On Christmas morning we jumped in the car and headed north, stopping at Whangarei falls, where people were out splashing around and enjoying sunny Christmas picnics. Later we drove further north and wandered around Paihia for a bit, enjoying the scenery, people watching, ordering takeaway; you know, the usual stuff. ;)
On Boxing day we made our way up to 90 mile beach, which is a bit of a misnomer. It took missionaries three days to travel along the entire length of the beach on horseback, and since they could normally travel 30 miles per day, they did a little simple math (hrmm 30 x 3 = 90) but forgot to take into account the extra time it takes horses to travel on sand. It's actually only about 55 miles long, but let's be real, that's still pretty impressive. It's a beautiful white sand beach and also officially a public highway (no joke). We weren't sure Lady Waka could survive the trip, otherwise we would have been all about taking this way to the northern tip of the island.
The road trip continues...
Our ice cream cravings satisfied, we took a short drive to walk through the giant kauri forest and visit Tane Mahuta: Lord of the Forest, aka the largest standing kauri tree. This tree plays an important role in the Maori creation myth as the son of the sky (his father) and earth (his mother). Tane Mahuta drove a wedge between his parents, pushing his father higher and higher, allowing light to come between them. Then Tane clothed his mother with vegetation, giving us the world as we know it. Since it is Christmas, I should point out that this tree is estimated to be about 2,000 years old (maybe more), meaning it would have theoretically been around during the lifetime of Christ.
Although the Lord of the Forest and its fatter counterpart, the Father of the Forest, were both impressive, for me the most striking spot was at the Four Sisters: a set of towering trees that are believed to have spawned from four seeds of the same kauri. Apparently this is rare, as kauri normally grow alone. I've looked for stories surrounding the Four Sisters, but I haven't found any. If anyone comes across anything interesting, give me a shout!
There's a good reason our childhood stories are filled with enchanted forests: forests are enchanting. There's something really magical about the light, and how it's so densely unorganized, mysterious, teeming with life; each tree is an ecosystem in itself, and realizing that makes the whole of the woods feel like a galaxy.
She was not kidding. This was our view:
As an extra perk, on the way back home I met some Italians! Christmas present from the universe? I think so.
Whew! Well that about sums up our Christmas road trip. We're back in Auckland now, enjoying Auckland things. If you've made it to the end, we applaud your dedication, and we hope your holidays were fabulous, whatever form they took.
Merry Kiwi Christmas!