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Decimation of the Ancient Kauri
Sunny & Warm
02/17/2011, Waipoua Forest

Photo of Lori standing at the base of Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest). It is New Zealand's largest known living kauri tree.
Trunk Girth 13.77 m
Trunk Height 17.68 m
Total Height 51.2 m
Trunk Volume 244.5 m3

Today we drove through the Ancient Kauri Forest of New Zealand...without a doubt it was one of the most depressing experiences of our travels. Over the period of 2 hours we drove past what must have been the sole surviving dozen or so ancient Kauri trees and then we visited the Kauri Museum where they celebrated the history of the bushman and his ability over 100 years to decimate an entire population of 1000's of ancient Kauri trees. The fact that any survive today is something of a miracle.

The Kauri tree is a majestic hardwood that rivals the color and quality of old growth teak. Some of the ancient trees were measured to be 40 feet in diameter and over 200 feet tall living for more than 2000 years. Kauri forests once covered 1.2 million hectares from the Far North of Northland to Te Kauri, near Kawhia and were common when the first people arrived around 1000 years ago. Now, there remain only a hand full and laws have finally been passed that make it illegal to fell such ancient giants. I could not believe that they were still cutting these incredible trees just a couple decades ago.

The Kauri Museum was incredible, however you couldn't help but feel that they were touting the strength and courage of the bushmen that cut these trees and their ingenuity to bring the monster logs to market rather than displaying the shameful facts of a ancient forest completely devastated by human greed. I'm not a tree hugger, but felling a tree that is 3000 years old is disgusting and thoughtless.

One of the most thought provoking displays at the museum were the Bog Kauris. These are ancient Kauris that were discovered buried in the bogs of North Island. The wood from many of these ancient trees has been carbon dated to more than 40,000 years old. The picture of Lori in the stump of one of these Bog Kauri shows how incredibly beautiful the wood is after thousands of years covered in mud. One of the wood samples was even dated to 30 million years old and it remains viable wood...not fossil.

Lori sitting inside a 35,000 year old tree.

Whangarei falls.

More photos added to gallery..

Surreal Drive on 90 Mile Beach
Sunny, Spotty Rain, mostly Fine
02/11/2011, Cape Reinga, New Zealand

Since our last update we have covered a lot of ground. Leaving Wellington on a rainy and cold day nearly a week ago we headed directly to Auckland where we would meet-up with Herb & Betty on S/V Sula who have been dragging our back-up transmission across the Pacific from Tahiti. After a long hard drive for more than 9 hours we passed through the modern city of Auckland where it felt like passing through San Francisco. A truly spectacular looking city from the Auckland bridge crossing the bay. About 30 minutes past Auckland we arrive on Whangaparoa Peninsula where Golf Harbor Marina is located and where S/V Sula and S/V Freezing Rain have moored for the season. When we arrived we exchanged a case of wine for our transmission and Herb was happy even after months of slogging a 85 pound weight around. We now have our tranny sitting in the roof rack making an already top heavy vehicle even heavier.

We stayed in Whangaparoa for only two nights then heading north as far as we could arriving at 90 Mile Beach just south of Cape Reinga which is the northern tip of New Zealand. The actual length of Ninety Mile Beach is more like 60 miles (96 km), but visitors need not feel short-changed as the scenery is breathtaking and seemingly never-ending. The beach seems like it continues to infinity as you drive your vehicle on the hard-packed sand. Yep, you can drive your car on the beach for the entire length of 96 km. It is highly recommended that you have 4x4 for this beach travel since the entrance and exit from the beach is through either a river surrounded by sand dunes or a steep sandy hill at the south end. When we arrived at 90 Mile Beach it was late and the tide was getting too high for us to make the run all the way up the beach. Even so, I told Lori it was a must do bucket list kinda thing that we would do in the morning. Lori didn't seem too sure about the idea but recognized that it was something that was probably going to be done. So, we camped at the southern end of the beach with the plan to make the 96 km run just after low tide at 9:00 am.

Stolen aerial view to give a better idea of the scope of the 90 Mile Beach.

Rear view of the fogged in beach as we cruise along at 100 km/hr on wetted beach sand.

The next morning I was in a rush packing the van in anticipation of the beach fun was this going to be! Lori was a nervous wreck. In general, Lori doesn't like anything that could potentially result in being stranded or dead. As we pulled out onto the beach, we could only see a mile or so up the beach due to fog which was rolling in off the Tasman Sea. Even so, I dropped the van into 4 high and punched it until we were doing 60 km/hr. The sand was solid and we didn't have any trouble with traction or digging in. The beach itself is very unique in that it is almost flat with hardly any slope resulting in an extremely wide section of wetted sand between the surf and the dunes which frame the natural freeway. The experience was absolutely surreal and rated up there with anchoring in Beveridge Reef...this was especially the case with the fog ahead, sun shinning through from above and glowing white sand dunes off in the distance. It honestly felt like we were somewhere in the Sahara. During the 69 km treck, we passed several other Delica vans and we got passed by a huge bus while we were doing 100 km/hr. The bus was doing at least 120 km/hr and doing it further out in the water too. All the passengers waved as they blew by.

Tour bus blowing past us at 120+ km/hr.

Lori rejoices that we didn't get stranded on the beach.

