Lord of the (Tree) Rings

Photos:

Waipoua Forest from the base of the (closed) lookout;

The White Tree of Gondor! – or just a dead tree in the Waipoua Forest;

close-up of amazing Kauri bark, though I think this was a dying tree as most of them have rougher but still reptilian-like bark;

Te Matua Nghere, Father of the Forest and widest kauri alive today;

Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest (sometimes translated as God of the Forest), the tallest kauri alive today at more than 50 meters (he’s about 175 feet);

The landscape driving through Northland, including shots of Hokianga Harbour and North Head, enormous sand dunes at the harbor’s mouth, and a couple locals.

My second day in Northland I drove to Waipoua, which has the largest concentration left of kauri. Alas, the lookout tower was boarded up so I didn’t get the “spectacular” view promised in my guidebook, but the one I did get wasn’t half bad.

An easy stroll among the trees took me to Te Matua Nghere, Father of the Forest, and the widest Kauri still around, though not the tallest. Kauri grow upward only until they poke through the canopy and get direct sunlight; after that, they drop their lower branches and stop growing up, though they do continue getting wider. Daddy here has a waistline of 16.4 meters (that’s more than 50 feet) but is “only” 30 meters tall.

A short drive and shorter walk away was Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest (also known as “God of the Forest.”) I have never felt so awed by a tree. With a 13.8 meter girth and standing more than 51 meters tall, he is the largest kauri alive. More than sheer size, there is his presence. And yes, calling the tree “it” just doesn’t seem right. My Lonely Planet book was spot on about it: “You don’t so much look at Tane Mahuta; it’s as if you’re granted an audience.”

Roughly 2,000 years old, this is a tree that conveys not just age and power but grace and wisdom. I had the sense that the tree wasn’t just alive all those years, it was witnessing the world around it. I can’t think of a tree more fitting for Elves to live in, as they did in the movie version of “Lord of the Rings”… there is something otherworldly about these trees, and about Tane Mahuta in particular.

I stood there for a while just looking at the tree, not wanting to leave but not knowing what else to do other than take more pictures. There were a couple other tourists milling around the viewing platform (you can see a few at the bottom of the photo) and I don’t think any of us knew quite what to do other than stare and, well, be in the presence of the Lord of the Forest.

From there I continued north through the gorgeous countryside, crossing  massive Hokianga Harbour by ferry on my way to Cape Reinga…

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