Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Anyway, after seeing the very end of New Zealand, we started our long journey South. We are making a beeline for the other end of the Long White Cloud, probably turning around at Fiordland. There is some serious catching up to do now, as the last entry only covered about half of what we'd done, and there's more that needs attention been done since.
 In Manganui by Doubtless Bay we sampled the "world famous" fish and chips of the Mangonui Fish shop for lunch, and found a place to stay in the Bay of Islands. We spent some lazy days here kayaking and catching the ferry to the ex-whaling town and NZ capital, Russell. On our way away, we relieved ourselves at the inappropriately attractive Hundertwasser toilets in Kawakawa.
 Our next stop, Opononi, is a tiny communityin the Hokianga Harbour, which we chose simply for its proximity to the giant kauri forest of Waipoua, but it is one of our fondest remembered stays. It looks out over giant sand dunes on the northern shore, and the sun sets, depending on where you stand on the beach, either over these dunes or into the mouth of the harbour.It also just so happened that Fat Freddy's Drop were playing in the grounds of the hotel next door, providing us with the perfect soundtrack to the evening.
 We hit the kauris of Waipoua the next day, ancient beings measuring hundreds of cubic meters in volume, which have stood, in some cases, for thousands of years. The two giants that we visited could hardly have been more different. Te Matua Ngahere, the Father of the Forest, is a massive shattered column of wood, fatter even than  the biggest of the remaining kauri. Its crown is incongruously small, made up of a few small boughs sticking out of the gigantic trunk, hung about with a forest of smaller plants. The largest of the kauri, Tane Mahuta, is younger than its famous neighbour, but stands far taller, and its shape is by far grander, rising nearly 60 feet without tapering at all from its before exploding into a jagged canopy. it is, all the way up the trunk, 45 feet around. It's bloody huge. Despite the majesty and power of the giants, my favourite memory of the Waipoua forest is the Cathedral Grove, populated by over a dozen large kauri, slimmer than the giants, but still very tall, which suddenly lift the forest canopy like enormous wooden pillars, creating a vast open space. Stumbling into this glade from the closeness of the bush is a quiet and beautiful experience. We have tried to take some pictures of the forest, but they don't do it any justice; the most stunning views from inside the forest exist right across your peripheral vision, wrapping completely around you.

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