After driving a surreal hour, we arrived at the end of the beach located in the Te Paki sand dunes where the Te Paki Creek runs out through the sand dunes and you must drive through the center of the creek without stopping to prevent sinking. The signs actually tell you not to stop due to the potential of getting stuck in what is essentially quicksand. On both sides of the creek are huge sand dunes and the surreal experience continues to grow. Approximately 3 km up the creek and through the dunes we rounded a corner where a road meets the creek and we easily drove out and parked and enjoyed a few hours of sand surfing using our plastic table top.

What you can't see is the sand spray going into every orifice.

A photo just can't capture the true size and grade of this was extremely hard just to climb up as you can see by the zig zag prints.

Land meets dunes.

After playing in the sand dunes, we ventured the final few kilometers north to Cape Reinga. Cape Reinga is a spiritual place. It is spiritually sacred to the local Maori population because of the many killed there in inter-tribal warfare two centuries ago and also because the last point of land is considered the place where the souls of the deceased drop off into the water on their journey to the afterworld known as Hawaiki.

Cape Reigna light house. Can you believe that some actually prophisized that a light would eventually be placed here?...amazing eh ;-)

We spent a wonderful day hiking and driving then decided we wanted to do it all again the next we drove back to the camp ground down south via the highway and woke the next morning to do it all over again. What a kick in the pants!

Convergence of the Tasman Sea with the Pacific Ocean at Cape Reinga.

Many more pictures being added to photo gallery of 90 Mile Beach.

First Impressions of Wellington
Off and On Sun & Rain
02/04/2011, Wellington, North Island New Zealand

Photo is of a Kiwi dressed as Goldilocks on skates trying to convince two girls to show their breasts to the crowd of Kiwis...they did. After that, every female that passed in front of the crowd was required to flash.

Popeye showing the crowd what too much spinach can do to a man.

We arrived in Wellington via the interisland ferry. This was the first ferry that Lori and I have ever taken with a car. The experience was enjoyable as it took over 3 hours to transit the 15 mile strait between the North and South islands. The first hour and a half is spent zig-zagging the fiords off Picton just to get to open water. Once in open water the ferry cuts across at an angle to get to Wellington harbor which then requires a considerable amount of time to cross especially in 50 knot head winds.

Wellington is an attractive portside city built along side the harbor rising up into the hills. When we made our first effort to explore, we were met by thousands upon thousands of Kiwis dressed in all sorts of costumes and some which didn't feel the need to wear anything at all. Apparently the big to do was about Sevens Rugby. Sevens is a form of rugby in which there are only 7 players on the field and they are all running backs. It is much like flag football in the US. Since there are no big guys to do the tackling, the game is fast and high scoring. Nearly every time someone has the ball they score. We were told by a local Kiwi that in order to kill the boredom, the crowd dresses up in groups of characters and drink heavily as teams before and after the game. Many of the City streets were closed-off on Saturday for a huge street party to celibrate 7's hooliganism...REALLY, I'm not kidding. We only saw two police officers the entire time we were in the city, so I'm not sure how they plan to manage such a crowd.

Yeah, we aren't sure either...

After spending several hours people watching, we went to the New Zealand Te Papa museum on the waterfront and enjoyed an afternoon looking at a display of the European Masters Art work which was on loan from Germany. It included works by Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh, Rembrandt and many others. The showing was incredible and our feet and backs are still killing us after standing for 6 hours squinting our eyes and leaning forward.

We only had enough time to see a fraction of the museum so we return for a full day on Saturday when we saw the Collassal Squid that was captured while still alive off the coast of antartica by long line fishermen a few years ago. The video of the capture is amazing and they have the actual squid preserved in oil on display...a truly amazing animal considering it is a small female at over 33 feet in length.

Photos of the monster can be seen here:
Collassal Squid Capture

In the middle of all the 7's chaos, there just happened to be the start of the Velux Single Handed Around the World race. Four incredible sleds were on display along with many interactive displays inside the warehouse near the wharf. Apparently they plan to start the race tomorrow from what we could gather.

All in all a great first day in Wellington...we like the place! A Wellington Photo Gallery was added.

Going North Empty Handed
Sunny & Warm
02/01/2011, Picton, South Island New Zealand

Photo is Cape Farewell, the northern-most point on the South Island of New Zealand.

Well it seems that our time on the South Island has drawn to an end as we have covered just about every inch of road that can be covered in a small 4x4 van. We have zigged and zagged across the Southern Alps several times and visited magnificent waterfalls, glaciers, rivers, single lane bridges, caverns, arches, castles, breweries, balls, pancakes, capes and ferries. We are now in Picton waiting for our boat ride across no other than the Cook Strait to Wellington. In Wellington we hope to catch the Superbowl game and see the Steelers take the Packers 34 - 23 in a tough but decisive win in Dallas. Don't be fooled by the 17 - 17 tie score at halftime.

My one regret after two months on the South Island of New Zealand is that we failed miserably to capture, or even corner, the elusive hobbit. Lori came quite close on one occasion, but was tripped-up by either her flip-flop or the cheeky nature of the hobbit. My guess is that it was the flip-flop. In the end, it is probably better that we didn't bag a hobbit since it would have been impossible getting it through customs in Fiji. The Fijians are more than aware of the hobbit's tendency to be nasty tempered in hot and humid conditions...the massive consumption of sugarcane alcohol by hobbits doesn't help either. So, we are forced to cross over to the populated North Island and continue our journey of discovery empty handed but fulfilled in the knowledge that we gave it our best.

A sailing boat kept on a short leash.

I've added some more pictures to the gallery of the Northern parts of the South Island where we looked out at a cold and angry Tasman Sea...glad in knowing we didn't sail here.

Nope, we looked. No hobbits either.

Sheep dog trials.

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