Saturday, March 6, 2010

Pt 10 - Bayly's Beach; Maungaraho Rock; Tokatoka Peak; Kauri Museum; On to Auckland

Monday 22 February – Baylys beach; Maungaraho Rock; Tokatoka Peak; Kauri Museum; on to Auckland.

The weather is beautiful again today for our exploration into Auckland. After such a late night, it’s no surprise that we are slow to rise and depart yet again.

Our first stop, just a little way down the road is Nelson’s Kaihu Kauri. We were thinking of maybe having a look here on our way past yesterday and now we’re doubly keen for a look having watched the interesting video of the swamp kauri operation at the Dargaville Museum. They have a large assortment of kauri products, bowls, vases, tables and knick nacks. A large room next door has a diplay of larger furniture items including some nice tables. The slab tables show the grain of the kauri so beautifully and we end up discussing custom built furniture and international shipping and having a walk through the slab room.. Turns out kauri, though so slow growing is a soft wood but this can be addressed by making a sensible choice of finish. The browsing and chatting consumes a good hour.. a bit more than we had intended.

As we approach Dargaville I can’t resist taking a little side trip, only 8kms to Baylys Beach. Access to the beach isn’t all that straightforward with the road simply leading right onto the sand and not a lot of obvious nearby parking. There’s a sign in town saying not to take vehicles onto the beach without checking conditions with locals as the sand can be soft. We have no plan to go anywhere near sand with our hire car of course, we’re just here for a bit of a squiz. We hit paydirt too. This place is crawling with cute authentic little baches. Some are brightly coloured. I love the tendency we’ve been noticing of people to really be bold with colour on their cute weatherboard houses of all sizes. These batches are cute as.

I find myself wondering whether the powers that be have thought to give some sort of heritage protection to little bach communities like this one.. there’s a similar little community in the Royal National Park in Sydney. Depression era. No road access at all, you have to hike around to them. They are exactly the same sort of thing as these batches.  I was told that they are slated for destruction. That you cannot buy or sell them. You can only inherit them, and even inheritance has a limited duration. Eventually when the current owners and their families are gone, the next generation will just lose rights to them.. well that’s what I’ve been told anyway..after we get home I learn that these huts in the Royal National Park are heritage listed and am very pleased to hear it.

Just above the little cluster of baches at Baylys Beach is a new development. Sections (blocks of land) are for sale. They seem to have a range of displayed prices from 170K to 245K. Nice views from some of them. Though we haven’t searched extensively there doesn’t seem to be much to this community other than the dwellings and a café/shop. I do hope that people building do something sympathetic to the little baches below when the time comes.

We head on back towards Dargaville, encouraged by our first little foray into the wilds. The plan now is straight through towards Matakohe .. hmm. A brown sign. Maungaraho Rock. Oh why not. We chuck a uey and head down the side road to discover the unbeaten track. Towards the end of the way the fairly winding road becomes gravel that terminates in a loop at the base of a large and impressive hunk of stone.

A broad paddock gate leads to a grassy path and an old painted sign. One foot follows the other and before I know it they have taken me up some old overgrown treated pine stairs as per the map on the sign, though the path signage encourages an alternate route, not consistent with the sign. I am bush bashing my way around the western face of the rock where the path is plain to see but extensively overgrown. My footwear is not exactly appropriate and I give thanks that I’m not likely to meet with some disgruntled venomous reptile in the leaf litter.

The track winds around until it heads distinctly upward and emerges at a narrow ledge with expansive views of the surrounding district. I carefully manoevre myself so I can sit safely well away from danger while I have a look at the view. I guess that is Tokatoka Peak across in the distance. I watch as a herd of cattle is moved along the dirt road far below.

After taking a few view shots I head down, thankful that hubby doesn’t seem to have followed this way. No sooner than the thought is completed I see a blue t-shirt. Heading my way. Ah. Hubby has not the fear of heights that I have. He will go up there. He will stand on that little perch where I sat and it will creep me out completely. I figure best if I just don’t watch.

