Kauris and Kiwis.
The alarm went at 4.30, we dressed in support of the All Blacks and walked out of the campsite and along the beach road to the nearby hotel [the local Pub] to join 70 or so local Kiwis and campers to watch the Rugby World Cup Final between the All Blacks and the Wallabies being played at Twickenham.
We were greeted warmly by the group of local Kiwis already onto their second beer! We stuck to latte and avoided the ‘full cooked’ breakfast buffet having already eaten. The locals were very friendly and welcoming, immediately making room for us on a couple of bar stools in the middle of their group (once they had established that we weren’t Australian!)
The match was tense, with great cheers to every Kiwi success, particularly the drop goal! The right result left the All Blacks victorious 34-17 at the final whistle – to the delight of the bar crowd. We accepted advice for our day’s itinerary from our new Maori friends and returned to the van to change for an early run on the beach, as the sun rose illuminating the massive sand dunes on the opposite shore of Hokianga Harbour– no dune boarders in sight yet! We ran along Opononi beach and Omapere beach to the pier and back as the sun shone more brightly.
Hot shower luxury at the site and a working microwave and toaster with our hook up made for a cheerful breakfast watching the goats grazing the grass between the pitches. We then drifted all of 200m down the road for a further latte with internet access at the i-Site and excellent ‘Landing Café’! Technology fix done and the invisible number retrieved from the back of K’s phone, we headed South towards the Waipoua Kauri forest.
On the way we visited the site of the old signal station at South Head, perched on the cliffs above the treacherous Hokianga Bar. The sun illuminated the pounding surf 100ft below us as we walked down through the Arai Te Uru Reserve, surrounded by aromatic Tea-tree and Manuka bushes.
As we parked at the Kauri Forest a coach drew up on the opposite side of the road. Uh-oh… The rest of the world all seemed to be visiting the tallest Kauri tree in New Zealand -‘Tane Mahuta’ so we pressed on along longer paths and boardwalks to the more impressive ‘Four Sisters’ and ‘Yakas’ passing the spectacular ‘Cathedral Grove’ which was deserted. These impressive trees are about 2000 yrs old and rising up to 18 metres before the lowest branches which are covered in epiphytes. The branches form a complete canopy far overhead.
We decided that we would survey the DOC site at Trounson Park before making on our next plan. We arrived in a cloud of dust having switchbacked a further 16km of dirt road. The site gate was shut and it appeared deserted apart from the bunnies – further investigation revealed only 1 other camper van containing the dutch couple fron Maitai Bay.
Excellent lunch of savoury Muffins from the Landing Café was followed by an amazing 40 min walk along the boardwalk among the towering majestic Kauri trees and mega-ferns. Tranquil and serene. It was easy to see where the concept of ‘Treebeard ‘was conceived. Elusive birds chattered high in the canopy. Hopes were raised that this may be great Kiwi spotting terrain. We retired to the van having cleansed our boots at the Park gate. The Rangers are very diligent to ensure no fungal spores that are responsible for Kauri dieback are transferred between the parks.
We then spent a very peaceful hour chilling and reading guide books, planning our next move before early supper.
With total midge protection in place we ventured out onto the forest trail once again in search of the elusive nocturnal Kiwi. We had only glow-worms and red head torches to guide us. Stealthily we crept along through the inky blackness pausing every 30 yds or so to listen to the total silence broken only by the lowing of a nearby cow –an eerie sound in the dead of night! The kiwi comes out of its hidey-hole at night and walks through the undergrowth, probing the ground for food. Apparently you can hear their foot-steps and occasional calls. At one point we did hear soft footsteps. We turned off our torches and stared into the total darkness. It took nerves of steel to stand and listen to approaching footsteps in the dark without wanting to turn and run! In the end, the footsteps faded away… We completed the hour long circuit with no confirmed sightings – just the odd rustle of leaves in the distance – but we did feel so brave!
We returned to the van for a restorative cup of tea and decided at 11pm to have a final go at spotting a Kiwi. This time we were in luck and in the red light spotted a hen sized shaggy bird with a ridiculously long bill probing around in the fallen leaves and decaying lumbar of the forest floor, occasionally emitting a high pitched, surprised squeak. We marvelled at it for about 20 minutes before it sidled off, out of sight. Rewarded we returned triumphant to the van to recover and sleep after our very long day!