The following morning brought the rain and we were lucky to have seen the beach areas in such nice weather. A little way down the road we came to the Waipoua Forest, which is home to a series of Kauri Trees, which are hundreds of years old. The first one we saw was called Tane Mahuta, which in English means "God of the Forest". This is because the Maori people believe that Tane is the life giver and all creatures of the land are his children. Tane Mahuta is the largest known living Kauri, measuring 17.68 metres high, with a trunk girth 13.77 metres. I felt very small and insignificant! This tree was absolutely incredible! The Department of Conservation (DOC) had erected a wooden boardwalk above the ground so that the millions of visitors do not walk and damage on the roots of these trees. It wasn't the prettiest of trees but it didn't need to be, it was tremendous just looking at it! It has been estimated that the original seed of this tree was planted over 2000 years ago, respect the tree!
Further down the road we walked around the forest for about an hour to take in two different groups of trees. The first was Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest, notice a pattern here?) This tree was the second largest and only reached 10.21 metres high but was famous for being the fattest (or technically it had the largest trunk girth if we want to be politically correct towards the trees) at an outstanding 16.41 metres! This tree certainly ate all the pies!! Once again the DOC had erected boardwalk to a viewing platform a little way back limiting where you could go but you didn't need to get too close to appreciate this tree's grandness!
The Four Sisters were unsurprisingly four Kauri trees but what made them unique is they were all really close together, so close in fact it looked as though three of them shared the same trunk and grew independently from the same roots. These four trees were more tall than they were wide and looked very graceful together. It was good to stretch our legs and have a decent walk for a bit after the amount of driving we have done over the last couple of days.
After lunch we drove through some very miserable weather as we left the West Coast and rejoined the SH1 travelling South back down towards Auckland. We were planning to spend a little bit of time in Auckland and try and climb Mount Eden but the rain soon squashed that idea! We had been invited to stay with one of Dan's old school friend's Claire, who, like Stu, had married a Kiwi and had emigrated here. We arrived at their gorgeous house without getting lost just after 5pm to a warm welcome from two very cute and shy little boys, Connor and Ryan. That didn't last very long and I was being asked to play various games!
We had a lovely evening with Claire and Carl and we brought her up to speed with all the news of people she and Dan mutually knew. They realised they hadn't seen each other since Dan returned from six months in Africa in 94 (did anyone know he went to Africa in 94?!)but they both gave the appearance they'd seen each other last week and conversation flowed easily. Claire was lovely and made me feel at home, despite not knowing me. Connor kept us entertained very proudly showing off his new school uniform, which Claire had just washed and ironed and one by one he put each item of clothing on, including his hat and blazer! It was a lovely and very cute fashion show! After being spoilt rotten with a yummy tea, tim tams and chocolate it was time for sleep in a very comfortable bed, which I would struggle to leave in the morning, however nice the campervan was!