Trip Start Sep 22, 2005
Trip End Apr 13, 2006

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Tuesday, October 11, 2005

New Zealand felt very much like home, not only was the language the same, they drive on the left, once out of Auckland the landscape was reminiscent of the wilder parts of Wiltshire and inevitably it was raining! However, the longer we spent on the road the more we became aware that this wasn't home. It was difficult to pin point exactly why it felt different. There were obvious differences in the road signs and houses, and on closer inspection the local flora was more exotic and prehistoric looking. Nikki was excited to see white arun lillies growing wild in fields.

Feeling more at ease with the automatic car it caused a few chuckles when a hurriedly made left hand turn up to the Kauri Museum saw the windscreen wipers come on instead of the indicator. We arrived at the museum mid afternoon in time to have a good look around. The Kauri forests used to cover significant areas of the Northlands but as one of the major timber exports, the Kauri trees are now few and far between. The museum was very informative and interesting, documenting the lives of the workers and early timber merchants. There were some amazing facts about the oldest and biggest trees to have grown. It was quite hard to imagine the size of the biggest tree from the circle on the wall indicating the size of the trunk - see photo.

Nikki would have quite happily bought the whole shop having taken a fancy in particular to the rich colour and grain of the ancient Kauri wood. The wood is unique in that it was preserved in swampland without fossilising and is up to 40,000 years old. The coffee table remained in the store as it was too big to carry and Nikki discovered it can be bought on line from the comfort of home.

Having whetted our appetite we set off in search of the oldest living Kauri tree in NZ - Tane Mahuta. Our journey took us through some dense forest roads and as darkness fell we arrived at the short forest footpath to the viewing point. Although only a 2 minute walk, we found the forest more dense, in places, than the Amazon jungle - as we visited that at the end of the "dry" season. Tane Mahuta was indeed a grand old man as befits a tree of 2000 years. Even from the viewing distance, the tree trunk was huge in diameter and really stuck out as the "King of the Forest".

In the small town of Opononi, armed with only the road name, we thought it would be easy to find the Youth Hostel, however, we weren't expecting it to be 10 minutes up a hillside track! We immediately headed back out to find some dinner. It was 7.45 and we were told that the few restaurants in town shut early on a Sunday (well we didn't have a clue what day it was!). Having failed to get food in one bar in Opononi (which we were secretly glad about having walked inside) we travelled to the neighbouring town and success!

We got back to the Youth Hostel where we were the lucky ones to have the caravan, pitched up above the main building. It was comfy enough but we're sure the wind and rain sounded worse from inside the caravan than out!
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