Giant Trees, Old Pioneers and New

February 21, 2016

You never know how a day will go when you travel. The plan today was to say goodbye to Kerikeri and head down the west coast of the North Island before arriving at our destination. It went pretty much to plan but with some big surprises.

Kerikeri was actually the Plymouth or Jamestown of New Zealand. True it was founded in the 1820s some two hundred years after the American pioneers, but NZ is quite a bit further away from Merry Old England. Napoleon had been defeated and English Missionaries needed new fields to spread the faith. Kerikeri Inlet located in Cook’s Bay of Islands was a good place to establish a mission and a stone trading post. It was probably the trading post that convinced the local Maoris to allow the settlement to be established. Carving with steel is much easier than stone. By 1840 the English through the Treaty of Waitangi acquired a foothold that would not be shaken. We started our day with a visit to the Stone Store and the original settlement houses. There is a replica of the Maori Fishing Village that existed at the time of the English colonization. We took a few pictures and left. A Maori woman was conducting some sort of ceremony while we watched. We stopped and took pictures of a particularly cute small country church. Small churches like this are found in every town along the way.

We headed towards the west coast to view the Kauri forests and the largest known surviving Kauri tree. Think Sequoia or Redwood and you have an idea of how huge and old the Kauri trees can be. In the late 19th Century, loggers found the trees irresistible and left only a few old growth trees. Some were spared and formed the nucleus for today’s protected forests. We enjoyed a brief visit to the largest known Kauri and drove many a twisty mile through the forest where most of the survivors live.

The grave of the Opo the Happy Dolphin buried in the town of Opopone where he played in the bay with local kids and visitors in the 1950s. He still has celebrity status and statues. Actually the bay in which he played is quite stunning. We drove to a lookout and were stunned by the scene. Back in the car and we continued down the west coast before turning back towards Auckland.

It is Sunday and folks are retuning to the city after their late Summer outings. We spent a fair amount of time on the road with the rest of Aucklanders getting through the city. We did get plenty of pictures of Auckland Harbor. I imagine that it has changed quite a bit from my Dad’s time. We encountered a continuous stream of weekend travelers returning from the Coromandel Peninsula. We reached Thames and were instructed to call so that our host could meet us. The guy at the gas station made the call for me and we were off. The next adventure was about to began.

The directions were good and we followed signs to a Butterfly Farm up three miles of gravel road. We were not alone as we followed an ancient blue bus. It finally turned off and we proceeded another three miles until we reached a Blue Gate. Our host was waiting for us with his vintage Toyota Land Cruiser. We parked our car and transferred our luggage to the roof of the Toyota and were off. Another three miles of climbing found us a top a ridge with a commanding view. This would be our home for the night.

Scott and Karyn live with their three children on his 320 acre hilltop farm growing cattle, pigs, sheep and plenty of garden vegetables. There are two guest houses of which we are in one. A family from Shanghai are in the other. Scott says that they are full almost all of the time including winter with folks from the Pacific Islands who want to experience a winter climate. It doesn’t get that cold but the winds and rain do the job. Karyn cooked us pizza and we enjoyed a nice glass of wine. The place runs on solar power and a generator. The Internet connection is good so long as the wind doesn’t blow the receiving dish too much. The place and gravel reminds us of Rainbow Valley in Alaska. It is quite the deal and an adventure for us.

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