Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

The Morton Bay Giant old Fig Tree

The view from the campsite

A view over Pahi Camp site

Our van in the camp site

A log hauler at the Kauri Museum

A very old Kauri swamp log, 2,800 years old

Sitting on the Kauri

Rings show the girth of some Kauri trees

The Kauri wood balistrade

Inside the Kauri Museum


A view on route of Kaipara Harbour

Lake Taharoa

A Trounson Park Kauri; 1200 years old

Te Matua Ngahere - Father of the Forest

Tane Mahuta - Lord of the Forest

Sylvia’s Comments

I was surprised how quiet the rugby fans were last night on their return to the campsite. Just at the rear of our van the three cabins were occupied by a large group of young Kiwi fans, and close by us in a couple of motorhomes were the Wallaby fans. This morning as every one was preparing to leave there was a lot of good humoured banter amongst them all. As the first of the Australian motorhomes drove off, the Kiwi’s lined the road and cheered them. It is nice to see fans enjoying the match and the occasion without having to resort to violence.

We left the site and returned to SH 16 and on to SH 1, which would take us over the Harbour Bridge. This bridge was opened in 1959 and took over 200 workers nearly four years to build. Originally it had only four lanes, but traffic increased so much that a further two lanes were added on each side. Our journey took us on the original road through the metal spans, and it was a little intimidating as you did not feel there was much room between you and the spans. It must be wider than it looks as bigger vehicles than us were crossing it.

Our journey today will take us straight up SH 1 to Whangarei, where we will spend the night and call in at the windscreen repair place to make an appointment to have a new windscreen. Ours got damaged in the storms last week-end. With our journey today not being as far and no time constraints we will be able to look out for a nice café that Rosemary recommended us to stop in. It was easily spotted and as we pulled in there was Rosemary’s bus parked. She thought she had stopped to have a quiet cup of coffee, some lunch and a chance to read the rugby reports in the paper. No chance. If you do not wish to meet the Brewers on your travels do not tell us where your favourite stopping spots are. It certainly was a nice place, good food and the lady came from near Skipton in Yorkshire. A place we know well.

Once at Whangarei we found a camp site for the night close to the city centre. On Monday morning we made the short distance to the glass repairers and a new windscreen was ordered for us and will be fitted on Thursday. After using the internet shop and the supermarket we set off on our travels again. Our journey over the next few days would take us back up SH 12 (the road we had travelled down to Auckland on) but this time at a slower pace giving us a chance to see some of the countryside.

We left Whangarei and drove across some lovely country to Paparoa, and then down to the small costal community of Pahi. We found a lovely little community campsite right at the mouth of the Pahi River, where it enters the Arapaoa River. Once settled we walked around the costal rocks on the headland, returning by the road where we got some nice views over the small township. Close by us on the campsite was a Giant Morten Bay Fig Tree. The tree is one of the largest of its kind in the world and in 1988 it stood at a height of 90 feet, a girth of 46 feet and a spread of 139 feet, a big tree. We had seen Morten Bay Fig Trees when we were in Western Australia but this looked bigger standing on its own.

On Tuesday morning we drove up to Matakohe, the place where the Kauri Museum is sited. We had been recommended to visit on a Wednesday when all the volunteers are dressed in costume and the machinery is working. We enquired at the reception desk and were informed that during the winter season less activity takes place on a Wednesday, and the only difference tomorrow would be the volunteers will be in to service the machines and answer any questions visitors may have. As neither Jeff nor I would know what sorts of questions to ask we decided to view the museum today. But first we visited a cafe just below the museum that had a tantalising sign outside advertising ‘freshly baked blueberry muffins’, hard to resist.

