Opononi to Matakohe
16.09.2009 - 16.09.2009 19 °C
New Zealand really is picture perfect. That over with, we really had a big day yesterday. The trip out to Cape Reinga is out and back in the same day. What makes matters worse is that there is a gap in motorhome grounds/parks south east of Ninety Mile Beach. So once you double back to where you started first thing in the morning, you then have a couple of hours or more travel to the next evenings stop. With two young children, we have to throw in a couple of rest breaks so cabin fever doesn't set in. They get cranky mid afternoon and worse still, if they’re tired they fall asleep. Which is too be avoided at all costs. There is nothing worse than driving all day and being kept up late by children that aren't sleepy.
We managed to get to Opononi before sunset. The park was pretty rundown, but the position was right on the waterfront with a beautiful view, it was cheap and the owners where very friendly. Did I mention we were tired? It was also cold. The coldest evening we have had since we've been here. A southerly breeze added to the mix. Opononi is a small little seaside haven that sits alongside Omapere on the entrance to Hokianga Harbour. I awoke to look out over giant sand dunes on the opposite side of the harbour under a kilometre away. Within twenty minutes later they disappeared behind a thick fog that came in from the ocean. An hour later the fog had gone and had travelled further up the harbour.
Opononi became famous in New Zealand during the summer of 1955/1956. It was all due to a visiting dolphin named Opo who was so tame that it swam with children, let them hold onto her back and did tricks with beach balls. Sadly Opo was killed by unknown fishermen using explosives. A memorial statue of Opo is erected outside the pub which across from the townships' jetty. I really like Opononi. It is small. Not much to do here, but fish. Pretty just the same. This Hokianga region is a maze of inlets and tributaries. It also has those wild beaches, spectacular coastlines and thick lush forests.
Our journey out of Opononi took us on Hwy 12 through the forests of the Kauri Coast. The drive through the Waipoua Forest would be little changed since settlement. This special place is the protected home of the rare giant Kauri trees. The most famous resident is Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest). At 2000 years old, 51 metres high and a circumference of 13 metres - Tane Mahuta is incredible. While it isn't the oldest tree, it is the biggest. It is a peaceful couple of minutes walk from the road to the base of this majestic tree. The boardwalk takes you through the thick forest and you feel the temperature lower as soon as you enter into it. When we arrived a tourist group had already made it to the base. As we were walking through the forest we could hear their Maori tour guide calling out to Tane Mahuta in Maori and playing his respects. They happily let us tag alongside their group and we were able to enjoy the commentary on the life (which is still going) and times of Tane Mathua. The guide then sang a song of thanks and good blessings. We learnt that over 35 species of plants and animals live in the canopy of this giant Kauri.
Tane Mahuta is monstrous. I have seen the giant redwoods in California and this is very much similar in size. Still it is incredible to think that there are living things on the earth that old. Tane Mahuta looks very healthy too. While kauri has reached it's maximum height, it will always grow across the girth. When we returned to the bago a Maori woman pulled her car up beside us and walked into the forest. She returned not many minutes later and stood beside her car, facing Tane Mahuta, closed her eyes and seemed to pray for a couple of minutes before getting into her car and driving off. This is the second day in a row that we are get to experience the Maori culture and their closeness with the environment. I am enjoying that feeling also. The environment and culture are engaging. We drove off to enjoy another 30 minutes or so driving through a forest full of such amazing trees.
We stopped for lunch and to stock up on supplies at Dargaville. This township is the kumara (sweet potato) capital of the nation. Roadside stalls (harvest is just over) sell 10 kilo bags for up to $15NZ. Lunch was at a funky café called BLAH BLAH BLAH. You would not be surprised that a few kumara dishes are on the menu. It goes well with all the local seafood.
In pace with our relaxing day we drove a further 45kms south to Matakohe to visit the local Kauri Museum. There is an assortment of huge kauri logs, planks and cross sections. It also contains alot of the pioneer equipment used by early settlers and loggers and well as replica home furnishings from the early 20th century. Well worth a visit, with a lot to see and take in.
It was mid afternoon when we exited the museum. We decided to drive the 1km further down the street to the motorhome park overlooking the river. We have done a lot of miles over the last few days and decided to make camp early, let the kids enjoy the playground and allow us to wind down. It was great. The Top 10 Matakohe, would be my favourite stop so far – plus we only had to share it with 3 other vans. Nice and quiet. Tomorrow we head back to Auckland to get the van checked out then we head out to the Coromandel Peninsula, so it's goodbye to the Northlands.