Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Giant Trees and a Gorgeous Sunset

After two weeks in New Zealand we finally managed to make it all the way to Cape Regina. We explored the entire east side of the peninsula on the way to the top of the North Island and started driving back down the west side. There isn't much to see other than some REALLY big impressive trees. We stopped in the Waipoua Kauri Forest to see Tane Mahuta "Lord of the Forest".

This tree is believed to be 2000 years old - born around the same time as Jesus. According to Maori mythology (which has some pretty wild and tall tales) Tane is the son of Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother. The story goes that when Tane Mahuta was born he pushed apart his mother and father, the earth and the sky, and created everything inbetween. All living creatures of the forest are considered Tane's children.

He measures 51.2meters high and is 13.77 meters around. You can't get close enough to touch it, err I mean him, as its a sacred tree to the Maori people but this picture of Gemma and I from about 30 feet away gives you a little idea of how massive it is.

In the same forest you can do short walks to the second and seventh largest Kauri trees. The pic below is Te Mahuta, the widest of the Kauri trees and the second largest overall. Its just as impressive as Tane Mahuta in my opinion. While its only 10.2 meters high, its 16.4 meters around which is just massive. Next time you go outside, try to find the biggest tree you can see. Then imagine its trunk being nearly 5 or 6 meters wide!

We did some other short walks to see the "Four Sisters" which is a group of four Kauri trees whose trunks have all grown together. We skipped the hike to the seventh largest tree. I mean after seeing the first and second largest, do people actually take the time to go visit the seventh largest?

Walking through the forest, you feel more like you're in a rainforest in Costa Rica than in New Zealand. The reason is that the long narrow peninsula at the top of the North Island has a strong maritime climate with a pronounced tropical influence (copied that from the sign). No place is more than 40km from the sea because the harbours and estuaries penetrate deeply inland. If only there were monkeys in the trees.

The blog is a bit out of order here since we actually went to the Kauri Kingdom on our way up to Cape Regina but I thought that writing about the Kauri trees in two different posts might be a bit boring. Anyway, on our way up to the Cape, we stopped into Kauri Kingdom a kitchy souvinier shop showcasing products made from Giant Kauri trees.

Its actually pretty interesting stuff as far as trees go. Around 50,000 years ago some natural disaster occured and knocked over thousands of giant kauri trees. They all fell over the same direction lending alot of support to the Tsunami theory. Others believe it could have been hurricanes or volcanic eruptions that led to them all falling.

The trees were buried just under the surface in peat swamps which perserved the trees perfectly for almost 50,000 years. They are now dug up, dried out and carved into works of art, furniture and homewares. Gemma and I spent $45nzd on a cheese board. Come visit us in Australia and we'll be sure to bust it out.
Here we are standing in a staircase made out of the trunk of a giant Kauri tree.

This bench below cost something crazy like $50000NZD.

If I had a huge wad of cash to blow I might consider putting this sculpture below in my backyard. Actually maybe I'd buy it as a gift for my friend Keyon. Its a bit Lord of the Ringish and he'd probably appreciate it more.
Just down the road from Kauri Kingdom is another can't miss tourist destination, the Gumdiggers Park.

Gumdiggers Park is a slightly educational tourist attraction that tells you about the life of men working the fields in New Zealand in the 1700's. Its midly entertaining and informational. Well actually mildly boring and informational is probably more accurate. The highlights were the minature ponies that have no relevance to the park whatsoever and the fact that one of the biggest buyers of the gum was a company based out of Birmingham, England, where Gemma is from.

Oh and the old truck outside the park. I'd still say it was worth the $10 entry and hour it took to walk around. If you do these kind of quirky things along the way it helps keep it interesting and breaks up the long car rides.
The pics below are of one of the more memorable sunsets we've had on our trip so far. Just a couple days before we drove up to Cape Regina we were on the Kerikeri Peninsula at Doubtless Bay. The beach we decided to park at for the night was Rangiputa Beach. Mao was parked right up against the water and right after dinner the sun went down. The 15 pictures below show how the sky changed over the next 45 minutes. It was beautiful.

Gemma laying in the back of the van looking out the back.

And finally the Moon was there and set over the ocean later that night.

The next morning we woke up and I was looking out onto the ocean as Gemma was preparing breakfast and saw a stringray gliding through the water just a few feet into the ocean! I ran to the car to grab my camera and yelled for Gemma to go check it out. She was able to see it but it swam away before I could get back to take a picture. I was glad she was able to see one though after I saw a few diving a few days earlier. Here we are eating breakfast near the sea.

Gemma never drives. I think maybe she has driven a total of 3.4km's of our nearly 1500kms so far but here she is pretending.

The beach below is Matai Bay which is one of the beaches at the very top of Doubtless Bay (which got its name when Captain Cook scribbled down in his journal "no doubt a bay" as he passed by). Its a massive bay and makes his observation look a bit silly. But Captian Cook had just finished naming most of the South Pacific so we'll give him a break.

Its really fantastic to be able to travel slowly across NZ and be able to stop and enjoy the day when the sun comes out and we happen to be at an amazing beach. Life is pretty good.

The day after I went diving we stopped in a little fishing village named Mangonui and went to the "Best Fish n Chip Shop in NZ". We were sorely disappointed. We weren't that hungry so we ordered just a small order of chips as a snack. They had a few different dips that looked good and we asked if ketchup was free. Nope. I said "Well vinegar is free at least right?" "Nope thats a dollar extra for a small." We don't have many chippies in the states but I went to a fair share while I was in England and Gemma agreed that charging for ketchup and vinegar is a bit ridiculous. Obviously their award went to their heads and they now are just a tourist trap. Miss.
Well one positive thing about the place.... Never saw a sign like this in South America but believe me it didn't matter.
Here we are posing for our own personal L&P commercial. We tried the local soda for the first time and loved it! Its similar to sprite but less fizzy. More on L&P to come when we make our pilgrimage to the town where it all started.
When we first arrived in Auckland we spent our first few days a nervous wreck as we searched for and bought our van. After we finally bought Mao and had her worked on we were so ready to get out of Auckland that we left without doing alot of what the town has to offer. Its called the City of Sails and as we were going over the bridge leaving the city I got my first good look at the harbour and all the sailboats. I love being on the water and sailing and I immediately regretted not going on a boat trip. We have to drive right by Auckland anyway on our way down south so we decided to call back in and go on a two day sailing trip. The next post will tell our adventures at sea.
We are getting a bit wiser about picking our parking spots at night. We returned back to one of our favorite spots from the first week, Leigh and Matheson Bay to sleep the night before we go into Auckland for our sailing trip.

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