A short wait and hubby is done with the view and we move on. The track continues around behind the rock. Hubby shows me the cut on his hand where he was attacked by the local vegetation as he tried to brush it aside going past. Do we have some betadine? No. Mum is the first aid kit specialist on our travels usually and I didn't think to pack one. As if by magic, a kawakawa plant appears right there beside the track. Just the thing. We pick a leaf and apply it to the wound as described for such circumstances by our various Maori instructors on tours we have had.

The eastern side of Maungaraho rock is less overgrown. It is cool and shady under the large native trees and ferns. Not a lot of undergrowth in the dense shade. The ground is dry with so little rain of recent months but there is plenty of leaf litter which can be slippery on the slope even now. We carefully pick our way around the narrow path.

Some excitement as I find a small cicada shell. What is it about cicada shells! Everyone I know is tickled whenever they find cicada shells. A special part of childhood we just don’t seem to lose when we become jaded in so many other respects. I guess it’s the magical process associated with the cicada crawling out of the earth, up on a tree , then splitting open; struggling free of it’s straight jacket, uncrumpling it’s wings and drying them and flying away to become the sound of summer. The dried shell a lasting memorial to metamorphosis and the wonder of nature.

We duck under a spider web that has been constructed across the path. The owner of this web must be all of 5 or 6 mm across but is very prettily decorated.

We trudge through some fairly long grass along the boundary fence of the reserve and finally make it back to the car for a cool drink. Maungaraho Rock is not a must see. The views are good, but not so unique they are unmissable. What we have enjoyed most is the solitude and the opportunity to just explore something a bit different to the usual tourist stuff you are always hearing about.

With the views from the rock I’m thinking we probably can skip Tokatoka peak. However I can’t ignore my curiousity so I make the turn when it comes up. The gravel section of the road is a bit longer this time and there’s a short parking bay just alongside a style for clambering over the wire fence. I understand the track is steep but quite short. A little umming and ahhing and we go in. The sign warns that the path can be slippery.

The path is rough.It’s dry now of course and some cracks are opening up in the earth. The slope isn’t too bad for a while. There are another couple of styles as you cross the fence to a small protected paddock where there is a strong and pleasant aromatic fragrance of the bushland. Beyond this fence the route then takes on the character of a long flight of improvised stairs. Not really stairs. More like smooth foot shaped indentations in the earth that have filled with treacherous leaf litter. It’s hard work. Up and up we go. Who’s idea was this? Hubby is ahead of me. It’s much easier with longer legs. The higher you go the more the view impresses. I pause to catch my breath at a flax plant. I'm not the first to pause here. There is a leaf that has been roughly split and plaited. Trackside entertainment apparently.

Have I mentioned I really don’t like heights much at all? Usually I can keep it under control. I’m careful and don’t push it too hard and I am seldom impeded in exploring and experiencing most accessible places. As I am within sight of the summit I look around. Yeah, the view up there must be amazing.. No… no definitely not going up there. I sing out to let hubby know not to wait for me as I’m not coming. He was ahead of me and has enthusiastically clambered onto the viewing space, He encourages me on, and having caught my breath I steel myself for another attempt. “Come on” says hubby “there’s a huge flat area up here it’s worth it. The view is amazing”. I look up and around at the general terrain and think "huge flat area my arse... and anyway the very narrow "path" the rest of the short way and the move from path to flat looks extremely perilous".

I take a couple of steps and feel panic rising.
“I. Am. Not. Coming. Up. There.” Says I. “I’m freakin’ terrified!” Hubby can tell from the tone of my voice that I’m out of here. He comes and gets the camera off me and gives me the car keys. Relieved, I give instructions for hubby to be sure and scream really loudly if he falls off so I know to call emergency services... then I summon the courage to back slowly down the “stairs” using both hands and feet, pausing as hubby demands a piker photo.

Tokatoka peak is not for the faint hearted or elderly… or kids… well, not for most people really I guess. I think Hubby is quite pleased to have done it though, so that’s good. Shame about the argument I had with a mound of earth when parking, but he marks on the bumper should buff out.

