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Waipoua State Forest

blog-0456632001392661761.jpgWe left the park at Russell headed west to cross the island to the west coast. We wanted to spend some time hiking in the Waipoua State Forest, site of the largest Kauri trees in the world. Kauri trees are a source of gum and an important economic export from the islands until World War II. Much of the forest is gone but several very large Kauri trees can be seen in this forest.

The road to Waipoua State Forest was quite serpentine, travel was slow and we encountered frequent one lane bridges. These bridges are common throughout New Zealand. With a population of 4 million people, traffic is not heavy and the cost of a one lane bridge is about half the cost of a two lane bridge. I am certain that some of these bridges date back to the first World War. There are signs to indicate which direction has right of way and everyone is patient about crossing, it is just a way of life here. We reached the west coast shortly after lunch time and stopped at a roadside table overlooking the harbor at Pakanae. Across the harbor from us was a huge sand dune, a most impressive sight.

After lunch it was about half an hour on more serpentine roads to Waipoua State Forest. The parking lot was small and there was a bus taking up much of the parking lot. We found a spot to park and hiked to the largest Kauri tree. It was about a five minute walk from the highway. There were two viewing spots, one up close and another further back. From the most distant spot I could get most of the tree in the photograph. Can you find Louise in the picture? Look carefully, she is there. This amazing tree reminded me of the Home Tree in Avatar. There are numerous epiphytic and symbiotic plants living on the branches of these trees. There were even other trees sprouting on those branches.

This was also our first opportunity to walk in the New Zealand forest. Every plant is different. There are fern trees that stand 20 feet tall. Later we would see even taller ones. We saw a vine with no leaves and no tendrils, slick stems that rose from the ground ten feet before curling around another vine or tree. The forest is a multi-story forest, a rain forest. We were 50 feet from another large Kauri tree but couldn’t see the trunk for the thick vegetation. From the road we could see its crown.

Driving a little further south we came to the trail for the second largest Kauri tree. This was a longer hike and there were other groupings of Kauri trees, the four sisters standing within a 30 foot circle of each other. The second largest Kauri tree had the most monstrous trunk but wasn’t as tall. We marveled at the bulk of this tree. These weren’t redwoods or sequoia trees, we’ve seen them but these trees had their own kind of special beauty and a certain hearty nature to them. Their ages were estimated to be 1500 to 2000 years old.

Our drive that night was slow and tense. We had been watching the fuel level go down and were under a quarter tank of diesel at this point. The first town we came to had one service station and it was closed. It was after 6:00 p.m. Did this mean all stations were going to be closed? I wanted to fill up before we made camp but maybe we would have to camp and then get fuel in the morning. The next town had a station open, a CalTex station. We filled up, just over 62 liters, 16.4 gallons cost $89.50 NZ, $73.24 US. That is about $4.47 per gallon. The important thing is that we were getting 18.8 miles to a gallon. I was impressed. We’ve fueled several times since and our mileage is running 20.9 and 21.0 MPG! It’s cheaper than paying $3 per gallon and getting 8 miles per gallon. This is cheaper than using our motor home in the US. Yeah, I taught science for years and I can convert liters to gallons and kilometers to miles and even NZ$ to US$. Makes for some good math fun!

We finally arrived back at NZ Highway 1 and as the light drained from the sky found a campground at Sheep World! The sign said, “Tired drivers stay here.” Boy were they right. Ian met us as we drove in and ushered us to our site right next to our private shower and toilet. They had little restroom casitas so we could literally step out of the campervan and up the stairs to the restroom! He showed the rest of the facilities and then checked us in. Then he was off to take care of the next tired driver. We slept very well that night.


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