Still amazed by the glow worms of Waipu Cave, we continued our trek north on Route 1, then west on 14. The scenery was beautiful. Mountains, pasture, coastline, sheep, cows and an almost sub-tropical climate were all experienced along the way. Poor Becky was coughing like crazy and now sneezing too. Maybe this isn’t allergies afterall…she’s really not feeling so well, and I am getting concerned. She tried to pass it off as nothing, but I dunno… Still, we continued to our next destination – Waipoua Forest at the northwest part of the north island. The roads were really narrow but Becky did a fabulous job of keeping us on the road at all times! She sure was getting an arm workout from all the twists and turns in the road though.
Our first stop was Tane Mahuta…”Lord of the Forest”. This tree is a mere 2000 years old and the largest living Kauri tree in New Zealand!!!! The picture above shows part of the path we had to take to get to this tree. You can see how tropical it all looks….almost what I imagine Hawaii to look like. We turned around a bend in the path, and there it was. This monster tree! It’s impossible to get it all in one shot, but hopefully this picture gives you some perspective.
It has a fence around it to protect it, but this wasn’t the only large Kauri around. Once again, the book NZ Frenzy, gave us the low-down on where we could see more huge Kauri trees. Just 2km down the road and a few hikes away were “Four Sisters”, “Te Matua Ngahere”, “Cathedral Grove” and my personal fav, “Yakas”.
We hiked to all of them (thanks to Becky for talking me into it)! The forest was lovely and the trees were amazing. Yakas was my favorite of them all because I could HUG IT! Yepperoni, I hugged this big ‘ol tree.
It’s also good because it gives you perspective as to how HUGE these trees are. Cool stuff, especially for a tree hugger like me!
After Yakas, Becky was starting to feel pretty sick, so we hiked back to the van. On the way back, I saw this Koru! This is an unfurling fern frond and a very popular symbol in New Zealand, specifically with the Maori, the indigenous Polynesian people of the country. It symbolizes new beginnings, strength and peace….which I think is pretty darn cool…and more timely than I ever would have imagined.
Once back at the van, we decided we needed to head back south. I was going to drive for the first time. I really wanted Becky to rest, ’cause she wasn’t doing so well. On top of that, we were in the middle of nowhere and only had a 1/4 tank of gas left in the van. Uh oh. Let me add, that EVERYTHING closes early in NZ. Even gas stations! I took to the wheel and hoped for the best…confident that we would find an open gas station somewhere on our drive as far south as we could go. After driving through several towns, we finally found one that was still open. Whew! What a relief! But then, how in tarnation do you open the fricken fuel door on this darn van???? We both have Master’s degrees and neither of us could figure out how to open the damn thing!!! I ended up walking over to another patron at the gas station…an older gentleman who was barefoot, and asked if he could help us. He was incredulous as to why we didn’t know how to open it. The more I tried to explain, the more stupid I sounded! At least he got a good laugh from us. He looked around for a bit in the drivers side of our van and then found the release UNDER THE DRIVERS SEAT! Ghhhheeeeez. Duh us. We thanked him profusely. We got dinner in the same town. Poor Becky was feeling rough, though a tiny bit better after we ate at least. I was still concerned though. She was developing a fever and I needed to find us a hotel so she could get some rest. I took to the wheel once again and continued our journey south. Sooo much driving though…I was tired too, but knew I needed to press on. Becky was able to sleep a little. When she woke up, it was dark. She exclaimed that I needed to pull over and see the stars. I hadn’t really seen anything…just paying attention to the road. Once I got out of the van though, HOLY SMOKES. I had seriously never seen so many stars in my life! There was bazillions of them and you could actually see the galaxies. It was nothing short of amazing! I was on a mission though….to find a hotel further south. Time to move on! Back on the road, we pulled into the town of Warkworth at 10pm and saw that the Central Motel had lights on and vacancy. At this point, we didn’t care what it cost, we just needed to go to sleep. We got accommodations (which were clean and neat, but like stepping back into time…all fixtures were from the 50s!). We grabbed what we needed, and went to bed. It felt so good to lay down! I was worried about all the driving….we can’t keep this up. We were beginning to realize that to see all the stuff we wanted to see, we were going to have to drive like crazy. That’s not vacation! Hmmm….what to do. You shall see on Day 4…