One of the “must dos” for NZ listed in our guidebook for nature lovers is to visit Tahe Mahuta, lord of the forest, a giant Kauri tree. So today we did that. The region called the “Kauri Coast” is just to the west of where we are staying in the Bay of Islands. Though, I was beginning to wonder if the term “Kauri Coast” had been made up by our tourbook! None of the Kiwis we asked about it had heard the term. So I felt somewhat vindicated when we passed a big sign on the highway coming up to the Bay of Islands that said “Kauri Coast Next Left.”
Anyway, we were a bit lucky and although today was super windy, the rain stopped by late morning, and the sun came out and it was a gorgeous day! We started out with a walk out to Signal Station Point on the southern head of the Hokianga Harbor. It was sunnier than expected today, so great views!
The Tasman Sea…
…looking north along the coast…
We then headed into Waipoua Forest, where the first stop was Tahe Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, and the largest living kauri in NZ. The trunk circumference is 15.44m – that’s 4.9m (16ft) across! It’s hard to convey the sheer massiveness of the tree – or how impressive it was to come around the corner and see it. It definitely was a spiritual experience to be around such an old living organism – all the old kauris seem to have a real presence about them that’s hard to explain. While we were there a Maori guide came through and sang a brief traditional song about the tree, which was also a real treat. They have boardwalks all the way around the big trees so that you don’t walk on their roots, which are quite delicate, and all the trampling would actually damage them. So for most of the large kauri trees you can’t get very close to them. The photos really don’t do them justice – big trees are notoriously difficult to photograph!
We then went to another nearby area, which has a series of nature walks (between 10 minutes and several hours) to other notable kauri trees.
The Four Sisters (fused at the base – three are visible here – the fourth is behind).
Te Matua Ngahere, Father of the Forest, the 2nd largest living kauri in NZ (16.77m) and considered to be the oldest of the large kauris at over 2000 years old.
We also walked to see Yakas Kauri, the 7th largest in NZ (in 1971) with a 15.26m circumference. This one was particularly great to visit, because the boardwalk went right up against one side of the tree, so you could actually touch it. It was a long walk, but worth it!
There were lots of other large kauris in the forest – trees that would be huge in any other context, but which weren’t especially notable in comparison with the named trees.
The large trees had many epiphytes – a whole ecosystem living dozens of meters up in the air!
In all, a fabulous way to spend the day – it was great to spend some time in the forest and to meet so many enormous and ancient trees.
Tomorrow we head south to our B&B outside of Auckland in the Waitakere Ranges – apparently no internet there, so not sure when the next update will be! Normally we could stop at cafes or tourist info centers, but it’s a major holiday weekend here (both Friday and Monday are public holidays) so not sure how much will be open. We’ll see! In any case, have a happy Easter everyone!