There was an advertisement on T V in New Zealand in the 1990s that had the headline “Don’t leave town until you’ve seen the country”. It was to encourage Kiwis to visit their own country before venturing overseas (we are surrounded by ocean down here at the bottom of the world).
Well, it seems that the world has come to New Zealand. A week ago we visited the Hamilton Gardens in the Waikato city of Hamilton. The garden there are quite unlike most other municipal gardens in New Zealand. Instead of the usual beds of plants and flowers laid out in the traditional English or European fashion, these gardens are set out in distinct themed country areas.
With only two weeks to go before our on trip “overseas” the visit to the gardens was timely. We would like to share images of our visit with you.
Well, not the kind you were likely thinking of perhaps. Outside the entrance to Gumdiggers’ Park, just north of Northland’s northern-most town Awanui, are two old mechanized work horses – a tractor and a truck. Gumdiggers’ Park is a small museum and outdoor display dedicated to the digging of Kauri gum.
Kauri gum is formed when resin from Kauri trees leaks out through fractures or cracks in the bark, hardening with the exposure to air. Lumps commonly fall to the ground and become covered with soil and forest litter, eventually fossilizing. Prior to European settlement the indigenous Maori used the amber-colored gum for chewing, fire lighting, jewelry, and as the basis for a pigment used in tattooing. European settlers soon found that the gum mixed easily with linseed oil to make an excellent varnish, and from 1910 Kauri gum was used extensively in the manufacture of linoleum. A lucrative trade started in the 1890s and continued until the 1930s when synthetic substitutes came into use. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries transient workers fossicked in areas where old Kauri forests once stood, often in swampy ground, seeking out hidden gum deposits which they sold at quite low prices to gum merchants. My own grandfather worked in the gum fields of Northland when he first landed in New Zealand in the first decade of the twentieth century.
Getting back to the mechanized work horses. Although they are outside Gumdiggers’ Park, they are unlikely to have been used in the gum digging industry described above. Because of their age, they are more likely to have been used in the recovery of “Swamp Kauri” i.e. old fallen logs which are hauled out of the swamps where they had been preserved by swamp water for use in furniture manufacture and souvenirs of Northland.
For me, these two vehicles were as interesting as the exhibits inside the park, especially because of the late afternoon lighting.
Lake Waikaremoana is located in Te Urewera National Park in the North Island of New Zealand, 60 kilometres northwest of Wairoa and 80 kilometres southwest of Gisborne. Although these distances don’t seem great, you need to understand that the whole of the East Cape region of the North Island is very lightly populated and both Gisborne and Wairoa themselves are some distance from the main population centres of the North Island. To visit Lake Waikaremoana and Te Urewea National Park requires a determined effort and a journey over twisting unsealed dusty roads.
So it was that in January 2009 a group of friends gathered at the shore of the ‘sea of rippling waters’ for a week to walk parts of one of New Zealand’s “Great Walks”. Each morning we were greeted by this view from the windows of our chalets as the sun rose in the east and crept over the hills between the lake and the Pacific Ocean.
This wasn’t our first visit to Lake Waikaremoana. Each previous visit was memorable in part for the dusty winding road to get there, memories stretching back to childhood holidays with family. The road never seems to improve with time, and on occasions still gets washed out by heavy rain. Our most recent previous visit was to undertake the four day Great Walk around the lake, with overnight stays in hiking huts provided by the New Zealand Department of Conservation. That trip was memorable for another of Lake Waikaremoana’s claims to fame, rain and mist. Indeed, the local Tuhoi Maori who live in small settlements around and near the lake are known as “the people of the mist”. On that occasion the rain started the moment we set foot on the track and ended just as we exited the track four days later!
I’m pleased to report that during our January 2009 visit we had beautiful weather every day and managed to see the views from high points around the lake that we missed on our previous visit.
Here are two further images taken on our first night at the lake as the sun was setting.