After the Treaty grounds and the famous toilets, we headed west as the weather was still rainy and overcast. We had heard that the 90 mile beach up to Cape Reinga on the top tip of the North Island was beautiful, but alas, we weren't going to see much of it with this weather.
We stayed at the Puketi Forest Park near Kaikohe which we arrived at in complete darkness. I think we were the only ones there but our imaginations had us going through the night as we felt our ways to the outhouses. It all builds the character you know! The sound of the rain drops falling from the giant trees onto our little campervan was theraputic one could say...or more like Chinese water torture at times!
Back in daylight, we set off to the quaint coastal towns of Omapere and Opononi - south of Hokianga Harbour and the start of the Kauri Coast. As you can see, the sand dunes were amazing, although the horizontal rain made it hard to get a good picture from up on the hill!
As the story goes, Omapere was home to "Opo the friendly dolphin". (similar to Fungi the Dolphin in the Dingle Penninsula, Ireland) This dolphin played with the local children, did tricks with beach balls and set the nation into deep mourning when it was found dead in the 1950's. Its grave and sculpture is still in the town as a memorial. Ahhh.
Further south, we drove through the Waipoua Kauri Forest, a forest snactuary and home of the largest remnant of the kauri forest that once sprawled across northern NZ. In particular, we stopped at Tane Mahuta (The God of the forest) whose trunk is 13.8 meters in diameter and believed to be the widest girth of any kauri tree in NZ and possibly the oldest at 2000 years. (see photo # 8 for more info). We were walking through the forest and happened to look up. There it was - massive! We stood, gobsmacked just trying to take it all in.
Later, at Matakohe's Kauri Museum, we saw all sorts of exhibits about the Kauri trees and especially about the creations from the kauri gum. Photo #14 was made out of 600 pieces of gum and took 10 years to complete back in 1806! Imagine. We also met up with a few Kauri wood carvers along the way who were quite the characters. The Kauri roots and trunks are mostly preserved underground buried by an ancient tsunami and layers of soil. These trunks which are thousands of years old are worth 10-20 thousand both to dig up and once carved, to sell. Everything from laquered clocks and coffee tables are made from the kauri wood as well as bowls, pens, plates, etc. We met a man who was doing life size carvings though whose work was sell for $100,000 upwards! In his words, it is easy to be a millionaire. All you had to do was tell a rich man that the carving wasn't for sale. Then sit back and wait for him to name his price. Nice work if you can get it.
On our way back towards Auckland, we caught few photos of the rolling hills near Wellsford and then stopped at the Arataki Visitors centre, west of Titirangi in the Waitakere Ranges. (west of Auckland) There we got a close up view of a fern fiddle head and learned more about the park and its wildlife.