Perched right on the edge of the Hokianga Harbour, The Copthorne Hotel & Resort Hokianga is a beautiful old style kauri villa has stunning views of the massive sand dunes across the bay. After checking in it’s not long before I’m in the warm water – I rarely get into cool or cold sea but this road trip in Northland has reintroduced me to salt water bathing. This 4-star hotel also has a fresh-water swimming pool.
Back in my room, in the newer building, I watch as a fishing group returns and excitedly weighs, and photographs, a large fish. Before long I’m back in the hotels foyer as I’m meeting my guide there for a trip called Footprints Waipoua – a guided evening walk into the Waipoua Forest. (Twitter @hokimustdos)
My guide, Koro, from the local Maori tribe, picks me up and I meet the other couples, from Canada and Australia, who are on the walk too. He tells us he will introduce us to the locals’ relationship with nature, spiritually and culturally as we meet the trees many of whom have names.
One of them, Tane Mahutu, Lord of the Forest, belongs to the ‘family of ancient trees’ along with a Japanese tree, Jōmon Sugi – a similar forest chief on Yakushima Island off the coast of Japan. Both are celebrities in their own country and have twin tales of cultural significance.
The natural environment of Waipoua Forest provides a natural stage for our walk to see some of the largest kauri trees in the world. Koro also gives us a mythological interpretation of life in the forest and it feels really spiritual and a privilege to be in the forest in the dark. It’s quite different during the day when I revisit the next afternoon with buses of tourists also there – no sounds of silence then!
We meet the Four Sisters, ‘working together in competition’ and the mighty Te Matua Ngahere, Father of the Forest, estimated to be 4,000 years old, “older than Jesus” Koro tells us, and Tane Mahutu who is, impressively, 51 metres tall. Unfortunately, kauri have a disease, kauri dieback that’s proving a relentless killer and scientists are desperately seeking a way to stop the spread so please, please, stay on the walkways and clean your footwear to help stop the spread.
I recommend that while in the Hokianga, make sure you take the Footprints guided tour and learn about these special trees through song, history, and the Maori creation story. As Koro reminds us, “we are only alive when we are conscious of our treasures.”