...so much go'in on in that forest.
On route to Gisborne, fresh from Pete and Jenny's, we hit the Rere Rockslide for some intense action. The natural 60m wet and wild rock slide is a great place to use that beat up boogie board or inner tube that is collecting dust in the garage. Pete supplied us with a boogie board that was cracked in the middle and it worked well. Julie and I take the plunge into the river waters at great speed, Julie avoiding at all costs to keep her head above the water. After all, the river runs through paddocks and is no crystal clear glacial stream.
Rere Rock Slide
Back on the road we head around the quiet highway along the east coast. We past many secluded bays ripe with surf and golden sand, before stopping at Anaura Bay for more boogie board entertaining. Other than beaches and heaps of Maori culture there isn't much to see along the drive. In Tikitiki, our guide book raves of St. Mary's Church and its intricately flax woven interior and detailed stain glass. I pay the two dollar donation and we venture inside. The walls are meticulously crafted with an array of dried flax creating geometric patterns that span every centimetre. Everyone's seat has a unique pillow to fart in while singing hallelujah to the Lord.
Boogie Down Julie
St. Mary's Church in Tikitiki
Seat Cushions in St. Mary's Church
We cruise into Te Araroa Holiday Park, the closest campsite to the East Cape Lighthouse and one of the first places on earth to be greeted by the morning sun. The dude running the camp informs us to start the drive along the slow gravel road to East Cape by 6:00am, so shortly after dark we are both tucked into our fart sacks. The alarm sounds way too early for us to handle these days, the sun isn't even up! We quietly pack up and hit the road in search of a new days warming glow. Unfortunately, in the dark we start hiking up the wrong trail and end up in a shit strewn paddock tiptoeing around with only our jandles on. Finally we reach a suitable spot to watch the sunrise in peace. It's a hazy morning so the anticipated mind blowing colourful display is nothing more than a faint smear across the horizon. It is still something to be grateful for as we are one of the first people on earth to see the sunrise today. Smiling, we head back through the paddock past the cows, stopping at the ocean to wash our feet.
Sunrise from East Cape
The rain arrives as we putter along the winding roads, through villages and past endless ocean front. We pass through Hawaii, yes Hawaii. But this place consists of clear cut forests and road construction. We don't make any stops until Tirohanga Dunes Conservation Area, where we stop for lunch among the dunes. As we graze, Julie reads about the restoration project being tested on the dunes. They are planted with native grasses which send out shoots and hold the sand, helping to hold it in place. From the beach we finish today's drive east of Opotiki at Wayne and Wei's to commence wwoofing domination once again.
First we met Wei, the mom, working away finishing up some sewing projects before they head off to Auckland for four days. She shows us to our quarters, a sweet little sleep-out, overlooking their property of native old growth forest. We are introduced to their two pet piggies, Captain and Daisy, two ducks, and chickens. All of which will be under our care while they are away. Home from school, in bounces Earina and Entelia, two very intelligent and wonderful kids. Julie is in awe at their fabulous heads of curls. Finally, Wayne arrives home from work and he is our personal nature guide as we stroll through the lush and dense old-growth forest on their property.
Relaxing on the Deck
Tawa Tree with Rata Vine
The forest is rich with diversity and is the most amazing stand of native trees we have seen on the North Island. He shows us a Puriri moth's larvae burrow covered over with a camouflaged membrane of lichens on the trunk of Putaputaweta tree. When the 10cm long larvae emerges from the borrow, as a moth, it has a 15cm wingspan and is a stunning shade of lime green. We stop at the small creek deep in the bush to spy on the Banded Cockatoos, a type of Galaxies species of fish that lives in muddy freshwater streams. His two girls come along for the walk too and being very observant they point out many interesting flora and fauna. One of which is an immense rata. Rata is a vine, which grows up and around trees and after hundreds of years it eventually encapsulates the tree and becomes a tree itself. This amazing rata tree was the selling feature of the property in Wayne's eyes and it was definitely spectacular!
