Waipoua Kauri Forest
This is the first day we have got on a bus and gone some where other than Auckland. We were introduced to our driver called Linden who proves to be a mine of information and constantly feeds us with titbits and stories along the way and was to stay with us for the whole of North Island.
We learnt that on the previous 2 Explore tours there were first 10 people then 21 and they both travelled on a mini-bus. As we were 22 we qualified for a big bus – it is palatial. We're also learning the names of our fellow passengers, if we do a few a day we'll soon remember them.
We travel to Matakohe to visit the Kauri museum. It is a whole museum devoted to the kauri wood. First thought -how can you have a whole museum devoted to one type of wood? But it was excellent very informative and lots of exhibits. The wood is indigenous to New Zealand and was around many thousands of years ago and has properties that mean it doesn't fossilise. There have been natural disasters in the past, many thousands of years ago that have meant that the trees were buried and then covered with swamp land. These buried trees have been dug up and used as normal wood (see the picture of Pete and I on a hollowed out and polished root ball of a kauri tree when we were at the olive processing business at Waiheke, Auckland). The wood has been used extensively by the settlers to build houses and used as a burning wood at one time as well – it has some very long lasting properties. The possum that were introduced from Australia particularly like the leaves. There were some really beautiful pieces of furniture made from the kauri on display. There is also the gum produced by the tree which was used to produce varnish and linoleum, there was a whole basement full of the large pieces of the gum which looked like amber. It was certainly awe inspiring. As part of the museum there was also an old school, church and post office that have been preserved and kitted out to show what it would be like a hundred years ago.
After this visit we travelled further up North on the west side of the north island through some of the remaining native forest. We had a stop to visit the largest known Kauri tree in the forest (Tane Mahuta). Although it was only a couple of steps into the forest from the roadside we had a maori guide who showed us the tree through the eyes of the maoris together with how they would worship the tree, sing to it and hold it reverent.
We continued on our drive and all of a sudden we turned a corner and the view was breath taking. We stopped to take photos of Hokianga Harbour. In the lay-by there were a number of cockerels sheltering under bushes. We've seen this quite a lot, they seem to have escaped captivity and form bands at the side of the road! From here we continued to our evening stop at Oponini.
At the hotel we were allocated a small chalet on the hillside above the hotel. It was spacious, very hot and very sixties! We decided to go for a dip in the sea. And that's all it turned out to be – it wasn't too cold but where we decided to go in there were many undercurrents that threatened to sweep you away if you swam. It was certainly a great way of cooling down.
As the hotel was fairly isolated we ate at the hotel.