Today started well, we had our first much appreciated sleep in, a breakfast of scrambled eggs and a few cups of tea and a very easy pack up- ready for our three hour drive back down to Auckland. We made one more quick trip into central Paihia for a coffee and while browsing through the shops actually found a souvenir with my name on it! I've never seen that before and am overly excited about seeing my name printed on a piece of plastic- but there you go- small things…
We drove a few hours west of Paihia to visit Tane Mahuta- Lord of the Forest, the largest Kauri tree living today. What impressed me wasn't so much the height of the tree (which is still pretty impressive) but the girth. With one of the thickest and straightest trunks I've seen, you can understand why this tree was used so much by early pioneers for ship masts. In the canopy of the tree there are ferns growing in the forks of the branches, giving you the sense that Tane Mahuta has it's own eco-system, high above the rest of the forest. Seeing an area full of these trees would be incredible, unfortunately no such thing exists anymore, although plantation efforts makes this a possibility- in 500 or so years.
Southbound toward Auckland, over hills and through dozens of small towns, each offering their own wares- fruit, wood carving, local museums, possum and rabbit skins. We passed many Pa sites, ancient Maori battle grounds, and loads of bee-hives, Manuka honey being one of NZ more unique exports- the bee venom is actually used in a range of different creams and balms.
A few more hours on the road took us to Yaana's family home, Tom has been living here with Yaana and her family for the past few months, it's a lovely rural area just half an hour from central Auckland. They kindly offered to have us stay the night, so instead of continuing on to the YHA in Auckland we unpacked our Juicy van and sat down with the family over port, olives and cheese. Relaxing end to an easy day, looking forward to tomorrow as we continue heading south towards Raglan.