Kaihu, NZ to Waipoua, NZ

13.5 mi / 8.8 mph / 1254 ft. climbing
Home: Waipoua Forest Campground

I think we’ve woken up to a 40-or-below temperature in each of the 8 calendar months that we’ve now been in New Zealand. What’s new is the temperature dropping to 40°F before we’ve even gone to bed. I guess the good news is that it actually “warmed up” to 41°F by the time we groaned out of the tent at 7:30am? South of Auckland, near our farmstay/rave, it had dropped below freezing, so I guess we’re still winning!

The fire has gone cold in the kitchen overnight so there was no restarting it to warm us during breakfast, but luckily the room still retained some warmth. Regarding “cold”, I had a really short-duration (~two day) cold a few days ago, short enough that I thought I might have imagined it, but now Rett has come down with it, darn it. Sorry!

Today’s ride would at least be super-short, luckily planned before we knew Rett would be less-than-100%, but it would also be super-hilly (nearly 100 feet-per-mile of climbing), so it wouldn’t be as easy as the mileage indicated. And just in case we hadn’t checked the elevation profile, the road was kind enough to alert us right at the start, with 350 feet of climbing in the first mile(!), much of it on an unusually straight 10% hill.

A straight super-steep quarter-mile runway that would launch us into the sky if those trees weren’t there at the end (and if we were rocketing up it a fit faster than our actual 3.5 mph speed!)
The climb is made easier by the fact that it’s essentially just us and the moo-cows out here this morning.
Later on we would see some super-pregnant moo-cows, and I assume that’s the case with this absolute barrel as well (at least I hope so!)
Hey, has have the tree-dotted pastures of New Zealand gotten any less pretty today? No, they have not.
Just because the road started curving doesn’t mean that the climbing stopped.
Could there be a more-green place for moo-cows to live?
Rett saying hello (these guys might have started running with us; I don’t know if it’s the region, or the season, but something has turned the tables here and the cows are much friskier than the sheep).

The hill topped out after three miles and then it was time for a walk. I didn’t know much about the Trounson Kauri Park, except that the DOC campground there was in the midst of a two-week closure preventing us from staying (though maybe that’s good because then we would have missed the excellent Top 10 holiday park). Oh, and also that if we would have been able to come here at night (like, if we had been able to stay at the campground…), we would have had a 50% chance of seeing a kiwi. Oh well! Because it’s only been 30 years since it was designated as a “mainland island” (an attempt to restore the park to its native state), I assumed it would be like the kauri walk in Coromandel, and we’d see mostly new-planted saplings, with maybe a big one or two like we’ve seen on every other kauri walk we’ve done. But no, this was an entire forest of massive kauris, a completely new experience for us and one I wasn’t sure even existed. We must have walked next to 100 trees that the two of us together would have been unable to circle with our arms, and upped our tally in that category by 10x with this single walk. That level of “community” made it feel a bit more like a redwood forest, although still totally different of course.

Big kauri tree.
This white ghost of a kauri was another first, a possible example of “dieback”, the fatal fungal infection that all the boot-washing stations and boardwalks are built to prevent.
The entire mile-long walk was on this boardwalk, to prevent visitors from tracking fungus onto the tree roots.
They might just be really tall cauliflowers.
Rett and kauri twins.
Despite their size and light coloring, they somehow do a surprisingly good job hiding in the forest.
This kauri broke the mold of “nearly perfect cylinder” (that most exhibit) with this elegant corkscrew pattern.
Dark majesty.

Leaving the kauri park, the road turned to gravel (one reason there was nearly no traffic). Since it was largely forested, and in the cooler season, the gravel was of the “wet”, smooth variety, but a 6% 300-foot climb on gravel is a challenge no matter how smooth it is, and Rett did an excellent job of finding safe lines through sharply-cambered curves and made it back to paved SH12 without stopping. Then over the last 4 miles we were forced to cash in all of that climbing with an 800-foot downhill.

The gravel road taking us through less-kauri-filled forest.
Not much going on a Pooks, but I liked their dinosaur-chicken mascot.
The standing ridgeline horses staring at the camera were yelling at their lazy sitting/stretching friends for making their band photo not look sufficiently badass.
Despite being the west coast road, SH12 never gets within 2 miles of the water in this section, so this view down a crossing valley during our descent was a fun surprise.

Waipoua Forest Campground, apparently returned to Maori community ownership a few years ago, is a bit the opposite of the Kauri Coast Top 10: self-service cash-in-envelope payment, unclear where we could pitch our tent, and a couple people apparently long-term living in some of the cabins. But, it still had (free, hot) showers, and a kitchen, meaning it was far-more amenity-filled than any American campground. The temperature today never got above 60F, and the winds made it feel colder. The kitchen didn’t have a heater of any sort, but Rett got it warmed up to 66F by running the electric oven. Yes, we were the only people here, because if only three parties were at the Top 10 just down the road (for a car), why would anyone be at this relatively-rustic place a mile off the highway? Well, eventually the cabin-livers came home from work (and thankfully didn’t use the kitchen), another guy drove in, used the shower, and left, and after dark a couple of campervans parked in the lot, but it still basically felt like the place was ours.

The river and native forest running behind Waipoua Campground.
Neil and Rett’s Kitchen Takeover at Waipoua Campground.


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