For me in particular this leg of the journey was quite an emotional one. Maybe I’ll write a proper tale about it sometime to document the stories and myths that it evoked in my mind. Seeing the hordes of glow worms dwelling inside the Waipu Caves was awesome, but for me it was the journey into Waipoua Forest. The ancient kauri forest in the Northland of New Zealand is seeping with creation. Especially as we saw it, in the golden hues of sunset.
Kauri is a hardwood tree native to New Zealand. It’s the tree our people carve their mighty war canoes – the waka taua – from, though it will take you a good five or six hundred years to grow one big enough. The trees are sub tropical rainforest giants with smooth trunks and towering canopies, some of which support their own microcosm of life, with the branches so high and remote from the rest of the forest.
They are also dying. Like the sunset fell beneath the western horizon on the evening we visited, they are slowly fading away, one by one. I pray the steps we take to protect the precious ecosystem they survive in does succeed in keeping them safe. You’ll see in the video what we had to do before entering each part of the forest to ensure we didn’t bring contamination on our shoes from other areas. It’s the least we can to, because it’s not a nice thing at all to see a tree that must have lived to be over a thousand years old, now sticking out of the roof of the forest a pale, dry skeleton. It’s strangely sad. I mean, trees get chopped down every day, and I don’t have a problem with it generally, I’m no tree hugger, I understand the cycle of life and the need to farm trees for a million different reasons, but to see a dead kauri, is different.
But we came all this way to see a live kauri. The oldest and biggest kauri recorded, sizing up at 13.77m girth and rising 51.2m up into the sky. He does indeed support his own ecosystem within the boughs of his branches and separates sky from earth. His name is Tāne Mahuta.
How Tāne Mahuta broke hearts and brought light into the world (a.k.a My very short and under-embellished version of the beautiful Māori creation story)
When the world was new, Ranginui, the sky father, and Papatuanuku, earth mother, were deep in love – as they always have been, and always will be. Locked in a tight embrace they could see nothing but their love for each other. Between their bodies, the world was dark and space desperately limited. It was here their children struggled to live and breathe, growing impatient of their parent’s love, the strongest son, Tāne Mahuta, finally rose up. He planted his feet firmly in the earth of his mother, and pressed his arms into his father’s chest, and he pushed.
As he separated his parents, light flooded into the world. Ranginui cried for his wife, and the rains came. Papatuanuku wept for her husband’s touch, and the rivers and streams sprung forth from the earth, running down her face and over her body. Realising what he had done, life sprung forth from where Tāne Mahuta had rooted his strong legs into the earth, and plants, flowers, and all kinds of vegetation grew to clothe his mother. Tāne Mahuta is the father of all these things, and the god who created space and released light into the world, leaving Ranginui and Papatuanuku to still mourn the loss of their great romance.
It’s one of my favourite legends, and certainly the most romantic, heart-breaking creation myth that you will hear. And yes, okay, I got a wee bit emotional, but stories and legends are my life blood, they mean everything to me, because what would our world be, without stories to be told? (Spoiler alert: that’s the final, unedited chapter of Emmeline, if you know, you know?)
Okay, now to the actual blurb and the episode! (and don’t worry, the whole thing isn’t a sappy romance about tree-hugging)
Episode 4 – The Old Forest
This is the Northland of New Zealand as we saw it, beaches, caving for glow worms, ancient forests and beautiful lakes off the beaten track. Uretiti Beach, Waipu Caves, Waipoua Forest with all it’s ancient myths and legends, where we pay homage to Tane Mahuta, the god of the forest, and finally our campsite at the remote Kai Iwi lakes.