Kings of the Forest

We started our second full day in New Zealand much like the first. We parted the curtains in the back of the campervan to see what nature had in store for us. We weren’t sure what to expect from the countryside since we pulled into the RV park after dark. Here’s what we saw:

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The setting seemed almost mystical as a shroud of mist enveloped the rolling hillside and this lone cow greeted us. We’re in Lord of the Rings country, Hobbiton not Mordor, and everything is simply beautiful. We camped in Matakohe because we wanted to visit the Kauri Museum, a facility dedicated to documenting the European settlement of the Northland through the history of the Kauri tree, the second largest in the world. We marveled at the giant redwoods (the largest) in Northern California in 2001, so we’re no strangers to big fauna. I had read that the museum was better than a visit to the forest but it was tough to make sense of the displays without having seen the trees themselves. Like the giant sequoias, the immense Kauri were irresistible to ship- and homebuilders, cabinetmakers, and other woodmongers. The deforestation of the past two centuries was so bad that a few protected forests are all that remains in New Zealand. We’ll be sure to pass through it on our way back down to Auckland.

Our tour through the museum highlighted the dynamic that will most certainly characterize our future visits. Tom and I take turns chasing the little two, trying to find points of interest for them and keeping them from upending any displays. (We’re no strangers to this practice. Below is a picture of me admonishing McKane in 2000 to stop swinging his arms around the world famous paintings in Madrid’s Prado Museum.) Much more restrained these days, McKane assumes a modest pace, reading about things he finds interesting and paying special attention to visual displays. Yesterday he noticed an impressive carving of a tuatara, a lizard once thought extinct which he had learned about in science class last year. He was also particularly interested in the Kauri gum display housed in the basement of the museum. Gum, like sap, oozes from wounds to the trees and once was harvested for used in paints, varnishes, and linoleum flooring.

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Dax, our sage, proceeds slowly, reading every description and explanation, and then briefs us after he’s done so we find out what we missed. Someday we’ll sign him up for Jeopardy since he never seems to lose a fact once he’s entered it into his databank.

Thankfully the staff were gracious and undaunted by the Clampetts arrival. Even their friendliness could not compensate, however, for the really creepy appearance of the museum’s mannequins. Each wore a nametag and some sort of menacing gaze. We were sure that if he weren’t made out of wax ol’ Steve here would have risen from his stool to harm sweaty Bob in some way.

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Maybe he’s just mad that most of the Kauri trees are gone.

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One thought on “Kings of the Forest

  1. Your descriptions make all of us want to be where you are! Thanks for sharing.
    We can be grateful that Thanksgiving Point’s dinosaur museum doesn’t have the same mannequins that reside at the Kauri Museum…(they resemble something from Madame Tussaurd’).
    Keep writing. We love to hear from you.

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