We had been told by many people to leave a full day to view this museum as there was so much to see. When you see it from the front it does not look very big, but once inside it just kept growing. The museum was opened in 1962 and is on the list of ‘must see’ attractions in Northland. The exhibits tell the story of the mighty Kauri Tree, its timber and its gum, along with the story of the kauri Bushmen, tradesmen and their families who came to this area. Reading their stories made me realise just what hard work was, many of these early settlers came from around Europe looking for a better life. They probably felt they did have a better life in the fact they owned their own land and worked for themselves rather than an absent landlord, but times were tough.

There is a scale exhibit of a working sawmill demonstrating the many different types of saws used to cut the large kauri trees. Dotted amongst the machinery are life like models representing local settler’s families telling their individual stories. Another room houses a massive slab of kauri, 73 feet long, along with a beautiful staircase and balustrade to a mezzanine floor. There was also a room dedicated to Kauri Gum or resin collected from the tree. This substance is known as NZ Amber and can be carved, sculpted and polished to jewel like quality. Close by to the museum is the old school, post office and settlers church. We both enjoyed our day in the museum and certainly learnt a great deal but were quite exhausted at the end of the day. That even included a break to go back to the café for a nice home baked lunch.

After leaving the museum we drove down the next peninsula to Tinopai, another small township with a camp site on the edge of the Otamatea River looking out to the Kampala Harbour. We were the only ones on this site tonight but I would imagine in the summer months it would be very busy as it is such a beautiful setting. On Wednesday morning we headed back to SH 12 and drove on to the town of Dargarville, the ‘Kumara capital of NZ’. This town was once an important river port founded in 1872 by a timber merchant as a means of exporting the kauri timber. As the forests were decimated the town declined. We did some shopping and then were on our way.

The road between Dargarville to Hokianga (the Kauri Coast) takes in the lakes and forests and several large Kauri Trees. Twenty one miles above Dargarville and just over seven miles off the main road are three beautiful fresh water lakes very close together, known as the Kai Iwi Lakes. We drove down to the largest one, Taharoa, and had lunch by the side of it. There is a large campsite on the edge of the lake but with all the recent rain it was a bit water logged. The water here has a lovely blue colour to it. As we drove down to the lake we passed the smaller Lake Kai Iwi, and further along the road we came to Lake Waikere, a popular water skiing area.

Our next stop was at the Trounson Kauri Park, a 450 hectare wooded area where we did the easy 30 minute walk passing some lovely Kauri trees, including the Four Sisters – two trees each with two trunks. This is a kiwi area and at night time the local campsite runs evening walks to try and spot these birds. This is something we will miss, we need to keep moving as we have a lot to see and a short space to do it in today. Continuing along SH 12 we came to the Waipoua Kauri Forest. This forest sanctuary was proclaimed in 1952, after many protests and public pressure towards the continued milling of the kauri trees. It is now the largest remnant of the once extensive kauri forests of northern NZ.

There was a lot of opposition to the building of the road through the forest in the early 1900’s, believing it would increase the logging of these lovely trees. Today the road twists and turns for 11 miles and passes some very big trees. A fully grown kauri can reach 197 feet in height, with a trunk of 17 feet in diameter. At some places the road narrows to a single lane to pass between kauri trees. We stopped at the car park for the Kauri Walks, and as it was now close on to 5pm we made a hurried dash to see Te Matua Ngahere (The Father of the Forest). Further up the road we managed to be able to see Tane Mahuta, (Lord of the Forest) before it got dark. We did not think we had done these wonderful old trees much justice so we plan to return to visit them again and will tell you about them later.

It was now beginning to get dark and we still had a fair way to drive on twisting roads. Our nearest campsite would be at Rawene, but on checking our the motorhome club’s accommodation book we discovered a POP site in the small community of Omapere which we thought we would look for. We drove up and back down a new housing estate with little success. The only one that seemed to fit the directions in the book had a very steep drive and we did not fancy parking for the night on it, so we reverted to plan A, the campsite at Rawene. We did not arrive there until after 7.30pm, well late for us getting to campsites, and after all the turns we made following the signs to the camp did wonder if we would be able to find our way back out again in the morning.

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