Today I am going to tell you more about our adventures in Northland. To update you from the trip up to this point, we arrived in Auckland, then we headed north all the way up to Cape Reinga to watch the seas collide and play in the sand.
At this point we were headed back south, and while we were still in Northland we took some time to check out the 90 mile beach. Now picture this: a very long, flat, shallow, perfect beach that spanned as far as the eye could see in both directions. When we arrived, the beach was almost deserted but for several locals. We thought we were pretty much alone, but then we went out to wade in the waves. As the first wave washed out, the washout revealed a layer of mussels beneath our feet. I scooped up some sand in my hands, and let the water wash it away. I was left holding 7 mussels. The mussels absolutely covered the beach under a thin layer of sand. Apparently they are a very common, free, local food source. I would take a trip to the beach over a trip to the grocery store any day! It seemed we weren’t alone at all! Andrew, however, was rather creeped out, and just wanted to put shoes back on.
Continuing south brought us across a small ferry and onto wonderful roads that wound back and forth through native forest and along the western coast. We stopped to see a tree…I know how it sounds; I wasn’t too keen myself. It turns out to be the coolest tree I’ve ever seen! Tane Mahuta is a giant Kauri tree (Kauri are already pretty big) that is believed to be older than Christ! This single individual tree has been standing in that spot of the forest for over 2000 years. It kind of makes you feel inconsequential, doesn’t it? This tree has spiritual significance for the local Maori people, and I totally understand why; it’s astounding to see.
In New Zealand, the Department of Conservation (DOC) runs very inexpensive campsites on reserve land all over the country. The sites range from free to $12, and are usually fairly basic. We planned to stay at one of these the night we visited Tane Mahuta, but I had no idea what we were in for! The site was within the Trounson Kauri Park Scenic Reserve, and had a night-walk path that began right at the campsite. When it was completely dark, we left with our dimmed flashlights (so as to not damage or scare the nocturnal wildlife), and high hopes. We were told that Kiwi (the bird, not the people) live in this area, as do glow-worms. We were not disappointed: around each corner, more glow worms became visible against the backdrop of giant Kauri trees, silhouetted against the night sky.
I am Canadian, as many of you know. And, as a Canadian, when I am in a forest at night and I hear loud rustling, I am scared… it could be a coyote, or a fisher, but it is most likely a bear! So when I heard loud rustling, despite my best efforts, Andrew pushed me towards the sound instead of letting me escape to safety (he remembered that NZ doesn’t have bears). And I am so happy he did; we had the very rare opportunity to see a native Kiwi bird foraging in its natural habitat. Most New Zealanders haven’t even been able to come across this wonderful sight. Kiwis are huge! I was picturing a chubby sparrow. Instead I found a noisy chicken-sized ball of fluff poking around in the leaf litter. What a wonderful end to the day!
Our trip brought us through Dargaville the next day, where we stopped at the Dargaville Pioneer Museum. It may not look like much from the outside, but it is one of the best museums I have ever been to. There were endless artefacts to see, and even live-action displays. The staff were wonderful, and I learned lots about the early Kiwi culture and lifestyle.
The next time I write, it will be about the other side of Auckland and the main North Island. It gets very colourful and stinky very soon! Check back soon for that post!