Tasmania & New Zealand 2014 travel blog

Fountain in downtown Kerikeri

Larry on Kauri bench at Gumdiggers' Park

Gumdigger's hut made of jute bags; chimney is sod blocks

Giant kauri stump in a big hole

Shirley with giant Kauri log (100,000 years old)

Rarawa Beach near our campsite

Well, we didn’t end up going out to look for kiwis last night; we heard that a couple of people saw some about 11:30 pm. This morning we found the caretakers and paid for our campsite before we left. Turns out they are a couple who volunteer at Aroha Island, but work for the DOC farther north, so they were able to give us a little information about the DOC camps up this way. (They also told me that there was no protocol for driving the 2-way 1-lane road to the camp. Drive, hope, and make do. We did get out with only my heart palpitations to hinder us. Luck of the Shirley, I think. L)

We drove into Kerikeri, the nearest town, and found the library, where we used the internet to check email and upload a couple of days of journal entries. We also went to the farmers’ market, where we bought a blueberry pancake to share and a couple of avocados. (Very cool small town farmer’s market, with a small jazz band playing sweet music! There was also a grassy town park with some nice sculpture. L) We also went to the supermarket and replenished our supplies for a few more days. We are getting to the point where we are trying to use things up and not overstock, but we still need milk every couple of days. We hit the highway, then stopped for diesel – $112 worth.

From Kerikeri we headed north along a highway that roughly follows the north coast, but a lot of it is not within sight of the ocean. Mostly farm land. I planned to stop at an information center at Awanui, to get information about the road up to Cape Reinga, and what to do along the way. But the information center is in an art gallery that is closed on weekends. Ah, well. I have my guidebook and my other reference materials. Cape Reinga is the northern end of the road (though not the farthest north point). The road up there is about 104 km, less than 2 hours drive. We are almost, but not quite, as close to the equator as we can get in New Zealand.

So we started up the road, and soon saw a sign for Gumdiggers’ Park, so we stopped. From about 1890 to 1920 or so, men came to dig up what they called gum. It is actually amber from kauri sap. Anyway, it was quite an industry, digging up this gum and selling it to make varnish and similar things. About 100,000 years ago, there was a forest of big kauri trees here. Something killed them all and knocked them down, and they got buried. Because of the lack of oxygen, they didn’t rot and they didn’t petrify. They were buried in peat and then covered by sandstone from an overlying body of water. Then another kauri forest grew on top about 45,000 years ago. And something happened to them, also, and they got buried. So there are at least 2 levels of kauri trees and the amber produced from their sap in this area. Kauris can grow very large (similar to Sequoias in California), and many of the kauri forests have been cut down after Europeans got here. Now they are trying to preserve the ones that are left and grow more.

So this park was about the gumdiggers who came to dig up the gum, and also about the ancient kauri trees they found when they started digging. It was a hard life, and many of the men came from Dalmatia (in current Croatia), without their families. Some of them married Maori women and started families that are still in the area. It was an interesting park. (Interesting, with a depressing side. The reason for seeking out all the thousands of years old amber was to make varnish. Imagine a 100,000 year old bug, embedded in glorious amber, being turned into varnish for an aristocrat’s commode. Sigh. L)

We left there about 5 pm, and decided we’d better look for our campground, and go up to the Cape tomorrow. So here we are. The campground is almost empty, but I guess it fills up in December and January, which is summer vacation time here. The campground is a large grassy area, with a couple of toilet buildings. We picked a spot, heated up a can of soup, along with bread, butter and jam, and had dinner. Then we went for a walk to see where the beach is. We found it, and came back before dark. We saw some brown quail, and a couple of weka, and I think a shag, and also a bunny rabbit.

We don’t have power tonight, but our campervan has a battery that provides lights (powered partially by a solar panel on the roof, and it also gets charged when the engine is running).

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