Kauri Forest and Then Up Coramandel-Day 23-24
We left Sapphire Springs in search of a really big Kauri tree that was supposed to live nearby. Kauri trees have beautiful, tightly grained, durable wood and huge forests of them used to cover the islands, but the original stands were decimated in the 1800’s and have not recovered. These days the oldest trees are given their own individual names and protected within parks and people are attempting to cultivate new groves of them.
The sign at the trail head has a cleaning station, with a boot brush and an underground tank with a spray nozzle to clean your boots before you enter the forest.
Every Kauri stand we come across has these stations in an effort to prevent the spread of a soil borne fungal disease, Phytopthora agathadicidia, that is now attacking the trees. It is good to see them trying so hard to prevent the disease, even though the chances are slim that it will help much.
After hiking for an hour and a half we figured out that we were on the wrong trail, and were instead in a young Kauri forest, so we had to go on down the road to the next trail head.
Once on the correct path, we quickly arrived at this tree, named Tuahu, which was huge and towered over the surrounding forest. We met a local man and his well traveled grandson while enjoying the tree. The boy was ten years old and had already been to the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore in the States.
As we resumed our drive towards the coast we came to an interesting looking park in a narrow gorge, with swinging bridges over the river, and decided to stop.
Originally a protected Maori gateway, this steep walled canyon became an industrial gold mine from 1883-1933. Thirteen levels of tunnels were chiseled through the mountain, and rails carried the broken quartz rocks along narrow ledges to wood fired kilns. The surrounding hills were totally deforested to provide fuel. After eighty some years, the trees and ferns have reclaimed the area
Today, the woods have grown back over the old mine buildings and some of the tunnels have walking trails through them,with swinging bridges criss crossing the river.
Giant tree ferns, flowers and lichens add color.
We finally make it to the coast and a stop at Hot Water Beach, a very strange place which seems like a normal beach until you realize that there are a lot of people and everyone is carrying a shovel.
We follow a string of folks out to a tightly bunched crowd, all madly digging holes in the sand and sitting in them as they fill with water.
It is pretty amusing to watch this whole process and although I am not digging, I can see where if you had a bunch of friends and some beer, it might be fun. Hot water seeps onto this section of the beach from a couple of 60 degrees C (140 degrees F) springs, for two hours either side of low tide. It is a small area and there is a fair amount of jostling for best position.
A flourishing business has evolved with shovel rentals, paid parking and cabin rentals nearby.
Our campground for the night, the Hahei Holiday Park is just a short drive around the cove. A couple of boys are doing a great job of miming a rope pulled taut across the road as we approach the entrance gate. We pretend to be held back for a few seconds before they collapse to the ground laughing and we give them a “Good job!” and a thumbs up. All the people that work at the park are in the middle of an outdoor Christmas party, so they tell us to park in an empty section and catch them in the morning. A thunder storm is brewing up black clouds as we find our spot and then quick head down to yet another beautiful beach before it hits.
As usual on most New Zealand beaches (except the hot water one) there is hardly anyone around and it is breathtakingly beautiful, with little islands off shore, long vistas, clean water, and clean sand. When the sky starts turning an alarming shade of green, we high tail it back towards the camper van, but the storm beat us back and we get totally drenched. The rain is coming down in buckets, wind is whipping the trees and we pile into the van and wait it out. Dinner does not happen tonight because the storm did not let up until late, so we just had a snack and lay on the bed reading and downloading camera cards for awhile. When it finally stopped raining we got out and set the tent up over the tailgate, went to the bath house and washed up and crawled into bed.
When I went to the kitchen in the morning for my coffee water, I was disappointed to find no table inside, only picnic tables outdoors, and since they were all wet from the storm, there was no where to eat and no one else around to talk to. I ended up using our own little table and chairs, which we hardly ever use, back at the van. This place looks like it is going to be a big party spot in a couple of weeks and they are booked solid. There are lots of different showers, a covered airing room to dry bathers and such and I notice how different the plumbing is here than at home.
The water pipes are all exposed and not insulated in any way, which probably means it does not ever freeze here. They are able to have wash stations and fish cleaning sinks and all outside all year round.
There are hiking trails and cool destinations close by and today we are walking out to Cathedral Cove so we get an early start.
Lucky that we did because the parking area is already getting
crowded and I imagine in peak season it is impossible to find a space. we have packed a lunch , swimsuits and sunscreen, since it is sunny and warming up fast.
We walk through tropical forest with openings into sunny meadows and views of the ocean.
Then down a steep path to a white sandy beach cove surrounded by cliffs and sea caves with the clearest blue water.
At his point we had to duck into a sea cave and change into swim suits.
We waded around and walked through the cool shady archway into another secluded beach with sea stacks.
It seems like this huge shady cave would be an excellent place to cool off on a hot day at the beach. It is open on two sides with great views of the water.
The day was warm and sunny, the water clear and still a bit cold, but we waded around, relaxed, and checked out the caves and cliffs until the tide came in too much. There were a few people here picnicking and a group of kayakers wandered in but it was not crowded yet. I wanted to stay here all day, scrabbling over the rocks and exploring further up the coastline but we had to walk back out through meandering pathways to the van and continue our journey. Darn it.
We headed around the Coramandel Peninsula on the road. There are tracks at the far north where no roads go which would be good hiking.
Colorfully painted beehives are randomly parked all over roadsides throughout New Zealand and we passed some of these on the way. I never saw any that were all one color.
Then we climbed a steep hill and dropped down the other side for a nice view of the west side of the Coramandel Coast.
We started to see fleets of fishing boats in the harbors.
Then there was a whole group of a Cormorant type bird called a Pied shag. I love the way they stand around and dry their armpits.
Jeff wanted to go into Auckland to get more information on the northern part of the island, right into the center of the city.
When the pedestrian lights are GO they come from all directions at once and totally clog the center of the intersection. No cars move, only people. There were a lot of people.
The i-site was a few blocks walk from where we parked, in the base of the big needle tower. Gathering travel information was a bust because the internet was down all over the city. No body knew what to do. I just wanted out. On the way, we watched crazy people suit up in flight coveralls to jump off the tower– from really high up. They were tethered to bungee cords and guy wires but it looked pretty scary. I just wanted to get out of town and our talking GPS kept turning us around in circles. We finally made it out and headed north again. Seemed like we drove all day long and we did not stop until we got to Waipu Cove, except for a quick stop at a super windy beach camp that was full anyway.
The camp at Waipu Cove was one of the nicest ones, with a cozy kitchen and shiny new bathrooms. Tonight is our twenty first night traveling around in New Zealand. We have another five days here and then we have a week in Perth, Australia.
We pulled into camp fairly late in the day and as usual, wanted to go right out on the beach. We had to cross a wetland to get to the dunes walk and they had a hand powered rope ferry to pull yourself across on.
I loved crossing the water on the little floating ferry and walking the winding path through the dunes. The wide open and deserted beach was one of the few where we actually found shells. There was no one out there but us.
There is only one other tent there tonight, although closer to the road there are quite a few cabins with folks that look like they are staying for long periods.
We cook our dinner at Waipu Cove and make ready for another day. It is peaceful and quiet and we can see a lot of stars out and hear the ocean. Tomorrow, there are the Waipu limestone caves that we have to explore
-Wendy Lee Writing at Edgewise Woods, Gardens and Critters