Jan 10, 2005
May 10, 2005
The Opononi YHA manager met us at the gate, flashlight in hand
. The hostel was probably one of the most remote hostels in the country. It was definitely an out-of-the-way place; the power to the hostel was produced by a generator. It reminded me of the hostels of yore and had a comfy, homey quality that many of the newer hostels don't have.
There were just a few people there besides ourselves - a trio from Switzerland (who didn't speak much English) and an elderly couple from Adelaide, Australia.
Our primarly reason for travelling this route back towards Auckland is to see the huge kauri trees that once grew in abundance in New Zealand. Most of been cut down for lumber (used primarly in making masts for ships; there are now just a few left. We saw the largest existing kauri - 60 m tall, 13.8 m (45 feet) in girth and over 2,000 years old! (It is believed that kauri trees are some of the oldest on earth.) The habitat of the kauri is very fragile - the trees have suffered as well as many of the native birds, such as parrots. The forest was lush and dense with palms, ferns and various types of conifers. We noticed signs that request the public to destroy or report any wild ginger they see. Such plants, along with bind weed (purple morning glory) and wild honeysuckle are choking out the native vegetation.
From Cape Reinga we hightailed it south towards the west coast. (Steve will not believe this, but there was a piece of road that we travelled en route to Opononi that was steeper and more winding than anything we drove on the south island.) After a long, long drive, we made it to the ferry crossing where we discovered we'd missed the ferry by five minutes and had to wait another three-quarters of an hour for the next boat. As the sun set . . . we waited for the next ferry. On board, Martin had an interesting conversation with a farmer who had reluctantly knocked off work earlier than he wanted to to take his girlfriend for supper. (He informed Martin that his grandfather had worked on the CPR in Canada.) We made it to our destination about 7:30 pm, travelling along "Mountain Road" (a very narrow nailbiter of a trail) for a few kilometres.