a short drive, another decontamination procedure we first discovered a stand of four kuari trees together, called the ‘Four Sisters’. Interesting. The Tane Mahuta’s little bother was another 30 minute walk away along a meandering path that passed many examples of the species but not yet impressive enough for us to stop and stare.
Yep, it was big. To me it looked bigger, though as a specimen it was not as well-preserved, it had obviously suffered some damage in a past storm to its top canopy. One large branch was evidently missing. Injured perhaps, but still majestic. On our return to the RV, we met some other worshippers on their way to pay homage.
Some 40km away was our next stop, the Kai Iwi Lakes. They consist of three clear blue, freshwater lakes that have stunning white sandy beaches. When we arrived, apart from a ranger with a chain saw there was only one other couple present. We had a good wander around, revelled in the heat of the day, thought briefly about swimming trunks but the water temperature was off-putting (well it is winter).
We circumnavigated the lakes, stopping frequently to take in the sights, before discussing our options for the rest of the day. We had planned an evening kiwi walk a little further north and in quite a remote area, but we were showing under a quarter of a tank of fuel and the nearest gas station was back south in Dargaville. We chose to get fuel first, have lunch and then consider our options, which is precisely what we did.
Whilst in Dargaville we purchased some Fijiola fruit. We were so impressed with this pleasant and unusual tasting fruit we bought a second bag of them. They are only in season for three months of the year and the locals go mad for them. This year has been a bumper year for them.
Our target for the afternoon was a camping site on the opposite coast at a place called Sandspit. It looked an interesting area so we thought we would go and find out. We stopped at a small township on the way to buy a few provisions for the evening meal. We arrived as it was getting dark and checked into what seemed a very upmarket establishment next to a marina containing some very nice yachts.
As a variation to our usual evening activity of cider and cards, we micro-waved a couple of boxes of ‘sweet and sour pork’ and enjoyed the contents.