It’s mostly boat work and planning boat work these days but one day last week we teamed up with Toucan and drove across the island to the Waipoua Kauri Forest to see the big trees. When we reached the west coast Jack and I got our first look at the Tasman Sea and for someone who spent childhood summers playing in the shallows of the Atlantic Ocean on the New Jersey shore it gave me goosebumps that we made it this far around the world.
Kauris are some of the largest trees on earth, ranking right up there with giant redwoods, sequoias, cypress and gum. They’re also some of the oldest. We set our sights on the oldest known kauri in New Zealand, the Lord of the Forest. It’s about 2500 years old. Kauri trees have relatively shallow, delicate roots for their size and can be infected with a disease believed to be spread on shoes or by forest mammals. Any time you enter a kauri forest there are cleaning stations where you’re expected to scrub and wash the soles of your shoes.
I’ve stood under the giant redwoods and marveled at the California sequoias and while these kauris aren’t as tall or as big around they are massive, stately and imposing. The trunk rise for a long way before branching off, and the branches are short, giving the impression of a giant stalk of celery.
The canopy hosts hundreds of species of parasitic plants. A forest ranger told us that twice a year an arborist goes up to the top to clean out the debris in the canopy in an attempt to reduce the mass the tree bears. The trunks show diagonal stress lines from the weight.
After seeing the oldest tree we went to a different part of the forest where the kauris are more dominant. The bark is unlike any I’ve ever seen and it looks more like hammered copper than wood. Maybe it’s because I spent most of my life in a heavily forested area but it’s in the forest that I feel most at home and this forest was a tonic after years in the tropics. We were all struck by how silent it was. Not only did we not hear animals or birds, but the trees themselves were silent. There was no rustling of leaves, no creaking of branches against neighboring trees, no tinkling of small twigs dropping to the forest floor. There was an eerie peace among the giants and we were happy to just sit and appreciate their majesty. Now when I do the yoga tree pose I’ll imagine I am a kauri, unbending, enduring and peaceful.
On the way home we stopped at a woodcrafter’s shop and the trees outside were decorated with knitted stockings. We’ve seen this before around town so it must be a thing, but it’s a thing we haven’t encountered anywhere else.