One of the excursions that four of us made from our week-long home base in Matapouri (see my previous post) was to visit New Zealand’s largest known living kauri tree (Agathis australis), and certainly its most famous one. The Maori name for this legendary tree is Tāne Mahuta (pronounced TAH-nay ma-HOO-ta); its English name is either Lord of the Forest or God of the Forest (or both); its Maori name comes from the name of a god in the Maori pantheon. According to Maori mythology, Tāne was the son of Ranginui the Sky Father and Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother. After he broke his parents’ embrace, he set about clothing his mother in the forest. According to laser measurements made in 2002, the tree’s height is quoted as 45.20 meters (148.3 feet), its girth 15.5444 m (51 ft), its trunk diameter 4.961 m (16.28 ft), and its crown spread 38.40 m (126 ft). The enormous crown has a dozen branches over 1 meter in diameter, three greater than 2 meters, and one over 3 meters. The largest kauri have been known to reach heights of greater than 50 meters, have trunk girths of up to 16 meters, and attain ages of greater than 2,000 years. The walk to approach this unforgettable tree takes only five minutes from Highway 12, which runs through the Waipoua Forest. Its very sensitive root system is protected by barriers and signs to remind visitors to stay on the walking track at all times.
A large part of the pleasure of visiting such revered living beings is that they often reside in especially lovely and pristine settings. The Waipoua Forest, for example, is the largest remaining tract of native forest left from the once-extensive kauri forests of northern New Zealand and, I heard, is part of the only 3% of virgin forest that remains in the country.
The drive through the forest on Highway 112 and the walking paths accessible from it are well worth experiencing; we had time for one other that took us to another famous group of kauri, The Four Sisters. On the day when we were there, my very favorite conditions prevailed—an overcast sky, calm winds, and a light drizzle. Thanks yet again, Frances!