We were picked up by the magic bus at 8. We were glad to leave this hostel. We'd had some food stolen from the fridge to add to our annoyance! We stopped in a little village called Rawene on the edge of the Hokianga harbour for mid-morning tea. We were dropped off at the visitor centre in Opononi where we met the lady from our hostel - Globetrekkers. She took our bags up to the hostel and then came back for the four of us. We went into the visitors centre to watch the video about Opo 'the gay dolphin' that our driver had recommended! The dolphin was very tame and friendly and had lived in the harbour and played with children in the early 1950s. This film was from the 50s. The dolphin wasn't gay as we would understand but gay as in happy and friendly. To us the video sounds very funny. There are some things they say that now mean quite different things! They even had a sign up at the time saying 'please don't hurt our gay dolphin'! How times and languages change! The Hokianga harbour itself is very unusual. It is a natural harbour and on the other side is a big 'hill' that changes from grassy to a giant sand dune on the edge of the harbour. It's difficult to describe. Our hostel was privately owned and small and cosy! We shared a room with two girls that we'd already met in Paihia who were very nice. We had a cup of tea then we walked down to the shop with one of the girls - Eimear, to get lunch and then went and sat on the beach. There were lots of purple jellyfish washing up on the beach. We headed back to the hostel to have an early dinner before we headed out for the evening. We were picked up at 5.45 to go on the Footprints maori walking tour of the Waipoua forest. There were about 12 of us altogether and two maori guides - Taf who was very funny and Bill who was really sweet. We had to have head torches for when it got dark which looked very silly! We had one guide at the front and one guide at the back because of the maori saying "................", meaning "if the fronts good, and the backs good, then the middle's SWEET AS"!!!!!!! We learnt far more information than I could put here! The best thing about it was that it wasn't a staged cultural 'experience'. They weren't wearing silly costumes or prancing around. They were two real people imparting on us the knowledge they'd learnt from their parents and grandparents. They told us about legends and also practical medical uses of plants, and the history of the area. We saw lots of different types of trees and plants. We also saw a native Tui bird. The main attractions were the giant kauri trees. Th whole country used to be covered in the but the Europeans cut them down. We first saw Te Matua Ngahere', the 'Father of the forest' - he oldest kauri tree in New Zealand, estimated to be around 4 thousand years old. We saw 'Tane Mahuta' - the 'Lord of the Forest'. He is the tallest kauri tree in New Zealand and is about 2000 years old. The guides sang to the trees but it didn't feel silly and fake - it felt natural, like a sung prayer showing respect to the trees which play a large role in the belief system of the maoris. Tane Mahuta is believed to have forced Mother Earth and Father Sky apart, creating thi space in the middle. We all had to shout goodnight to the trees in maori - Pormariay! Seeing the trees in the dark with no tourists aroung was quite magical. We also heard the cry of the Morepork (native owl). We were driven back to our hostel and had a cup of tea and went to bed.
It was raining so we apent the morning packing up our bags, writing our journals and chatting to the others. The bus picked us at the visitors centre again. We made a quick stop at the forest so everyone could see 'Tane Mahuta'. It felt very different when the forest was full of tourists but it gave me a chance to get a photo as my camera doesn't work very well in the dark. We also got a toasted sandwich! We stopped in the little town of Matakohe for tea and cake! We didn't have time to go into the Kauri museum, but we had a quick look at the replica buildings outside. They had scary manquins in! From there we drove straight back to Auckland. We drove into the city over the harbour bridge and got a great picture postcard view of the city. Photos from the moving coach don't look so good though. We got to our hostel early evening. We were staying in a rubbish room in Auckland Central Backpackers at a hugely inflated price due to the music festival on in the city. We went straight out and got some dinner down at the harbour. Went went on the computers then bed!