Posted by: scribe9 | February 14, 2010

To the far north, again

This time we started by going west, heading out the highway that goes near our house, and turning north at the coast. We stopped for a picnic lunch at a lake that has a large shallow ledge and then a very steep drop-off, as you can see from the eastern shore:

Lake Kai Iwi

The wind was blowing so hard there that we went around to the east side and ate at a campground there. That campground was much less crowded, and we found a possible reason as we were leaving. The restroom was more modest—small, no showers—and was also a rest stop on the highway, so it was on the far side of the campground fence. To get to it from the campground one had to climb over a rickety stile with no handrail, and then hurdle a dark wire fifteen inches above the top step. Not that much fun in daylight, and no doubt far worse at midnight. Both campgrounds were like those we’d seen in England, where people pitch their tents cheek by jowl, rather than in separate sites.

We stopped at a swimming hole on this river

 and saw these wildflowers:

Some miles further on we came to the kauri forest, and were glad to spend some time among tall trees, which we have sorely missed. The kauris grow rather like sequoias, although they’re shorter and less tapered:

Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest

Kauri bark

 Two centuries ago, there were zillions of them. Then Europeans (probably including Captain Cook) discovered that kauris yielded excellent wood for spars for sailing ships. Their sap was also useful for varnish. Their wood’s also been used for lumber and flooring. So they got logged almost into oblivion; it’s somewhat amazing that there are still a few huge old trees (the one above, the biggest, is about 2000 years old) left. These days kauri wood is popular for woodworking, but it comes from swamp kauri—the remains of trees that died and were preserved in swamps for thousands of years.

After we left the kauri forest, the road got very twisty and windy. Many of the bridges were one-way. At each such bridge, one direction is given the right-of-way. Many of the bridges had had the right-of-way side changed recently—maybe traffic patterns have changed. Virtually all of the two-lane bridges were built during World War II, probably with American help (the New Zealanders were somewhat overwhelmed with the American personnel and materiel). It’s clear that New Zealand doesn’t give the priority to roads that we do—I’m not sure how much of that is from lack of money, how much from the Kiwi inclination to make do, and how much is from a sparse population. They do have to deal with lots of landslides, and some of the few guardrails we saw today were on sections where they were trying to repair slides.

We reached our “holiday apartment” above Shipwreck Bay and were treated to this view:

The season’s wrong to see the sun set directly over the Tasman Sea, but it was pretty anyway:


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