X-Rated Giraffe Weevils
Julie in Treehouse
While we are out exploring the new surroundings, Wei prepares a feast of smoked fish and veggies to fill us hungry travellers. Before they leave for Auckland they go over our wwoofing duties and other important household details. For the next four days we lounge around eating like kings and queens and getting fat. Just kidding, Julie cracks the whip and we are out wwoofing by 7:30am everyday. Julie takes on the huge job of caring for and re-potting neglected native trees at the nursery near the back of the property, while I replace a bridge over a stream on one of the many paths throughout the forest. It is about a 10-15 minute walk to work, and is definitely the best walk to work one could ever imagine. The forest is so lush and diverse that sometimes our 15 minute tramp takes a wee bit longer since there is so much to explore. We get intermittent heavy rains for four days, and one day we find ourselves running for cover and ending up soaked to the undies.
In the Office Re-Potting Native Trees
Julie Re-Potting Native Trees
Nate Working on Bridge in Forest
On Monday, the family returns from Auckland and Julie is pumped to help Wayne clear invasive weeds from the pond on the edge of the forest deep in the valley. We all slide into our waders and get prepped to enter the murky waters. As Julie is pulling on her waders, Wayne tells her to freeze. An Australian white-tailed spider, just over an inch long is crawling out of the waders. As he crushes it dead he tells us it is the biggest white-tail he has ever seen and that they give a nasty bite. I get the job of barging the heaps of soggy sludge and weeds from where Julie and Wayne are removing it to the dump sight where they will be covered with black tarps. The heat and darkness under the black tarps will eventually kill the weeds. It's a tough job but we get amazing results and hopefully the native wetland grasses will have a better chance at establishing themselves.
Pond at Wayne and Wei's
Native Wetland Grasses
Pulling up Invasives in Pond
That's Full of Invasive Weeds
Wayne also has us helping him on the beach measuring dune profiles to monitor erosion on his test plots. Turns out that Wayne is the force behind the dune stabilization work at Tirohanga Dunes Conservation Area, the beach we checked out before reaching Wanye and Wei's home. At each beach he has 2 profiles through planted dunes, and 1 profile through an unplanted dune. The results are showing that the planted beaches are in much better shape than the unplanted. Julie loves to learn and help with anything do with environmental problems and implementing solutions. I feel super lazy working on these gorgeous beach and I know that if my job was anywhere close to a beach, I wouldn't be laying too many bricks.
Dune Planting Site at Tirohanga Dunes Conservation Area
Julie and I always try to work longer days in order to earn a day off from wwoofing to explore the area around where we are situated. With our hard earned day off in the Opotiki area we scoot over to get an aerial view of the Ohiwa Harbour and ocean view. The skyline has two main features, Whale Island a nature reserve, and White Island, an active volcano. From the shore, 50 kms away, billowing steam hangs over the island like a warning to all, that a possible eruption could be immanent. We looked into scuba diving around the island but the costs were insane. Instead we opted to wait and dive north of Auckland in the future.
White Island - An Active Volcano
Back at Wei and Wayne's we realize that we are super spoiled here. Wei loves to cook new and flavourful meals from her Malaysian background. We love everything she makes and its fun to try new foods. Their property also gave us the opportunity to stroll through the dark forest with strings of glowworms twinkling like the stars in the sky. It was such a surreal experience, and Julie said it felt like she was in a fairytale as we strolled along.
Sunest from Wayne and Wei's Driveway
Tree Fern under Night Sky
After such at great week of wwoofing and strolling past 1000 year old trees everyday on our way to work, it is hard to move on. We are heading to Rotorua, to be anointed in sulphur gas seeping from thousands of pores in the earth. So long Wayne, Wei, Earina and Entelia, we will miss your company and the native bush that surrounds your sweet home.
Huge Kahikatia Trees