Paihia & Loop

I eventually made it to Paihia and drove right through. I drove to the end of the road before I turned around ( a trend of this trip I am noticing). I drove to and through Waitangi and the treaty grounds and to a golf course with a stunning view before the road turned into a dirt farm road. I think the view from the golf course (public welcome) is one of the best in the area. It isn't a 360 but the view is on three sides. The sun was shining and you could see the islands in the distance. I decided not to pay to go into the meeting house where the treaty was signed, it seemed super overpriced to me, but maybe that is because I'm not a kiwi or a Maori. The Treaty of Waitangi is one between the Maori people and Queen Victoria of England, signed in 1840. Some consider it the founding document of New Zealand as it is when England annexation of the islands was completed. Treaty is kind of a misnomer I think since it is really an annexation order. It was in Maori and English and the translations are not exact.

After catching the views form this area I headed back over the  bridge to Paihia. I did a loop in the car and then found a place to park. I parked in 30 minute parking and then started asking shop keepers how serious they were about parking. One nicely told me that the warden was on vacation, score. I walked around Paihia, doing a bit of shopping and browsing before settling in for some food. Even though it was lunch I ordered breakfast. They do this great egg thing in New Zealand with toast, tomato, avocado and other miscellaneous veggies. It's delish. I got this and then observed a fight between a patron and the owner of the cafe. It was a nice reminder that I was no longer in the free wheeling laid back south. The patron claimed that there was  bug in her salad and the waitress or owner i'm not sure which she was, refused to believe her because the girl has eaten all of the tomatoes and olives and cheese but left the lettuce. Obviously they were talking about this loudly enough so that everyone could hear. The waitress said well I am not going to give you a discount because most of the salad was eaten. The girl said well I didn't find it until I was most of the way through the salad, the waitress replied that the bug, it was a sandlfy, flew in and therefore it was not their problem. It seemed to get unnecessarily heated and continued you much longer than you would expect. The waitress seemed to have it out for this foreigner like she had encountered this problem before. Needless to say I ate quickly and left so I wouldn't have to  listen to it anymore.

After lunch I tried to figure out my next move, parasailing in the bay of islands or making the west coast loop. After some deliberation I went for the west coast loop. I crossed Northland and hit the west coast. Along the way the weather kept changing and I was able to stop at some seriously awesome spots. There is a little place where there is a bay but then a sort of natural channel that opens up into the Tasman, it was so beautiful. There is a trail there, pretty easy to miss while driving, that brings you on top of one of the ridges so you can look out down the coast in each direction. It was awesome. I stayed for a while until the weather turned really threatening. In all the towns along this area the Maori populations was much higher than any of the other places I went. Actually all of the Northland was higher in Maori populations than anywhere else I went, distinctively so. It was pretty interesting.

I eventually made it to the Waipoua Forest area. I almost missed the whole point of the west coast loop, the famous Kauri trees. There is a sign for it, but I really didn't know what I was looking for in that area. I drove past where a few other cars were stopped and had to turn around and go back. It was starting to drizzle and  about an hour before dark. I walked about five minutes in until I saw a sign describing Tane Mahuta, "Lord of the Forest." I read it and while I was reading it I noticed a silence in the area. I thought oh it must be nearby and then bam there it was. I gasped aloud when I saw it. It was immense. I have never seen anything like it. It dwarfed everything. They estimate that it is close to 2000 years old but its sort of a give or take 500-1000 years estimate they say. It is also estimated that it is one of the oldest living trees in the world. I am not sure if this or true or not but it is what the sign says. All I know is that I was in awe and couldn't stop staring at it. It just cast this energy over the whole area and just silenced everything around it. The tree stands  about 170 feet tall.  The trip to the west  coast was worth it just to see this tree that is how amazing it was.  While I was out there admiring it, a couple with a young daughter came out as well. The mother was speaking Spanish to the girl and the father was speaking German and they were all also speaking a bit of English. Gotta love it. I'm not going to lie I listened in on the Spanish parts :)

As it got darker I decided I had to pry myself away from this tree and spot. I walked back through the rain forest protected by the canopy from the rain back to my car. All along the way out I encountered Kauri trees in the forest along the road, none were as massive as Tane Mahuta but they were all impressive. I saw the Redwood forest in California as a child, but seeing something like this as an adult is a whole other thing. In my memory that does not even come close to this one tree.

The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful and I didn't see much more except the half sunset on the way back. It got dark not long after I left the tree. I was so happy after seeing it I just sort of floated back to Whangarei, an hour or two away, I can't even remember how long the ride was back.