B-line to the Kauri Museum at Matakohe now. Getting late and we’re hungry after all our exercise today, so first order of business on arrival after brief nod to the war memorial, is to grab a bite at the Gumdiggers Café across the road. It’s a lovely spot out on the back verandah looking over the farmland views with a gentle zephyr drifting through. We sample a pretty good caramel milkshake as we wait for our Tane Mahuta burgers. The Tane Mahuta burger is just a burger with bacon and egg. The meat patty is pretty sausagey, but over all there is a good amount of salad, and beetroot. It’s an excellent burger.. but it’s better without the “meat” patty. .. if they used good quality meat it would be brilliant.

The Kauri Museum is a very impressive place. They have made rooms, similar to those they have assembled at Dargaville, only these are even more extensive and the mannequins are even modeled on local people who are descendents of the first European settlers to the area. It’s quite extraordinary.
Some galleries are experiencing some power problems so that cuts down the time required for our exploration today.

The area that made the most impact on me contained a slab/s from a large tree that was killed by lightning or something on someone’s farm and so was milled. This tree was dead of course not directly killed by logging, but it represents all the many thousands if not millions of ancient trees consumed for lumber. For comparison on the end wall they have a round from this huge, though comparatively small, kauri of hundreds of years of age. Around it they have drawn the sizes of other large kauri living and gone. Even the girth of Te Manua Ngahere is considerably smaller than the largest kauri trees known. Not that these enormous specimens were necessarily typical of course. It is so so sad to stand and contemplate what has been lost. I feel like I'm visiting the forest equivalent of Auschwitz and am filled with sorrow.

I turn away and head into another area. There are large rooms filled with logging related machinery and gum digging machinery similar to that at Dargaville, but I'm too sad to get into it. I come to a huge recreation (or is it relocation) of a two storey weatherboard boarding house which is in turn full of recreated rooms and stores as we saw nearer the museum entrance.

As I am returning from the boarding house in the corridor, tucked away back in a relative backwater, I was so pleased to find an answer to something I have been wondering about as we've explored Northland. The Waipoua Forest Trust has bought farmland and is replanting kauri forest. Starting with manuka as a nurse plant then using seed collected from the forest, and Tane Mahuta in particular, to grow more forest. The kauri is quite shallow rooted and relies in part on being in a forest of giants to provide protection from storms and their buffeting winds. This and a few fairly shallow peg roots, and the sheer size and weight of the tree, keep it upright. We have been in so many places where this information would have been useful, or could have been promoted. We would gladly have bought a kauri or other plant for the program or just donated money and yet the work of the trust is nigh invisible to tourists. If I could make one suggestion for improvement for our visit to the forest and it’s information centre or tour businesses involving kauri and their forests it would be to promote opportunities for donation and a sort of Trees for Travellers program like what they are doing at the cape and in Kaikoura.

It is a business-like drive in to Auckland from Matakohe. I'm too slow on the shutter button to catch a nice shot of both Maungaraho Rock and Tokatoka Peak as a backdrop to the pastures through which we are travelling.

This time we opt for using the tollway and find it, predictably, a lovely wide fast road nicely planted with native plants in the landscaping on the nearby slopes disrupted by its apparently recent construction. I am pleased to note that I have learned to identify kauri where they are present in the patches of remnant forest as we travel. (Only Totara, Rimu etc etc to learn now!)

Arriving in Auckland we would like to get out and sample Gina’s or a French place in Victoria Rd West who’s name just will not stick in my brain, but I am just too tired to go for another late night out so it’s toasted sandwiches and a nice chicken fettucine from room service at Quay West. Both very good. A movie as I journal and argue with the internet about blog photo uploads … we opt for The Ugly Truth which is a bit of a laugh.. though we are a bit surprised at how much explicit sexual discussion Hollywood allows these days.. not offended by any means, just noting that it’s such a contrast to only a few years ago.

1 comment:

Dargaville Visitor Information Centre said...

Hi - just been reading your blog - great information. Thanks Sue @ the Visitor Information Centre in Dargaville